Healthy Spirit in a Healthy Body

Representations of the Sports Body in Soviet Art of the 1920s and 1930s

by Nina Sobol Levent (Author)
©2004 Thesis 208 Pages


Healthy spirit in a healthy body was the foundational slogan of the physical culture campaign. By the beginning of the 1930s, sports had become one of the most frequently pictured subjects of art. Images of beautiful sportswomen and muscular athletes were widely used by the Soviet mass media. Sportsmen were found on every «collective portrait» of Soviet people; they appeared on almost every significant officially commissioned work, be it a large-scale oil painting for the Soviet exhibition pavilion or decoration in a theater, club, palace of culture, or metro station. They were featured on posters, covers of Soviet magazines, on television news, and even in movies. Soviet textile and porcelain designers widely used sport motifs. In fact, the amount of the sport-related visual material suggests that the images of sports constituted a genre on its own in official Stalinist art. The primary focus of this research is the representation of the sporting body, and the social and ideological forces to which the athlete’s body was exposed. This is also an attempt to position the body of the Soviet athlete in the context of Soviet mythology and reconnect it with the greater context of body representation in pre-Bolshevik and late Stalinist traditions.


ISBN (Softcover)
Sowjetunion Sozialistischer Realismus Kunst Sportler (Motiv) Geschichte 1923-1939 Deineka, Alexander Sowjetische Kunst Kulturgeschichte Sportgeschichte Stalinismus
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2004. 208 pp., num. fig.

Biographical notes

Nina Sobol Levent (Author)

The Author: Nina Sobol Levent received her Ph.D. from the Humboldt-Universität Berlin; she was a visiting scholar at Columbia University and Rutgers University and worked in different positions at museums and galleries in Moscow, Berlin, and New York. Currently she is Associate Director for the Art Education for the Blind (AEB) in New York and editor for AEB’s multivolume art history series. The author is Adjunct Professor at the New York Academy of Art and a Lecturer at the Guggenheim Museum.


Title: Healthy Spirit in a Healthy Body