Tsantilis Gallery

 


Ιστορία της Μοντέρνας Ελληνικής Ζωγραφικής
από το 1453 έως τον 21ο Αιώνα


Post-Byzantine Art

Andreas Pavias
(2nd half of 15th century-;)
Stefanos Tzangarolas
(beginning of 18th century-;)
Unknown
After the Fall of Constantinople (1453), the Byzantine art tradition was carried on in the new centres created outside the Ottoman Empire, in particular in Venetian-occupied Crete. The icons of the “Cretan School” were renowned and eagerly sought after beyond the borders of the island. Many of the painters of the Cretan School were “bilingual”, since they could paint either alla greca, in the Byzantine style, or alla latina, that is in the Renaissance style. After the fall of Candia to the Turks in 1669, many artists would find refuge in the Venetian controlled Ionian Islands. Slowly, however, as the relations with Venice became closer, the Byzantine idiom gave way to the western style which became predominant. Painting that had been idealistic tended to become realistic, what once had been transcendent became worldly, and the flat three-dimensional.

Domenicos Theotokopoulos - El Greco (1541-1614)

Domenicos Theotokopoulos (El Greco) was born in 1541 in Venetian-occupied Candia, the present-day Herakleio, in Crete, of well-to-do, Greek Orthodox parents. Along with painting he studied classics. In Candia he painted icons in the style of the post-Byzantine Cretan School, where influences from the Italian Renaissance are apparent. In 1567 he left Candia for Venice, where he studied under the great Venetian painter Titian and became familiar with the art of the Venetian School of the Renaissance, which was characterized by lavish colour.
From 1570 to 1577 he lived in Rome. He was a guest at the palace of Cardinal Alessandro Farnese, where he met many intellectuals. In 1572 Theotokopoulos enrolled at St. Lukeʼs Academy. His painting during this period combined the lavish Venetian colour with the spindly dynamic figures of the Roman mannerists.
In 1577 El Greco left for Spain, like many Italian artists who went there in order to work on the decoration of the Escorial palace. The King of Spain, Philip II, did not appreciate Theotokopoulosʼ art, which was considered somewhat bizarre. El Greco settled permanently in Toledo, the former imperial capital of Spain, which continued to be the religious seat of the country. There the proud Cretan received important commissions and painted many remarkable works such as the Espolio (The Disrobing of Christ), and The Burial of Count Orgaz.
Far from the influence of the Italians and the intrigues of the court, El Greco discovered his inner self and created an art of sublime spirituality, where Byzantium, the Renaissance and Mannerism were fused into an original and unique style.
Theotokopoulos died in Toledo in 1614 without ever returning to his homeland. He always signed his works in Greek, using Byzantine characters: «Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος ο Κρης εποίει».
The National Gallery has three original masterpieces by El Greco; the Burial of Christ (1568-1570), one of the most characteristic works from the Venetian period of the artist, and Saint Peter (1600-1607), both recently acquired thanks to contributions coming from allover Greece, as well as the Concert of the Angels (1608-1614), purchased by the Greek state in 1931.

Ionian Island School

Panayiotis Doxaras
(1662- 1729)
Nikolaos Doxaras
(1706-1775)
Nikolaos Koutouzis
(1741-1813)
Nikolaos Kantounis
(1767-1834)
Gerasimos Pitzamanos
(1787-1825)
Ioannis Korais (1781-1841)
Dionysios Kallyvokas
(1806-1877)
Konstantinos Iatras
(1811-1888)
Georgios Avlichos (1842-1909)
Charalambos Pachis
(1844-1891)
After the Turks conquered Crete (1669), the strategic and commercial significance of the Ionian Islands, which remained in Venetian hands, increased. Western stylistic elements gained further support and became predominant. Thus in the Ionian Islands there occurred a gradual shift from the eastern Byzantine idiom to the western, secular one, which was imposed even on religious painting. These changes were linked to the technique of oil painting on canvas which replaced the Byzantine technique of egg tempera on panel. Panayiotis Doxaras, who also wrote theoretical texts, acted as the bridge between the post-Byzantine and the western tradition.
It is to the nobility, but above all the rising bourgeoisie that one must look to explain the flowering of one particular branch of secular painting, portraiture, in the Ionian Islands, starting in the second half of the 18th century. Bourgeois portraiture has an emblematic character, emphasizing the class, profession and position of the individual in society. Frequently, however, these works also constitute penetrating psychological studies. Two clergymen distinguished themselves in this type of painting during this early period:
Nikolaos Koutouzis and his student Nikolaos Kantounis. The mature phase of the School of the Ionian Islands echoes the social developments as well as the changes that had occurred in the visual arts. Portraits began to lose their emblematic character. The early rigid poses were then succeeded by more relaxed attitudes which set up a dialogue with the viewer (Kallyvokas, Iatras, Avlichos). The art of the School of the Ionian Islands also includes other kinds of painting, such as genre scenes, landscapes and still lifes.

