ARTISTS WERE ONCE OLYMPIANS
According to the IOC, Pierre de Coubertin’s definition of Olympism was based on the following four principles:
- To be a religion, i.e. to “adhere to an ideal of a higher life, to strive for perfection”;
- To represent an elite “whose origins are completely egalitarian” and at the same time an “aristocracy” with all its moral qualities;
- To create a truce with “a four-yearly celebration of the springtime of mankind”; and
- To glorify beauty by the “involvement of the arts and the mind in the Games”.
Pierre de Coubertin was awarded a gold medal in Literature in the 1912 Olympic Games.
The ArtsGames is honouring his legacy by bringing medaled arts competitions back to international Games.
Sadly, little information exists today on the Olympic Artists who competed prior to December, 1948. Recently scholars have been trying to retrieve information pertaining to these medalists, although many have had to resort to word of mouth testimonials or family archives to find even the names of these champions. The following items are a snapshot of the history of Olympian artists:
The book Forgotten Olympic Art is written by Richard Stanton and is the most comprehensive publication to date on the subject.The most famous artwork of the Olympic Games was created by George Dubois, a sculptor who won a silver medal. It is famous due to the magnitude of his work, an architectural arched entrance to a stadium measuring 14 meters in height and 16 meters in width, described by the scholar Bernard Kramer as a “triumphal arch.”
Records were kept during these Games, however, decades later these records were proven to be less than reliable. Many pieces of art, sculpture and music were identified to have won silver and bronze medals, but the pieces which placed gold are conspicuously absent.
According to the scholar Bernard Kramer, five medals were distributed during the 1924 Olympics including one gold, two silver and two bronze medals. Two of the medal-winning artists have resisted any unveiling of their work or identity.Poems, art and music also played a significant role in these Games. However, there is scant documentation regarding this artwork and we invite you to post anything you may know regarding these collections.
These Games saw 1,200 submissions of works of art. The documentation concerning these pieces can be found in the book Forgotten Olympic Art by Richard Stanton.
In 1936, the Nazis held the most widely documented Olympics. During these Games, arts submissions had the added criteria of having to be related to sport, such as the painting of a classical Japanese horse race, which won a silver medal. This painting is referred to in documentation but has been lost.Gold medals were not always awarded in the arts competitions, but in the Berlin Games, music competitors were awarded 17 medals, of which only five of them were gold.
Twenty-five nations participated in the 1948 Olympic art competitions in which Great Britain, China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Portugal and Turkey all fielded their first Olympian-artists. The growth of the popularity in the arts at these Games did not reflect the atmosphere of the International Olympic Committee at that time.These Games were the final Olympic Games of the 20th century in which artists were allowed to compete, as it was deemed soon afterwards that as artists were not considered to be amateurs, they were no longer to be participants in the Olympics.
The search for Olympic artwork is one reserved for those who are curious and probing and we invite you all to join in the search to find these lost pieces of history of Olympic art competitions. As the Olympics are no longer restricted to amateur competitions, the ArtsGames’ revival of this tradition is now underway.