When art becomes ski races: Swedish painter Anders Zorn as sports rebel in the early 1900s

Isak Lidström
Dept. of sport sciences, Malmö University


This paper deals with a conflict that arose between the organized sports movement in Sweden and the well-known Swedish artist Anders Zorn in the early 1900s. At this time, the Swedish sports movement expanded very fast, and it was strongly influenced by the English amateur ideal. The reason behind the conflict was the “church race” (kyrklopp), a ski event that Zorn organized annually from 1907 to 1909. In opposition to the amateur rules, the top skiers were awarded great amounts of money from Zorn’s private funds. Therefore, the Swedish Ski Association (Svenska Skidförbundet), as well as local sports associations, banned the event.

The conflict is in its historical context understood as a battle between competing ideals of masculinity. The sports movement (Swedish Ski Association) represented a modern and sportified form of cross-country skiing, with standardized courses and detailed rules as characteristics. As a reaction against this “disciplined” culture of sports, Zorn created through his event a more challenging cross-country skiing in trackless terrain, with wilderness, traditionalism and an unbound ideal of masculinity in focus. Through the church races, Anders Zorn wanted to recreate the nature romanticism in his art in real life.


Get the full-text article in Swedish!


ISAK LIDSTRÖM is a PhD Student in Sport Sciences at Malmö University, with a master’s  degree in history from Stockholm University.

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