19th Century
The Painting of the Free Greek State

The Years of the Reign of King Othon 1832-1862
Georgios Margaritis
(1814-1884)
Philippos Margaritis
(1810-1892)
Unknown
N.E. Zatamis
(2nd half of 19th century-;)
Dionysios Tsokos (1920-1862)
Theodoros Vryzakis
(1819-1878)
Francesco Pize (1822-1862)
Andreas Kriezis
(1813-after 1877)
Philippos Nikolaidis
(19th century-;)
Ludwig Thiersch
(1825-1909)
Aristeidis Oikonomou
(1821/1823-1887)
Nikolaos Kounelakis
(1829-1869)
Nikolaos Zachariou
(2nd half of 19th century-;)
Spyridon Prosalentis
(1830-1895)
Dimitrios Domvriadis
(1820-;)
Ioannis Doukas
(1838/1841-1916)
Raffaello Ceccoli
(1st half of 19th century-;)
Vikentios Lanza (1822-1902)
Stephanos Lanza (1861-1933)
Aimilios Prosalentis
(1859-1926)
Angelos Giallinas
(1857-1939)
Vikentios Bokatsiambis
(1856-1932)
The history of modern Greek art coincides chronologically with the history of the independent Greek state and, to a degree, expresses its ideological choices. The institutional and functional role of art becomes apparent through the urgent concern of the new state to establish the School of Arts (31 December 1836), to bring foreign teachers to Greece and to send Greek students abroad on scholarships, mainly to Munich, so that in parallel with the other institutions, the painting language would also be “Europeanized”. Historical scenes and portraits were dominant during this first period of modern Greek art. The former had a more official character, since they were destined primarily for the decoration of public buildings, while the latter give us, in a particularly eloquent way, the image of the new urban class where the marks of its rural origins are quite clear. The European centres which influenced this first period of modern Greek art were numerous: Italy, France, Austria, and Munich. All these lessons would ultimately lead to academicism owing to the rudimentary aesthetic horizon of expectation of the Greek society of that period.
History Painting
Georgios Margaritis
(1814-1884)
Philippos Margaritis
(1810-1892)
Unknown
N.E. Zatamis
(2nd half of 19th century-;)
Dionysios Tsokos (1920-1862)
Theodoros Vryzakis
(1819-1878)
History painting aimed at memorializing the Greek War of Independence. Its ideal image was required to promote heroism and the supreme sacrifice as a moral model and an incontestable alibi for historical continuity. At the same time, it could be used as a weapon of ideological propaganda. Theodoros Vryzakis, the son of a victim of the War of Independence, is the first Greek painter who studied in Munich and the main representative of this type of historical painting. The monumental size of these pictures, the ceremonial and theatrical compositions, and the meticulous style of academic idealistic romanticism bear witness to their official ideological role. Alongside the imposing historical compositions, a kind of idyllic romantic genre painting, connected to the War of Independence, also developed, and were once more determined by a philhellenic horizon of expectation.

Early Greek Portraiture

Unknown
Dionysios Tsokos (1920-1862)
Georgios Margaritis
(1814-1884)
Francesco Pize (1822-1862)
Andreas Kriezis
(1813-after 1877)
Philippos Nikolaidis
(19th century-;)
Ludwig Thiersch
(1825-1909)
Aristeidis Oikonomou
(1821/1823-1887)
Nikolaos Kounelakis
(1829-1869)
Nikolaos Zachariou
(2nd half of 19th century-;)
Spyridon Prosalentis
(1830-1895)
Early Greek portraits give us an image of the new urban class, in the process of development. Veterans of the War of Independence, islanders, and farmers were then being transformed into the bourgeoisie. They still retained their attire, customs and stern mien. Professional distinctions, elaborate costumes, and expensive jewellery were all used to depict the class, the role and the ideological image which the subject wished to promote. A more bourgeois character is to be found in the portraits by the Greek painters who had studied or lived in the large urban centres of Europe and addressed themselves to a more refined clientele (Aristeidis Oikonomou, Nikolaos Kounelakis).
Early Greek Landscape Painting
Greece through Romantic Eyes
Raffaello Ceccoli
(1st half of 19th century-;)
Vikentios Lanza (1822-1902)
Francesco Pize (1822-1862)
Georgios Margaritis
(1814-1884)
Dionysios Tsokos (1920-1862)
Stephanos Lanza (1861-1933)
Aimilios Prosalentis
(1859-1926)
Angelos Giallinas
(1857-1939)
Vikentios Bokatsiambis
(1856-1932)
The early landscape painters drew from the rich mine of romantic travel landscape painting, which developed quite remarkably from the second half of the 18th to the early 19th century. In this type of landscape painting two opposing traditions converged and were fused: the interest of neoclassicism in antiquity and the romantic vision of the ancient world. The romantic painter did not depict antiquity the way the neoclassic artist did. He would stand in reverie before the ancient ruins, the melancholy remains of a “golden age”, irrevocably lost. Greece as seen by the romantics is suspended in a transcendent space, where immobile historical time rules. The gold twilight which envelops its romantic landscapes might be considered its symbol.

