The legacy of sports in art began with depictions of local leisure activities. Photographers (sometimes amateur, other times professional photojournalists) are responsible for creating the initial visual record of modern day sports culture. While most sports were experienced as live events, the advent of photography in the late 19th-century helped to spread local traditions to a more global audience.

Jacques Henri Lartigue
French, 1894–1986
Zissou in His Tire Boat, Château de Rouzat, 1911
Gelatin silver print (printed 1972)
Minneapolis Institute of Arts, The Kate and Hall J. Peterson Fund, 72.118.6
© Ministère de la Culture—France/AAJHL

The subjects of Jacques Henri Lartigue’s pictures communicate a carefree sensibility, as if to say, “I don’t care what I look like, I am having an adventure.” Lartigue’s photographs, which include some of the 20th century’s most humorous images, often feature the photographer’s brothers—peeling out in racecars, flying precarious-looking airplanes, and swimming in dress suits and silly hats. Sport becomes a metaphor for the energy and anarchy of modern life, with its adult-sized toys.