The founder of the Modern Olympics, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, always foresaw art competitions as being an integral part of the Olympic ideal but he did not introduce them from the start in 1896 as he wanted to wait until the Olympic Games were well established on the sporting calendar. Consequently, they did not make their debut until Stockholm in 1912 and bowed out at the 1948 London Olympics.
There were competitions in five categories: Architecture, Literature, Music, Painting and Sculpturing. They were in turn, divided into sub categories. The most famous gold medallist was the Olympic founder himself, de Coubertin, who won gold at the 1912 Stockholm Games. Writing under the pseudonym of "Georges Hohrod and Martin Eschbach" he wrote Ode to the Olympics.
Britain's Gold Medallists:
Born: 14 June 1903
Died: 20 February 1977, Colwyn, Clwyd, Wales
Olympics competed in: 1 (1932)
Gold Medal: 1932 - Architecture (town planning)
John Hughes won a gold medal in the Architecture section of the Arts competition at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics for his "Design of a sports and recreation centre with stadium for the City of Liverpool". Imagine if that had been on the 2012 London Olympic programme, Clare Balding would have had a field day commentating in that one! And she probably would have made it sound interesting ...
Little is known of Hughes, but Liverpool City historian Steve Binns believes that Hughes was almost certainly a Fellow of the Liverpool School of Architecture and was inspired by the top Liverpool architect of the day, Charles Reilly.
Hughes' design of the sports and recreation centre for which he won his gold medal, was never built.
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NICHOLSON, William Newzham Prior
Born: 5 February 1872, Newark-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, England
Died: 16 May 1949, Blewbury, Berkshire (now Oxfordshire), England
Olympics competed in: 1 (1928)
Gold Medal: 1928 - Painting (graphic works)
Sir William Nicholson was a noted artist and was an outstanding portrait, still-life and landscape artist. He was also a noted woodcutter and in the 1920s wrote several children's books. He was also the illustrator for several Robert Graves books. Nicholson had his first exhibition at the National Gallery in 1942, and the Tate has several of his works.
Nicholson's gold medal-winning work at the 1928 Games was entitled Un Almanach de douze Sports (An Almanac of Twelve Sports) which was a wood carving. He also entered the paintings competition, but without success.
Born in Newark-on-Trent his father was the Conservative MP for the town. Nicholson (junior) was knighted in the 1936 Birthday Honours' List. He spent his later life living in Blewbury, Berkshire which was also the home to some famous writers including thriller writer Dick Francis and Kenneth Grahame, of Wind in the Willows fame.
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THOMPSON, Alfred R
Born: 10 December 1894 , Bangalore, India
Died: 27 October 1979, Chelsea, London, England
Olympics competed in: 1 (1948)
Gold Medal: 1948 - Painting (paintings)
When Thompson's family returned from India at the turn of the 20th century, Thompson, who was born deaf, attended the Royal School for the Deaf and Dumb in Margate. He later studied at the London Art School and exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1920.
Having worked in commercial art Thompson became the official War artist in 1940 and several of his works can be found in the British War Museums. He later became an established mural painter and examples of his works can be seen at the Science Museum and the London Dental School.
The Tate Gallery holds one of Thompson's work; a 1939 oil painting of a nurse called Sister Fry. His Olympic gold-medal winning work was entitled: London Amateur Championship.
To see a copy of Thompson's painting of Sister Fry in the Tate, click here
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