The Forgotten History of Art as a part of the Olympic Games

Bazr Blog written by Sinem Gürbüz

The Forgotten History of Art as a part of the Olympic Games

When one thinks of the Olympic Games, what often comes to mind is athletic individuals earning medals in the honour of their countries. However, did you know that Olympic Games once awarded not only the athletic but also the aesthetic?


In 1912, the founder of the modern International Olympic Games, Pierre de Coubertin, made his vision of combining art and sports come to life. He proposed to the International Olympic Committee that, if the ideal of the games is to celebrate educated men’s body and mind, then art should be included in this celebration as well as sports. His proposal was then considered by the committee and implemented for the first time in the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games. This kicked off the start of Olympic Art Competitions where artists received medals in five different categories: painting, sculpture, architecture, literature, and music for their creations inspired by sports.

110 years after this, today we mark the end of 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics where art competitions are no longer part of the games and are even forgotten that they once were. All what has remained to history are reports with the names of the medal-winning artists. So, we wanted to take this occasion to remember the first ever gold medal awarded for a painting and give it the recognition it deserves yet has not received in its time nor today.


Carlo Pellegrini, in 1912, received an Olympic Gold Medal for his three-piece submission called “Three connected friezes representing Winter Sports” to the Fifth Olympiad. According to the official Stockholm records, Pellegrini’s work was deemed outstanding by the jury to a level that no other submission was regarded as worthy of competition. Yet, the only recognition he received from the public was limited to a month-long exhibition. Unsurprisingly, no different than any other hobby artist, in the dominance of the times’ high-end artists and galleries, his talent and even his three-piece creation that won an Olympic Gold Medal got lost in history.


A century later, we know of Carlo Pellegrini and this notable artistic achievement of his, thanks to official records. The history shows that he unfortunately did not receive the recognition he deserved during his time and even after his death, as his creations was even mistaken for his father’s work due to the official records misspelling and using the wrong initial for his name. His talent is lost in history and so is the first ever golden medal awarded painting.


We do not want to lose any more talents to history. That is why we adopt a mission to give a voice, a non-discriminative platform to artists living in our local communities and encourage you to join us in celebrating the talents and the richness of the art that surrounds us.