Celebration of the Body Beautiful
From Michelangelo’s David to Helmut Newton’s erotic nudes, artists have always been obsessed with capturing the human body at its peak.
Olympic athletes at the height of their physical powers are one notion of the body beautiful (which has been portrayed, fetishised, manipulated or represented by artists across the centuries) brought to life.
Truth be told, amidst all the excitement of the Olympics, it is not only the sport that’s catching people’s eyes. The toned, honed perfection of many of the athlete’s bodies are the cause of envy, admiration and objectification – just as the physically perfect artist’s model has always been.
The original Olympics in Ancient Greece were performed entirely in the nude. This Adonis inspired print of model Tony Ward, Madonna’s former lover, by Greg Gorman echoes that, in its highly-choreographed depictions of the human form.
Ward’s muscular physique is emphasised with high contrast and texture, creating an eroticised series of nudes. Gorman, famous for his documentation of the modern obsession with celebrity, has photographed the likes of Andy Warhol, Al Pacino, Sophia Loren and Kim Basinger.
Art can really capture the spirit of an athletic moment or capture the essence of an athlete.
These portraits of legendary footballer Pele, by Patrick Lichfield, are a compelling depiction of the sporting legend which together speaks of talent and humour, drawing out the personality of the famous Brazilian.
Lichfield, one of the leading portrait photographers of his time, rose to fame in the 60s and 70s after successful editorial work at American Vogue and photographing his extended family – the British Royal Family. Lichfield was appointed official photographer to Charles and Diana’s wedding. His take on those wedding photos catapulted him even further into public consciousness.
These depictions of Pele, a member of the Olympic Committee although never a competitor himself, exude a joyful exuberance together with his undeniable football genius in the simple lines of ‘Over The Head Kick’, and an intimate portrait of the man himself and the sport which defined him in ‘Pele Brown Football’ .
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