Barbells & Bios: The Thomas Beecham Collection

Barbells & Bios: The Thomas Beecham Collection

One of the most iconic images of the Stark Center, aside from the Farnese Hercules, is undoubtedly the Thomas Beecham collection of paintings. Done by the painter Thomas Beecham for Joe Weider, Beecham’s painted several portraits of famed bodybuilders from the 1960s to 1980s. Eight in total, the paintings depicted the awarded winning physiques of Franco Columbu, Lee Haney, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Larry Scott, Rick Wayne, Dorian Yates, and Frank Zane, all of which are held in the Stark Center. Only two of the eight men never won the Mr. Olympia title—the most prestigious in physique contests – Lou Ferrigno and Rick Wayne.  The other six were all Olympia winners, several of them multiple times. Beecham died after completing the painting of Yates, and so this famous set of portraits came to an end. They hung for over 20 years on the first floor of the Weider Building in California, and were then given to the University of Texas in 2008 by Joe and Betty Weider for the Weider Museum of Physical Culture.  They are all slightly larger than life-size and serve as a forceful reminder that the history of physical culture is equally concerned with visual images. 

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