19th Century
The Bourgeois Class and its Painters (1862-1900)

From the 19th to the 20th Century
Nikephoros Lytras (1832-1904)
Nikolaos Gyzis (1842-1901)
Nikolaos Vokos (1859-1902)
Polychronis Lembesis
(1848-1913)
Konstantinos Panorios
(1857-1892)
Georgios Iakovidis
(1853-1932)
Ioannis Zacharias (1845-;)
Ioannis Oikonomou
(1860-1931)
Theodoros Rallis (1852-1909)
Symeon Savvidis (1859-1927)
Nikolaos Xydias (1826-1909)
Aristeidis Varouchas
(middle of 19th century-;)
Ioannis Doukas
(1838/1841-1916)
Nikolaos Kounelakis
(1829-1869)
Alexandros Kalloudis
(1850/1853-1923)
Periclis Pantazis
(1849-1884)
Konstantinos Volanakis
(1837-1907)
Vasileios Chatzis (1870-1915)
Ioannis Altamouras
(1852-1878)
Iakovos Rizos (1849-1926)
Pavlos Mathiopoulos
(1876-1956)
Odysseas Fokas (1857-1946)
Georgios Chatzopoulos
(1859-1935)
Georgios Samartzis
(1868-1925)
Umvertos Argyros
(1882/1884-1963)
Markos Zavitzianos
(1884-1923)
Sofia Laskaridou (1882-1965)
Kleoniki Aspriotou
(1870-1938)
Dimitrios Geraniotis
(1871-1966)
Thaleia Flora-Karavia
(1871-1960)
Georgios Roilos (1867-1928)
Nikolaos Ferekeidis
(1862-1929)
Epameinondas Thomopoulos
(1878-1976)
Pavlos Kalligas
(1883-1942)
Georgios Prokopiou
(1876-1940)
Stelios Miliadis
(1881-1965)
Nikolaos Cheimonas
(1866-1929)
Spyros Vikatos
(1878 ή 1874-1960)
1862 is a landmark in both modern Greek history and art. Though the dethronement of King Othon brought an end to the Bavarian rule of Greece, in art a new period of “Bavarianism” began with the triumphant arrival on the forestage of Greek artistic life of the major representatives of the mature School of Munich: Nikephoros Lytras, Nikolaos Gysis, Georgios Iakovidis, Konstantinos Volanakis etc.
1862 also marked the end of a fruitful twenty year period at the School of Arts, under the directorship of the brilliant architect Lysandros Kaftantzoglou. The students who distinguished themselves at the School of Arts during the Kaftantzoglou period (1844-1862) were destined to become outstanding teachers and the founders of modern Greek art. The School of Arts managed to bridge the gap separating it from European academies in the second half of the 19th century. Greek academicism was frequently superior to that of its immediate German models and certainly more vigorous and genuine than the French academicism of the Second Empire of Napoleon III.
Genre painting, the epitome of bourgeois taste since the time it developed in The Netherlands in the 17th century, was a prestigious preference of the new urban class which arose during the time of Charilaos Trikoupis. A form of portraiture for the haute bourgeoisie also achieved great success. Still life, the urban genre par excellence, and to a somewhat lesser degree the nude became part of the thematic repertoire of the mature phase of Greek academicism. The academic landscape gives us the stereotypical and unchanging image of a world based on a rural economy. At the same time, there emerged a genuine plein air painting, marked by free brushstrokes, colour and light; this plein-airism transmitted the image of a fluid and changeable world, where there were no certainties beyond the feelings of an individual at a specific moment.

Genre Painting

Nikephoros Lytras (1832-1904)
Nikolaos Gyzis (1842-1901)
Nikolaos Vokos (1859-1902)
Polychronis Lembesis
(1848-1913)
Konstantinos Panorios
(1857-1892)
Georgios Iakovidis
(1853-1932)
Ioannis Zacharias (1845-;)
Ioannis Oikonomou
(1860-1931)
From the middle of the 19th century on, and throughout Europe, under the direct influence of Positivism and in the context of the first industrial revolution and rapid urbanization, the traditional repertoire of painting was abandoned. The observation of daily life, nature and the objects which surround us, replaced historical and mythological subjects. However, this kind of observation did not always lead to Realism, which developed primarily in France.
Genre painting is marked by a basic qualitative difference from Realism. It also gives us pictures of customs and everyday images, but reduces them to models of an idealized, harmonious, painless and passive life. Thus genre painting can function as an educational model for the people, according to Nikephoros Lytras.
Genre painting in Greece coincided with the consolidation of the bourgeois class, which nostalgically returned to its rural roots. Indeed, Greek genre painting was inspired by the manners and customs of the Greek people, in the same way the literature of that period was. It is not by chance that the Studies of Folklore and Linguistics were created during the same period, while at the same time the dispute over the value of demotic Greek began. Realistic observation and idealism were reconciled in Greek genre painting. Genre painting gave Greek painters the opportunity to display their compositional abilities, to bring many separate motifs -- portraits, the still life, and the study of traditional costumes -- into the same pictorial space, while enabling them to develop their purely artistic talent in design, colour and the rendering of light and texture. When objective observation became more important than idealization, Greek artists were able to come close to a realistic representation.

