Music, painting, poetry, literature and architecture, all used to be part of the modern Olympic Games from 1912 to 1948.
Art competitions formed part of the modern Olympic Games during its early years, from 1912 to 1948. The competitions were part of the original intention of the Olympic Movement's founder, Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin. Medals were awarded for works of art inspired by sport, divided into five categories: architecture, literature, music, painting, and sculpture.
In May 1906, Baron de Coubertin organized a meeting in Paris for both IOC members and representatives of artists' organizations. The meeting ended with a proposal to the IOC to organize artistic competitions at the Olympic Games in five areas (architecture, literature, music, painting, and sculpture). The works of art entered had to be inspired by sports.
Pierre de Coubertin was not discouraged and sought to include the artistic events in the program of the 1912 Summer Olympics, to be held in Stockholm, Sweden. Although the Swedes initially objected, opposing the idea of art combined with competition, they eventually gave in. The number of entrants was rather disappointing: only 35 artists are known to have sent works of art to Sweden, but gold medals were awarded in all five categories.
When the first post-war Olympic Games were held in war-ravaged Belgium, art contests were again on the program, although they were little more than a sideshow. This was different for the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris. The contests were taken seriously for the first time, and 193 artists submitted works. This figure included three Soviet artists, even though the Soviet Union officials did not take part in the Olympic Games, which they considered being a "bourgeois" festival.
The growth continued at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, where over 1,100 works of art were exhibited in the Municipal Museum, not including the submissions in literature, music, and architecture. Artists were allowed to sell their works at the close of the exhibition, which was rather controversial given the IOC's amateurism policy, which required all competitors to be amateurs. In Amsterdam, the number of events was also increased, as four of the five fields of art were subdivided, creating more events.
Because of the economy and the remote location of Los Angeles, participation in the athletic events of the 1932 Games was lower than that of 1928. The art competition did not suffer from this problem, and the number of artworks entered remained stable. Their exhibition drew 384,000 visitors to the Los Angeles Museum of History, Science and Art. Art contests were also held in Berlin (1936) and London (1948), with reasonable success, although the number of entered works had significantly dropped by 1948.