Runner in the City

El Lissitzky (Russian, Pochinok 1890–1941 Moscow)

ca. 1926
Gelatin silver print
13.1 x 12.8 cm (5 3/16 x 5 1/16 in.)
Photographs, Collages
Credit Line:
Ford Motor Company Collection, Gift of Ford Motor Company and John C. Waddell, 1987
Accession Number:
  • Description

    In 1926 Lissitzky joined colleagues from the Association of New Architects (ASNOVA) in designing a new sports club, and he created this frenzied representation of an urban athlete as a model for a large frieze. He combined images of at least three separate elements-the runner, the track and hurdle, and a double exposure of Times Square-into a single print and then sliced that print into strips, creating an object that is both constructed and deconstructed. The visual result is a suspenseful moment-shattered, separated, and stretched-that weaves the mechanics of man into a dynamic tapestry of industrial optimism. The heroic pose of the runner, transposed to the center of New York City, becomes an emblem of triumphant human achievement: man and metal engage in an ambitious leap across several voids in the service of industrial progress.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: Inscribed in pencil on mount, verso, top center, in Russian translated as: "Work by Lissitzky // (20's ??) // N. Chardier"; center: "EL";

  • Provenance

    Nicolai Khardjiev, U.S.S.R. (probably directly from Lissitzky); [Boris Kerdinum, New York (early 1980s)]; [Rosa Esman, New York (ca. 1983)]; John C. Waddell, New York (December 28, 1983)

  • Notes

    The background image for this photomontage (the cityscape) is a photograph of Times Square by Knud Lonberg-Holm, which is reproduced in Cahiers d'Art, No.3, March 1926, p.60 and Erich Mendelsohn's "Amerika," 1926, pl. 44.

  • See also