Orientalism

Nikephoros Lytras (1832-1904)
Theodoros Rallis (1852-1909)
Georgios Iakovidis
(1853-1932)
Symeon Savvidis (1859-1927)
Nikolaos Gyzis (1842-1901)
Orientalism, the nostalgia for the Orient, the cult of the exotic and extravagant, is part of the pathology of Romanticism. The Orient excited the artistsʼ imagination and fired their passions. In addition to Delacroix, who was inspired in many paintings by the Orient, a large number of French academic romanticism painters specialized in oriental subject matter. German Orientalism, although it lacked French ebullience, had similar characteristics. The joint trip of Nikephoros Lytras and Nikolaos Gysis to Asia Minor in 1872 took the character of a return to roots. Symeon Savidis, who actually came from Asia Minor, painted authentic orientalist scenes, inspired by his repeated trips to his fatherland, in which he captures not only the atmosphere but also the light that enlivened the profuse colour of the Orient. It is of course difficult to draw a clear line between Greek genre painting and Orientalism, as the scenes of everyday life in Greece had, as their natural decor, the traditional costumes set amid the context of a life spent in the countryside, which still bore a strong oriental flavour. Theodoros Rallis, a pupil of the French orientalist Gerome, was the most genuine Greek orientalist. He had a dual vantage point: as a Greek he explored Greek orientalist subjects with a greater understanding but at the same time he couldnʼt help seeing them like an academic painter of the French School.
Orientalism, and the painting of Rallis in particular, allows us to evaluate the differences between the Paris academic painters (pompiers) and the artists of the School of Munich. The pompiersʼ painting is less formal, both in subject matter – which frequently tends toward eroticism – and in technique: its palette is brighter and often presages the colour photograph.

Symbolism and Allegory

Nikolaos Gyzis (1842-1901)
By the end of the 19th century Symbolism spread throughout Europe functioning as an antidote to the prosaic character of Realism. It was inspired by those forces which had once been activated by Romanticism: dream, fantasy, poetry and ideas. Such artistic themes now became symbols of a symbolic content that referred to another reality. Content and form aspired to lure the viewer into emotional participation, to commune with poetry and mystery. The term Symbolism was introduced in the literary circles by the manifesto of the Greek poet Jean Moreas, which was published in Paris in 1886, while in painting it had emerged earlier. The entire repertory of the thematic, morphological and expressive content of Symbolism can be traced in the mature work of Gysis.
Around the same time, Symbolism is sometimes fused with another formalistic current: Art Nouveau. The Art Nouveau style, which influenced all the arts throughout Europe, is characterized by flat forms and marked decorative qualities with a particular preference for floral motifs and curved lines.

Mature Bourgeois Portraiture

Nikephoros Lytras (1832-1904)
Nikolaos Gyzis (1842-1901)
Georgios Iakovidis
(1853-1932)
Nikolaos Xydias (1826-1909)
Aristeidis Varouchas
(middle of 19th century-;)
Ioannis Doukas
(1838/1841-1916)
The mature bourgeois portraits present a picture of the haute bourgeoisie which was created under the government of Charilaos Trikoupis during the last decades of the 19th century. Bankers, industrialists, merchants, ship-owners and rich landowners, as well as certain intellectuals, would for many decades constitute the ideal clientele for the great masters of the School of Munich.
Bourgeois portraiture was addressed to a higher social class noted for its advanced urban taste, considerable refinement, contacts with Europe and a completely different lifestyle. This may account for the commissions for individual and, more infrequently, family portraits given to the most renowned and fashionable painters, who often depict the sitters full scale and sometimes even larger than life. The affluent bourgeois class would find in the figure of Nikephoros Lytras its poet. At the end of the 19th century, the style and technique of some portraits tend to become autonomous and to outweigh the importance of the person depicted.

