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The Joy of Effort

The Joy of Effort, 1912, Bronze
Robert Tait McKenzie (Canadian, 1867 – 1938)

Studies have posed many suggestions regarding the inspiration behind what is undoubtedly R. Tait McKenzie’s most famous work, each drawing from a particular aspect of his persona and focus as an artist. On the one hand, from McKenzie’s notes, we know he was inspired to some degree by the strength and dedication he saw in the students training on Franklin Field; on the other, Mrs. McKenzie suggested years later that her husband actually sought to recreate the rhythmic elegance of a school of porpoises leaping from the waters he had once seen on an ocean liner. Finally, the artist’s close friend, Charles Wharton Stork, observed that the medallion’s arrangement was actually very similar to that of a Greek coin depicting an energetic chariot race. Regardless of which theory lies closest to the truth, they all give a glimpse of the foundational elements that make up McKenzie’s sets – a world where nature, energy, and classical grace find harmony as manifestations of true sportsmanship.

The present piece is a latter casting of the 1912 original, which was prominently featured as a gift from the Americans at the International Olympic Committee to that year’s host, Sweden. Placed in Stockholm’s Stadion for all visitors and athletes to see, the piece immediately boosted the artist's global recognition and even gained him a personal award from Gustaf V, the King of Sweden. The medallion still stands in the same location as a memorial of the fifth Olympiad as well as the inspiring endurance of mankind.




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