Sport and Spectatorship as Everyday Ritual in Ben Shahn's Painting and Photography

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    Ben Shahn's paintings and photographs of sport and spectatorship made during the 1930s form part of a cultural discourse concerned to explore social relationships and everyday life in America. The position of sport within this discourse is established through a discussion of Morris Kantor's 'Baseball at Night' (1934), and through reference to contemporary statements and cultural histories of the period. Close attention to Shahn's documentary photographs of sport, spectatorship and leisure demonstrates the way that these images fit into a wider visual analysis of the conditions wrought by the Depression and the facets of small-town life. These photographs, and the later paintings based on them, reveal the personal, ritualised qualities of sport and spectatorship as well as their social significance. This shift in emphasis towards an exploration of the personal, private significance of sport in works such as 'Vacant Lot' (1939) corresponds with Shahn's own account of his artistic journey through the decade.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1353-1369
    Number of pages17
    JournalThe International Journal of the History of Sport
    Issue number8-9
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2011


    • documentary photography
    • New Deal
    • everyday
    • social realism
    • Morris Kantor
    • Ben Shahn


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