The Nude

Nikolaos Kounelakis
(1829-1869)
Nikephoros Lytras (1832-1904)
Polychronis Lembesis
(1848-1913)
The nude, as an independent category, returned to art, after the eclipse during the Middle Ages, in the Renaissance, around the middle of the Quattrocento (15th century). From that time on it became an established practice that every nude shown in painting would have Aphrodite as its model, and should be “dressed” with the triumphal nudity of the goddess of love. The exceptions were many and frequently caused a scandal. Realism demystified the nude, which was stripped of the mythical aura of idealization (The Naked Maya by Goya, Courbetʼs nudes, Manetʼs Olympia).
The study of the female nude model was not established at the Greek School of Arts until 1904. The collections of the National Gallery include quite a number of nudes, some of which are idealized, such as the one by Nikephoros Lytras modelled on Velasquezʼs Aphrodite, and others realistic, such as the one by Lembesis.

Still Life

Nikolaos Vokos (1859-1902)
Nikolaos Xydias (1826-1909)
Alexandros Kalloudis
(1850/1853-1923)
Nikephoros Lytras (1832-1904)
Nikolaos Gyzis (1842-1901)
Periclis Pantazis
(1849-1884)
Polychronis Lembesis
(1848-1913)
The term still life, natura morta, was introduced into Italian art terminology in the 18th century. At the time, natura morta was still thought to be a second class category of painting and was juxtaposed to the “noble” natura vivente, the living nature, where man was the protagonist. Still life enjoyed a particular flourishing in the Low Countries in the 17th century.
Still life developed in Greece in the last quarter of the 19th century in order to meet the demands of the new bourgeois class. Still life places an illusory emphasis on material goods, symbolizes prosperity, and is destined to decorate dining or drawing rooms.

Dialogue with Light and Colour
The First Impressionist Signs
Impressionistic Remnants on the Academic Painters

Konstantinos Volanakis
(1837-1907)
Vasileios Chatzis (1870-1915)
Ioannis Altamouras
(1852-1878)
Georgios Iakovidis
(1853-1932)
Periclis Pantazis
(1849-1884)
Polychronis Lembesis
(1848-1913)
Iakovos Rizos (1849-1926)
Theodoros Rallis (1852-1909)
Pavlos Mathiopoulos
(1876-1956)
Odysseas Fokas (1857-1946)
Georgios Chatzopoulos
(1859-1935)
Georgios Samartzis
(1868-1925)
Symeon Savvidis (1859-1927)
Umvertos Argyros
(1882/1884-1963)
Markos Zavitzianos
(1884-1923)
Sofia Laskaridou (1882-1965)
Kleoniki Aspriotou
(1870-1938)
Dimitrios Geraniotis
(1871-1966)
Thaleia Flora-Karavia
(1871-1960)
Georgios Roilos (1867-1928)
Nikolaos Ferekeidis
(1862-1929)
Epameinondas Thomopoulos
(1878-1976)
Pavlos Kalligas
(1883-1942)
Georgios Prokopiou
(1876-1940)
Stelios Miliadis
(1881-1965)
Nikolaos Cheimonas
(1866-1929)
Spyros Vikatos
(1878 or 1874-1960)
Landscape developed as a particular kind of urban painting in the 17th century in the Protestant Netherlands. The realistic landscapes of the Low Countries would become the models for the revival of interest in nature during the 19th century. This turn towards nature was fostered and completed by Realism. The group of French painters who, around the middle of the 19th century, formed an artistic community in a small village in the woods of Fontainebleau, near Paris, has become known as the Barbizon School. These artists were the first genuine plein air painters and paved the way for Impressionism.
Going out of the shadowy workshop to the brilliant light of the outdoors was a revelation for painters. This signalled the birth of Impressionism: a form of painting that aspired to capture the momentary impression, before it was elaborated by the intellect. Through the assistance of optics, the impressionists broke light down into the pure colours that composed it, creating a semiology which did not imitate but rather interpreted the action of light. The impressionists worked with pure colours, resorting to supplementary tones in order to increase their brilliance and luminosity and managed to translate the pulsing vibrancy of the real outdoors. They painted with short, quick brushstrokes and invited the viewerʼs eye to actively participate in the genesis of the work. Their paintings glow with luminosity, pulse and colour and transmit to the viewer a feeling of ebullient vitality.
A “realistic” landscape painting slowly came into being in Greece during the last quarter of the 19th century. Plein air intimations and impressionist signs were to be encountered in many Greek painters such as Volanakis, Chatzis and Altamouras.
After the Athens School of Arts Periklis Pantazis briefly sojourn in Paris and ended up in Brussels. There, joining radical groups of Belgian artists, he took part in the renovation of painting, despite his premature death. The plein air quests and subject matter of his mature works are related to those of the pre-impressionists Manet and Boudin.
The light of the south, as manifested in Greece in the dry climate of Attica par excellence, describes volumes and shapes with sharp precision and without the gradations which distinguish the atmospheric landscapes of the north. This is the main reason why genuine Impressionism was not able to prosper in Greece. This suggestion is confirmed in all Greek painters who even well into the 20th century continued to paint in an impressionist idiom. Symeon Savidis can be considered a genuine Greek impressionist, despite the fact that he originated from the School of Munich.
At the end of the 19th century most Greek artists felt the need to brighten their palettes and revitalize their painting with the touches of Impressionism, independent of their origins.
The human figure in the plein air occupied a prime place among the plastic investigations of the impressionists.

