Posted on 11/25/2019 at 10:13 AM by Blog Experts

In 1948, the seventh Olympic Art Competitions took place in London” (Wilant, 2018, p. 457). Art as an Olympic discipline? Apparently, according to Wilant, between 1912 and 1948, medals were awarded to artists as well as athletes at the Olympic games. Submitted works had to have some connection to sports or athletics, and the submitted works were reviewed by international juries. The categories for the works were painting, architecture, sculpture, literature, and music. Almost 1,800 artists participated.

According to Wilant (2018), Pierre de Coubertin was the mastermind behind the Olympic art competitions. His father, Charles de Coubertin, was a successful painter in the Fine Arts Salon, having exhibited there for more than 40 years. Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern IOC, firmly believed in the link between art and sports (Neuendorf, 2016).

As each different National Olympic Committee organized the Olympic art competitions, slight changes were made. For example, in 1936, the sub-categories were added to the discipline of drawing. And in 1951, the International Olympic Committee determined to discontinue the art competitions altogether due to organizational difficulties, lack of objective evaluation criteria, and poor quality of the artworks (Wilant, 2018, p. 465). The artwork was of poor quality, due to the fact it had to come from amateurs, just as the athletes couldn’t be professionals. Additionally, it was much easier to time athletic events, but much more subjective judging artwork.

Students could research the artwork of those who received gold, silver, and bronze medals during the Olympics. They could also analyze how world events impacted who received medals and why. For example, the 1936 games were held in Berlin. Twenty-nine of the 41 judges for the art competition were from Germany and five of the nine gold medals went to German artists.

This might be a great model to follow with several school districts and/or with districts from several different states. An Olympic Committee could be formed with artists, teachers, and students. Students not on the committee could submit their artwork to the competition. There could be a theme of sports and athletics, or the theme could change each year the competition is held with the committee determining the theme. The next Olympics will be held in Tokyo in July/August of 2020, and then in Beijing in 2022. It might be fun for the students to coordinate the art competition with the actual Olympics.


Fetters, A. (2012). Remember when the Olympics used to have an art competition? Retrieved from

Neuendorf, H. (2016). Painting for gold medals: When art was an Olympic discipline. Retrieved from

Wylant, N. C. Y. (2018). When art was an Olympic discipline: The Fine Art Salon as a possible model for the concept of the Olympic Art Competitions from an art history perspective. Sport in History, 38(4), pp. 457-475.

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