Fine Arts was an Olympic Event from 1912 to 1948!

“Jean Jacoby’s Corner, left, and Rugby. At the 1912 Olympic Art Competitions in Amsterdam, Jacoby won a gold medal for Rugby. (Collection:Olympic Museum Lausanne)” See References Below

When we think of the Olympics, we think of sports that push your muscles to their limits, your heart races at a much faster pace, you breathe harder…. in through your nose and out through your mouth, everything in your body becomes alive and yet at the same time aches for the finish line. These sports can include, but not limited to, Triathlon, Track and Field, even Gymnastics. But did you know for 36 years there was a different type of sport? One that pushed your creativity and mind, rather than your body and strength?

What type of Sport could this be? Artistic Competition!!

Believe it or not, the founder of the Olympics, Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin, wanted men to be educated in both art and sport. It took a few years to have his dream become a reality, but he succeeded.

Artistic Competition

This sport was divided into five different categories and each one would have its own gold medal for the winner. The five categories are 1.) Architecture, 2.) Literature, 3.) Music, 4.) Painting, and 5.) Sculpture.

   The History of Artistic Competition in the Olympics from Start to End

” Poster for the 1912 Summer Olympics, designed by Olle Hjortzberg

          The 1912 Summer Olympics in Sweden was the first time this specific competition took place. Only 35 artists have been purported to have participated. None the less gold medals were passed out in each category.

    1928 Amerstdam Olympics had a over 1,100 works of art submitted!! They were exhibited in the Municipal Museum, and once the games were over, the artists were allowed to sell their work. Unfortunately, this started raising an issue. The competitors were meant to be amateurs. (Today, we may not understand this IOC policy as our artists, that participate in shows such as the Del Mar Fair, are allowed to sell their artwork once the competition is over. If anything, it allows them to grow their collectors and possibly make a name for themselves in the art world. ) Due to the vast number of artist’s participating in the event more art categories opened up creating more artistic events in the Olympics.

The exhibition at the 1932 Los Angeles Summer Olympics drew 384,000 visitors to the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science, and Art!

The Artist Competition held on strong throughout the Olympics, with slightly lower number, until 1951 to 1952. At that time the IOC, International Olympic Committee, wanted to abolish this category as it was only bringing in professional artists, which was against the policy at that time. Their decision caused a heated debate; yet, at that time, they granted the Artistic Competition to continue as an event in the Olympic sports. However, the debate was far from over and in 1954 the committee finally cancelled this part of the competition and replaced it with exhibitions for future Olympics.

This piece of History is amazing!! Art is a major part of the world and its long journey / history. It touched the Olympics, what can’t Art touch??


1.  Art competitions at the Summer Olyimpics (Wikipedia)

2.  When the Olympics Gave Out Medals for Art (Jospeh Stromberg)

3. 5 Facts about Art that will Impress Your Friends (Annette Spinks)