20th Century
Toward a Greek Modernism (1900 - 1922)
Greek Light and Colour

Konstantinos Parthenis
(1878-1967)
Pavlos Rodokanakis
(1891-1958)
Konstantinos Maleas
(1879-1928)
Lykourgos Kogevinas
(1887-1940)
Nikolaos Othonaios
(1877/1880-1950)
Nikolaos Lytras (1832-1904)
Theophrastos Triantafyllidis
(1881-1955)
Michalis Oikonomou
(1888-1933)
Emmanuel Zairis
(1876/1878-1948)
Periklis Vyzantios
(1893-1972)
The renovation of art coincided with that of political life and emergence on the forestage of the great Greek politician, Eleftherios Venizelos. The first exhibition halls were created. The wind of renewal blew from everywhere, not only from Paris but from Munich as well.
The currents we encountered in the waning 19th century penetrated deep into the 20th, while the new artistic investigations had already developed. The need for a change is reflected in the texts of that period.
Periklis Yannopoulos, in his essay The Greek Line (1902-1904) proclaims the turn to indigenous sources of Greek tradition and to Greek nature and interprets the aesthetic and plastic singularity of the Greek countryside. Each and every shape, even the most remote one, is “traced” with transparency and clarity. The “ethereal” and “immaterial” light alleviates the volumes and the colours.
With only a few exceptions, the opening two decades of the 20th century were the first and perhaps the last time the Greek plein air became an object of serious artistic speculation. Using as their models French post-impressionism (Fauvism and the Nabis), Parthenis, Maleas, Nikolaos Lytras and a little later Papaloukas would search for, and find, a colour ideogram for Greek light. Their works are effortlessly incorporated into the spirit of modernism, as they tend toward a self-signification of the forms: they abolish the third dimension, simplify the form, and use pure and luminous colours. Alongside these “modern plein air paintings” there were also landscapes with symbolic connotations, as well as allegories, which nevertheless made use of the same pictorial idiom.
The plein-airistic post-impressionist trends of early Greek modernism found their theoretical and ideological expression in the “Omas Techni” (Art Group, 1917), which won the support of the liberal government. K. Parthenis, Nikolaos Lytras, L. Kogevinas, Th. Triantafyllidis, P. Byzantios, O. Fokas etc. were all members of this group. These trends continued in the Twenties (early S. Papaloukas), which wanted the emergence of the characteristics of the art between the wars too.

20th Century
Beetween the Wars (1922 - 1940)

