Importance of Art Competitions
||A Studio in Batignolles Quarter by Henri Fantin-Latour,
oil on canvas, 1870, 80 x 107.
An artist grows by leaps and bounds when he or she puts artwork
in the public eye for feedback, and that is what art competitions are all
about. Historically, patronage, commissions, and incredible opportunities have
all been prizes afforded to winners of major art competitions.
drawing and painting competitions continue to allow artists to display their
work among their peers, have it reviewed by esteemed judges, and sometimes
receive exhibition opportunities and monetary incentives.
But more than the competitive spirit drives fine art
competitions. These venues or events (at their best) showcase noteworthy
emerging artists, those with unique perspectives, and artists with technical
Viewers walk away from a great art competition with a real sense of
what art-making looks like right now, and participating artists are able to
make a statement—whether it is cultural, political, aesthetic, or formalist—to
the art world at large.
History of Art
Competitions & Art Contests
|The Sacrifice of Isaac by Lorenzo Ghiberti, gilded bronze relief, 1401-02.
Throughout Western civilization's history, art competitions
have gone hand in hand with the creation of some of the most moving artwork of
the day. But that doesn't mean it's been a smooth road for the participating
artists. Here's a timeline of some of the most interesting (even notorious!)
highlights having to do with historic art contests and fine art competitions.
Zeuxis and Parrhasius
Zeuxis was a famous Greek painter during the 5th century BC.
Pliny the Elder writes, in his Natural
History, that Zeuxis and his fellow painter Parrhasius entered into an art
contest to see who was the greater artists. For his art contest contribution,
Zeuxis painted a cluster of grapes that were so tempting and lifelike that
birds flew down from the sky to eat them. Parrhasius painted a curtain that so
deceived his opponent that Zeuxis conceded defeat by saying, "I have deceived
the birds, but Parrhasius has deceived Zeuxis."
The art competition that every art history student studies came in 1401 in
Florence, Italy, where the Baptistry of St. John, the oldest church in the
city, held an art competition to find an artist to make a pair of bronze doors for
one of the entrances of the building. In the end, the two contenders for the
commission were Lorenzo Ghiberti and Filippo Brunelleschi. Ghiberti won the art
competition, and his first set of Baptistry doors took 27 years to complete (he was eventually commissioned to do a second set).
The Prix de Rome
In France in 1663,
during the reign of Louis XIV, the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture
instituted the Prix de Rome, an art competition award that
offered the winning artist a stay of several years at the Palazzo Mancini, in
Rome, at the expense of the king.
|Luncheon on the Grass by Edouard Manet, oil on canvas, 1863.
The prize afforded an
artist of exceptional promise the opportunity to reside in an important
cultural metropolis and refine and expand his professional, artistic, and
scholarly aptitudes. By instituting this award, the stewards of French culture
were tactically recognizing and seeking to address a significant challenge: how
to provide for the continuing support and education of artists and secure the
continuance of the visual arts for future generations.
Manet and the Salon
The most famous and first "exhibition of rejects" came in
1863 when many of the 3,000 works that had been passed over by the fine art
competition officials of the Paris Salon were shown in a nearby gallery hall.
To many, this marked the creation of the avant-gard. Edouard Manet's Luncheon on the Grass was among the
paintings shown in this group, as was Whistler's Symphony in White, No. 1: The White Girl.
In 1884, Sargent shocked the Paris Salon in an art contest controversy by
exhibiting a portrait he titled Madame X,
in which one of the straps of the figure's gown has slipped down her shoulder.
The detail was interpreted as quite sexually suggestive at the art
competition's opening. Sargent lauded the painting as one of the best he'd ever
done, but it was not well received by the public at large.
An Art Competition
||Rossina's Apple by William Rose,
2007, charcoal on museum board, 28 x 20.
William Rose is the winner of a previous Drawing
magazine cover art competition. The events that came out of his winning the drawing
competition and having his work on the cover of the magazine (and, therefore,
on newsstands all over the country) speaks to how entering American Artist art contests and putting your work in a public
venue can give your artwork incredible visibility, with exciting results.
The following is
Rose's abridged letter describing his success. By the way, the film Rose
mentions, which features his work, is Carmel-by-the-Sea. Rose's
artwork can also be seen in the Summer 2010 issue of Drawing. Bravo, Bill!
From: William Rose
To: American Artist
Subject: Cover Winner Feedback
was the winner of the Drawing magazine cover art contest (for Rossina's
Apple) and I wanted to relay briefly what
occurred shortly after the publication.
I was contacted by a film director in Carmel, California, about a project he
was working on with the Eastwoods (Clint and his wife, Dina). He was
beginning preproduction of a film about a teenage art prodigy who gets involved
in international forgery, and they were looking for an artist to work on the
film. They spotted Drawing
magazine with my cover at a local bookstore, and after visiting my website they
apparently determined my charcoal work was exactly what they were looking for.
So here I am-an artist from
Prairie Village, Kansas, having only inadvertently stumbled across a talent for
drawing a few years ago-getting a request to come out to Carmel for three
months and produce all of the artwork that appears in the film as the work of
the kid prodigy. As you might imagine, it was quite a surreal experience. In
addition to producing all of the artwork-which included dozens of drawings, a
few paintings, and a 16'-x-12' figurative mural on a hotel-room ceiling-they
asked me to be the on-set still photographer for the entire shoot and put me up
in a multimillion dollar home in Pebble Beach. The movie stars Lauren Bacall,
Alfred Molina, Josh Hutcherson (as the teenage prodigy), and Hayden Panettiere,
as well as Clint's wife, Dina, and his son, Scott.
Since the filming, my career has really shot off the ground with numerous shows
in and around the Kansas City area and my work being represented in multiple
galleries. Needless to say, I owe all of this to entering and winning your art competition.
There is no way I can begin to express my gratitude to you for providing the
exceptional opportunities with your publications to artists like myself who
scratch and claw to find ways to gain a little recognition in a world filled
with outstanding artists.
All my best,
William Rose was given an exceptional opportunity in the wake of his winning
the Drawing magazine art competition.
The American Artist, Drawing, and Watercolor magazine competitions are currently underway, and
entering them could bring your work amazing exposure and bring you the
opportunities and visibility you so richly deserve.
Choosing the Right
||Charles X Distributing Awards to Artists Exhibiting
at the Salon of 1824 at the Louvre by François Joseph Heim, 1827.
There are hundreds (maybe even thousands) of art
competitions held worldwide every year. Some art contests are local, some
regional, and some accept submissions from those all across the globe. There
are drawing competitions, sculpting contests, painting competitions, and more.
Artist contests can be juried, peer evaluated, or simply critiqued. Because
there is so much variety among the art competitions out there, it is good to
keep a few pointers in mind so you choose the art competition that is right for
you and get the most out of any art contest experience from beginning to end.
Read the fine print.
Many contests have stipulations that you need to be aware of, whether
specifying who can submit work, how work can be submitted, fees, deadlines, and
more, and it is always smart to read rules and regulations before you take any
Look who the judges
are. To get your artwork in front of gallerists,
curators, editors, and artists who can positively impact your career, make sure
to research who are the judges or jury members for any art competition you
enter. This can sometimes give you a sense of what kind of works to submit and
what kind of works the powers that be might be more open to.
Free is free.
Free art competitions are great, but they also may not be the best proving
ground for an artist with a professional career in the art world in mind. In
the same vein, make sure any art contest fee is worth the price. Art
competitions online abound, so it should be easy to find info on past winners,
prizes, and issues for any art competition you are considering, so you can get
a sense of who else is submitting and the quality of their work, and what you
can expect from the process as a whole.