Medals on 'l'effort'
   by Emmanuel Van Dorpe

In the first half of the 20th century, medals were often awarded to deserving individuals. The awards were given by official institutions or companies. Many artists have been commissioned to design medals on the theme 'l'effort'. It is revealing to find out how the theme was treated by the different artists, from the point of view of concept, composition and style.

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JosuŽ Dupon makes a well balanced composition for a round medal. His rock-levering athlete seduces more with his esthetic qualities than by suggestion of power.

Joseph Witterwulghe depicts three men involved in a conjoint effort to tow a rock. The unfinished, sketchy modelling contributes to the drama and power of the representation.

In another 'effort' medal, Witterwulghe suggests extreme exertion by an exaggerated musculature.

A totally different, more refined representation is made by Antoine Vriens. The effort may not be so impressive, but it is linked to skill in this art deco representation of a punter.


Art nouveau, romantic approach by Etienne Exbrayat, the young hero overcomes danger to pick an edelweiss for his beloved. The small bridge in the left lower corner enhances the sense of height.



Impressive plaque by Victor Demanet. The man is towing (possibly a boat) with a heavy rope. "Effortless" power is suggested here, although - or should I say because - the man shows no sign of strain on his face nor on his musculature. A perfect diagonal composition, like both Witterwulghe medals.


Another plaque by Demanet, a man in full effort, face hidden by his arm.



Godfroid Devreese uses the classic rock-levering theme in a totally different way. No brutal force but perseveration and wit is used by the cherubs to lift a rock with a pen, image of the power of the press. Note that the cherub on the right is pushing the feather the wrong way. 



A very clever and innovative piece by Pierre De Soete, commissioned to design a sports press award medal. The javelin is replaced by the journalist's pen.


Another rock lifting figure by Louis Muller. Elegant composition in the neoclassic style. However, the athlete looks absent-minded and it is difficult to imagine that he can exert much power with bended knees.


In Laurent Burger's plaque, the two men displacing a stone block are coarsely modelled, the attitudes well observed, the composition suggesting efficient power.


In his 1946 deco style round medal entitled 'Labour', Marcel Rau replaced the rock by a symbolic disc. Nothing diverts the attention from the figure. As often in Rau's work, part of the body is (not) shown. A veil breaks the coolness of the design and brings in movement.

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