Konstantinos Parthenis
(1878-1967)
Spyros Papaloukas
(1892-1957)
Agennor Asteriadis
(1898-1977)
Nikos Chatzikyriakos-Ghika
(1906-1994)
Yannis Tsarouchis (1910-1989)
Gerasimos Steris (1898-1987)
Giorgos Gounaropoulos
(1890-1977)
Angelos Spachis (1903-1963)
Spyros Vasileiou
(1902/1903-1985)
Yannis Moralis (1916)
Dimitris Galanis (1879-1966)
Errikos Frantziskakis
(1908-1958)
Theophilos Chatzimichael
(1873-1934)
Fotis Kontoglou (1896-1965)
Nikos Engonopoulos
(1907-1985)
Diamantis Diamantopoulos
(1914-1995)
Mimis Vitsoris (1902-1945)
Theophrastos Triantafyllidis
(1881-1955)
Yannis Mitarakis (1898-1963)
Giorgos Bouzianis (1885-1959)
From Perception to Conception
The Generation of the Thirties
Tradition and Modernism
Konstantinos Parthenis
(1878-1967)
Spyros Papaloukas
(1892-1957)
Agennor Asteriadis
(1898-1977)
Nikos Chatzikyriakos-Ghika
(1906-1994)
Yannis Tsarouchis (1910-1989)
Gerasimos Steris (1898-1987)
Giorgos Gounaropoulos
(1890-1977)
Angelos Spachis (1903-1963)
Spyros Vasileiou
(1902/1903-1985)
Yannis Moralis (1916)
Dimitris Galanis (1879-1966)
Errikos Frantziskakis
(1908-1958)
Theophilos Chatzimichael
(1873-1934)
Fotis Kontoglou (1896-1965)
Nikos Engonopoulos
(1907-1985)
Diamantis Diamantopoulos
(1914-1995)
For Greece, the milestone of the period between the wars was the Asia Minor Disaster of 1922. This traumatic experience created the need for national self-affirmation, which was expressed through a turn to tradition. Furthermore, a turn towards order and tradition also characterized European art in the period between the wars. The characteristics that would prevail in the artists of the Generation of the Thirties were fashioned in the Twenties.
The “Generation of the Thirties” was established as a term in the field of literature and referred to a group of young writers, poets mainly, who are related with the introduction of avant garde currents into Greece and their conscious endeavour to naturalize them. Seferis, Elytis, Engonopoulos and Embeirikos are examples of Greek modernism. In the visual arts, the first Greek plein air painting was succeeded by a painting which tended to become anthropocentric. Its basic hallmark was the predominance of intellect over the senses, expressed through a powerful schematization in composition and drawing, while colour distanced itself from nature and became more spiritual. The mature work of Konstantinos Parthenis typifies these changes. His allegorical and religious compositions combine influences from Greek antiquity, Byzantium and the modern trends. Fotis Kontoglou, who came from Asia Minor, sought his sources of inspiration exclusively in the Byzantine and Eastern tradition, rejecting all contact with western art. His personality and ideas influenced many artists in the Generation of the Thirties. In contrast to Kontoglou, his friend Spyros Papaloukas approached tradition through the experience of modern art. Yannis Tsarouchis also understood the impasse implicit in Kontoglouʼs doctrines and opened a fertile dialogue with many traditions (Hellenistic painting, Byzantium, the Renaissance, and folk art), consistently sharing the preoccupations of modern art, Henri Matisse in particular. The doctrines of Kontoglou were reconciled with the codes of the pittura metafisica in the work of Nikos Engonopoulos. In this climate, the Generation of the Thirties discovered the value of the art of folk artists such as the “Makryyannisʼ painter” and Theophilos. Chatzikyriakos-Ghika painted landscapes, interiors and still lifes in a post-cubist style transformed through the impact of Greek light and colour. A good number of artists of the Generation of the Thirties betray the influence of Andre Derainʼs classicistic phase, which reached Greece by way of the printmaker and painter Dimitris Galanis.
For the Generation of the Thirties, tradition and modernism functioned as two-way catalysts. Each one was of assistance in the deeper understanding and appropriation of the other. The Metaxas dictatorship (1936-1940) found this trend for a return to tradition already in existence and adopted it, in the hope that it would be able to express the nationalistic ideology of the regime.
Konstantinos Parthenis (1878 - 1967)
Konstantinos Parthenis represents the heroic phase of Greek modernism, which managed to break with the artistic establishment of Munich. The cosmopolitan background of this Alexandrian painter (Italy, Vienna, Paris) may well account for his idiosyncratic eclecticism. Nevertheless he succeeded in incorporating these various influences into his own unparalleled style marked by idealism, a certain “musicality” and rhythm, and the spiritual sublimation of his pictorial matter. His paintings executed in Vienna and in Greece during his first sojourn (1903-1907) reveal his strong attraction towards the Sezession, the Viennese version of Symbolism and Art Nouveau, and particularly Gustav Klimt: the development of the surface composition, the high horizon without a sky, the decorative schematization, the pointillisme, and the cold colours dominate these pictures. After his contact with Parisian avant-garde (1909-1911) and his return to Greece, Parthenis interpreted the Greek light through brighter colours, influenced by post impressionist painters and the fauves. The French symbolists, both the older, like Puvis de Chavannes, and the younger, like the Nabis, and in particular Maurice Denis, appear to have marked not only the morphology, but also the thematic choices of his work, as shown in the religious compositions and the idealistic allegories, which are prominent in the artistʼs creations of the thirties.
The Byzantine hagiographers and Domenicos Theotokopoulos (El Greco) may now be added to Parthenisʼ masters, within the ideological horizon of the Generation of the Thirties. In his works of this period we can trace the impact of Cubism. Parthenisʼ mature paintings present us with an ideal vision of Greece, its myths and history; in this the Olympian deities, the Byzantine saints and the heroes of the Greek War of Independence live together in harmony. His ideal figures are suspended in a type of transcendental space where time has been abolished and the remains of the visible world have turned into platonic archetypes, with the help of an impalpable technique. The pigments have lost their material quality, turning into a purely spiritual projection. Parthenisʼ mature works recall supernatural acts featuring divine epiphanies.

The Generation of the Thirties.

Expressionism - Projection of the Inner Image
Mimis Vitsoris (1902-1945)
Theophrastos Triantafyllidis
(1881-1955)
Yannis Mitarakis (1898-1963)
Giorgos Bouzianis (1885-1959)
Expressionism is rarely encountered in Greece or southern Europe in general for that matter. The reason for this may be that Mediterranean light absorbs emotional outbursts and casts away the phantoms. The Generation of the Thirties, nevertheless, included several expressionists. The greatest and most authentic Greek expressionist remains Giorgos Bouzianis. His painting came to maturity in the home of expressionism, Germany, where he lived from 1906 to 1935. He was the only Greek painter of the School of Munich who arrived there with an emotional predisposition to embrace the precepts of expressionist panting, the national school of Germany. Bouzianis created a painting universe inhabited by human passions, expressed through the forms and materials of painting.

