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The Sprinter

The Sprinter, 1902, Bronze
Robert Tait McKenzie (Canadian, 1867 – 1938)

Often described as a vivid representation of athletic prowess, The Sprinter is the product of the Robert Tait Mckenzie’s dual role as physician and artist during his medical practice at McGill University. At a time in which his peers were known for sculpting figments of their own imagination, McKenzie sought beauty in the world surrounding him - particularly in the energy and grace of athletes. Hoping to make art out of his academic interests in anthropometry - the study of humans proportions - the artist derived his subject’s dimension from a 1902 study describing the average measurements of the United State’s 74 fastest sprinters. The result was thus an anatomically-precise athlete, suspended in the most efficient variation of the start-off position, as he waits for the imminent start of the race.

Even to this day, the piece remains McKenzie’s most popular work: after being exhibited at both the Royal Academy of London (1903) and later the Paris Salon (1904), the artist received more than 40 commissions for reproductions, including a copy meant for Theodore Roosevelt himself.