The first body art performer, as well as the first professional bodybuilder, was the showman Eugene Sandow (1867-1925). Though Sandow’s heyday occurred before the birth of the Modern Movement, there are compelling reasons for giving the primacy to him.
Sandow, born Friedrich Wilhelm Müller in Prussia in 1867, left his native country in 1885 in order to avoid military service and first appeared on the London stage in 1885. His real celebrity began when the American impresario Florenz Ziegfield hired him, on a profit-sharing basis, to appear at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago. Ziegfield soon discovered that audiences were more interested in the perfection of Sandow’s body than they were in the weights he was lifting, so he encouraged him to give "muscle display performances". One of these is preserved in a short film made by Edison Studios in 1894. The clip, which lasts for just 42 seconds, can be seen today on the web.