Reading List: The Olympics and Sports in Art

Seven library books about sports in art stacked

In conjunction with the 2022 Olympic Winter Games in Beijing, China, and the recent Super Bowl LVI in Los Angeles, California, the Frick Art Reference Library tackles the world of sports as depicted in art. This month’s recommended reading list ranges from books surveying athletics in art history to explorations of artistic engagement with the Olympics and individual sports.

Make an appointment to visit the library’s reading room at Frick Madison to examine these and other books in our collections. Plus, explore our catalog from home, which includes books, e-books, images, and more.

  1. The Olympics in Art

    By Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute (1980)

    To commemorate the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York, the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute organized an exhibition of works related to Olympic sports. In addition to works ranging from classical to contemporary, the centerpiece of the exhibition was a print by artist Romare Bearden celebrating the games as a place where all nations can engage in peaceful competition. This catalog includes an essay recounting the history of the ancient games as well as perspectives on art of the summer and winter Olympics, which in their early years included artistic competitions. The Frick Art Reference Library is thanked for its assistance with the publication.

  1. Olympic Visions: Images of the Games through History

    By Mike O’Mahony (2012)

    Delve into the history of the modern Olympics through images of the games. The author examines how painters, sculptors, photographers, filmmakers, architects, and designers have molded the public vision of the Olympic games throughout the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. O’Mahony interweaves documentary images and commemorative memorabilia into his discussions of competitors, transgressions, promotions, and identity. (This e-book can be accessed onsite in our reading room through ProQuest Ebook Central.)

  1. The Art of Football: The Early Game in the Golden Age of Illustration

    By Michael Oriard (2017)

    Travel back in time to the early years of American collegiate football in this volume that brings together more than two hundred images of the sport. Written by a professional football player turned scholar, the text examines how illustrations of the game in its early years promoted the public’s understanding of the sport as not only a test of courage for the players, but also as a spectacle to be enjoyed. The author focuses on magazines and posters from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, placing the depictions of football within a historical context.

    Cover of Michael Oriard's "The Art of Football," featuring an artwork detail of two football players in red and gray running with a football
  1. Sports and American Art from Benjamin West to Andy Warhol

    By Allen Guttmann (2011)

    Learn about the relationship between sports and its representation in painting over time in this survey of American artists from the colonial era through the twentieth century. Written by a sports historian, this book explores the cultural connections between sports and art with regard to artistic subjects, sports history, politics, and leisure. Besides the figures named in the book’s title, artists such as John Singleton Copley, Thomas Eakins, and Milton Avery are discussed.

    Cover of Allen Guttmann's "Sports and American Art from Benjamin West to Andy Warhol," featuring a detail of a painting of a boxing match
  1. Sport in Art from American Museums: The Director’s Choice

    Edited by Reilly Rhodes (1990)

    This catalog of the inaugural exhibition of the now defunct National Art Museum of Sport (whose collection is now part of the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis) brings together masterworks selected and written about by directors of American museums. Some of the institutions represented are The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Peabody Essex Museum, National Gallery of Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Each director comments on a work from their respective collection, ranging from figurative to abstract depictions of sports such as croquet, sailing, wrestling, golf, fencing, and soccer.

    Cover of "Sport in Art from American Museums: The Director's Choice," featuring details of ten Andy Warhol prints of sports figures
  1. Sport is Art (Sport je umění): Sports Themes in Czech Art of the 20th and 21st Centuries

    By Petr Volf (2015)

    Get a closer look at sports portrayed in twentieth- and twenty-first-century Czech art. This book covers many different types of athletic activities, from individual to team endeavors. Ice hockey, track and field, cycling, gymnastics, golf, polo, skiing, and ice skating are some of the sports depicted and discussed—all activities that are less often analyzed for their representation in art. Many contemporary examples can be found in the text on Czech art, which began to blossom in the late 1800s.

    Cover of Petr Volf's "Sport is Art," featuring a detail of a Czech painting of a soccer game
  1. Court on Canvas: Tennis in Art

    Edited by Ann Sumner (2011)

    This catalog serves up an examination of the leisure game of lawn tennis as it transformed over time to the professional game that we watch and participate in today. Accompanying an exhibition at the Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Birmingham, England, essays in this volume are illustrated with examples of images of tennis created in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, as well as later comparisons from the twenty-first century. Tennis is discussed in terms of group leisure activities, connections to artists, and fashion trends.

  1. The Art of Baseball

    By Shelly Mehlman Dinhofer (1990)

    Slide into this survey of the depiction of baseball in art. The author offers examples from the traditions of fine and folk art, photography, comics, and posters. The text takes you on a chronological journey from the American experience of the nineteenth century through the business of baseball in the late twentieth century. Modern artists such as Wayne Thiebaud, Elaine de Kooning, Claes Oldenburg, and Jacob Lawrence are considered alongside earlier examples including Realist painters George Luks, Thomas Eakins, and William Morris Hunt.

    Cover of Shelly Mehlman Dinhofer's "The Art of Baseball," featuring a closeup detail of an artwork depicting a steely-eyed baseball player at bat in a white uniform

All photos by Joseph Coscia Jr., The Frick Collection

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