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  • Picturing the Beautiful Game: A History of Soccer in Visual Culture and Art ed. by Daniel Haxall
  • Michał Mazurkiewicz
Haxall, Daniel, ed. Picturing the Beautiful Game: A History of Soccer in Visual Culture and Art. New York: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2019. Pp. 296. Acknowledgments, illustrations, tables, terminology and word usage, notes, bibliography, index. $99.00, hb.

Numerous artists have drawn inspiration from sports competition, and the amount of scholarship dedicated to the study of sport in art has increased recently. Picturing the Beautiful Game—focusing on soccer—continues this research, covering a wide range of topics. The editor, Daniel Haxall, has gathered a cast of authors specializing in disciplines such as sport and art history, sociology, and media studies. Different perspectives enrich the volume, which thus offers a multifaced history of the world's most popular game. The book is divided into six major parts, each consisting of two chapters.

First, the editor offers a useful introduction that presents soccer as "the most common avenue for uniting art and sport" (2) and defines the aim of the monograph: "this collections of essays considers the way soccer has been promoted, commemorated, and contested in visual arts" (2). Next, Haxall analyzes soccer as the subject for academic study, discusses exhibitions and art museums of soccer, and briefly describes the contributions to follow.

In Part I, "Soccer and Mass Media," Alexander Leese offers insights into English late nineteenth-century soccer and draws attention to Victorian illustrated newspapers, focusing on three artists whose works demonstrate "how the game was played, watched, and officiated" (20). Luke Healey explores contemporary web-based GIF, which "provides an especially pertinent example of the visual culture of football in the early twenty-first century" (47). "Soccer and Memory," Part II, "considers soccer in the context of memory, ranging from nostalgia to commemoration" (10). Mike O'Mahony discusses the "Football and the Fine Arts" exhibition against the background of postwar British culture. He concentrates on artworks depicting crowds and the stadium atmosphere. The chapter provides—among others—an eye-opening study of painters such as Gerald Cains. Christopher Stride, Ffion E. Thomas, and Nick Catley analyze the desire to commemorate athletes, emphasizing statues of sportspeople. They present a detailed list of sculptures of this type and devote the core of the paper to three statues erected in honor of legendary manager Brian Clough.

The next part, "Soccer and Modernism," examines modern and postmodern depictions of athletes. Przemysław Strożek describes early twentieth-century Italian and Russian avant-gardes, showing "how images of footballers operated as signifiers of modernity and artistic transformation from the 1910s to 1930s" (98). Chris McAuliffe looks into soccer and spectacle in contemporary art and sheds light on how the authors view society through soccer (an interesting international perspective). The fourth part, "Soccer and Gender," explores women in the world of soccer. Jennifer Doyle chronicles a history of women's exclusion in representations of soccer and critically analyzes feminist sport art. Carrie Dunn deftly explores the visual consumption of athletes in the media, offering a sociological study [End Page 175] of British female fans. She notes the high level of their media consumption but also that "they have to negotiate their identities, as fans and as women, in an institutionally sexist sport and an institutionally sexist fandom, reinforced by the media they consume" (165).

In Part V, "Soccer and Global Politics," the analysis first zooms into African art. Daniel Haxall presents selected Ghanaian artists, for whom "soccer serves as a powerful metaphor, allowing [them] to engage immigration, global capitalism, fan behavior, and other issues bound within the politics of Ghana's most popular sport" (171). Also, such issues as spirituality and ritualism in sport are touched on here. Christopher Collier deals with three-sided soccer, sketching "a preliminary history of the game, tentatively exploring connections to the wider thought of its mercurial inventor—a man once labeled 'the greatest painter of the 1950s' [Asger Jorn]—and the group of which he was once a member, the Situationist International" (191). The first paper of Part VI ("Soccer and Commercialization'), by Jean Williams, analyzes World Cup posters and, to be more precise, "argues that the posters...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2155-8450
Print ISSN
0094-1700
Pages
pp. 175-176
Launched on MUSE
2020-09-29
Open Access
No
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