In the first half of the 20th century, the Olympics awarded medals for artworks. Baron Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games, which began in 1896, pushed for “muscle and mind” to be honored. Medals were presented to artists from 1912 to 1948.
Gold, silver, and bronze medals were awarded for music, sculpture, literature, architecture, and two categories of painting, oil painting and watercolor. No, they did not paint in front of a crowd or the judges.
In the first year of the arts competition, American Walter Winans won a medal in sculpture and another in shooting. A true artist-athlete.
You can read more about this in the book The Forgotten Olympic Art Competitions by Richard Stanton.
You can also read about a gold-medal winner and the poignant path his life, his art, and his medal took after his victory. “When aesthetes competed at the Olympics” was published in the Los Angeles Times on August 25, 2008.