20th Century
After the War. Continuity and Rupture

Yannis Moralis (1925)
Yannis Tsarouchis (1910-1989)
Nikos Chatzikyriakos-Ghika
(1906-1994)
Agenor Asteriadis
(1898-1977)
Nikos Nikolaou (1909-1986)
Spyros Vasileiou
(1902/1903-1985)
Savvas Charatsidis
(1925-1994)
Andreas Vourloumis
(1910-1999)
Kostas Malamos (1913)
Marios Vatzias (1926)
Niki Karagatsi (1914-1986)
Giorgos Sikeliotis
(1917-1984)
Dimitris Davis (1905-1973)
Rallis Kopsidis (1929)
Giorgos Manousakis
(1914-2003)
Giorgos Paralis (1908-1975)
Yannis Migadis (1926)
Dimitris Gioldasis (1897-1993)
Valias Semertzidis
(1911-1983)
Polykleitos Rengos
(1903-1984)
Vasilis Sperantzas (1938)
Alekos Fassianos (1935)
Yannis Mitarakis (1898-1963)
Jannis Spyropoulos
(1912-1990)
Alekos Kontopoulos
(1904-1975)
Theodoros Stamos
(1922-1997)
Christos Lefakis (1906-1968)
Takis Marthas (1905-1965)
Giorgos Touyas (1922-1994)
Yannis Maltezos (1915-1987)
Giorgos Vakalo (1902-1991)
Kosmas Xenakis (1925-1984)
Nikos Sachinis (1924-1989)
Chryssa Romanou (1931-2006)
Vlassis Caniaris (1928)
Nikos Kessanlis (1930-2004)
Dimitris Perdikidis (1922-1989)
Danil (Panagopoulos) (1924)
Kostas Tsoklis (1930)
Stelios Mavromatis (1930)
Vasilis Skylakos (1930-2000)
Alexis Akrithakis (1939-1994)
Dimitris Kontos (1931-1996)
Stathis Logothetis (1925-1997)
Kostas Paniaras (1934)
Pavlos (Dionysopoulos) (1930)
Chryssa (Vardea) (1933)
Iason Molfesis (1925)
Konstantinos Xenakis (1931)
Bia Davou (1932-1996)
Pantelis Xagoraris (1929)
Niki Kanagini (1933)
Michalis Katzourakis (1933)
Panayiotis Tetsis (1925)
Giorgos Mavroidis (1913)
Alkis Pierrakos (1920)
Eva Boulgoura (1917)
Orestis Kanellis (1910-1979)
John Christoforou (1921)
Christos Karas (1930)
Makis Theofylaktopoulos
(1939)
Dimitris Mytaras (1934)
Demosthenis Kokkinidis
(1929)
Thanos Tsingos (1914-1965)
Dikos Vyzantios (1924)
Manolis Kalliyannis (1923)
Ilias Dekoulakos (1929-1998)
Asantour Bacharian
(1924-1990)

Vasilis Theocharakis (1930)
Paris Prekas (1926-1999)
Giorgos Vakirtzis (1923-1988)
Giorgos Ioannou (1926)
Christos Sarakatsianos (1937)
Yannis Gaitis (1923-1984)
Thomas Fanourakis
(1915-1993)
Sarantis Karavouzis (1938)
Lefteris Kanakakis
(1934-1985)
Thanasis Stefopoulos (1928)
Petros Zoumboulakis (1937)
Daniel Gounaridis (1934)
Dimos Skoulakis (1939)
Grigoris Semitekolo (1935)
Thodoros Manolidis (1940)
Michalis Makroulakis (1940)
Achilleas Droungas (1940)
Sotiris Sorongas (1936)
Nikos Houliaras (1940)
Takis Katsouridis (1933)
Antonis Apergis (1938)

The Generation of the Thirties after the War and its Heritage

Yannis Moralis (1925)
Yannis Tsarouchis (1910-1989)
Nikos Chatzikyriakos-Ghika
(1906-1994)
Agenor Asteriadis
(1898-1977)
Nikos Nikolaou (1909-1986)
Spyros Vasileiou
(1902/1903-1985)
Savvas Charatsidis
(1925-1994)
Andreas Vourloumis
(1910-1999)
Kostas Malamos (1913)
Marios Vatzias (1926)
Niki Karagatsi (1914-1986)
Giorgos Sikeliotis
(1917-1984)
Dimitris Davis (1905-1973)
Rallis Kopsidis (1929)
Giorgos Manousakis
(1914-2003)
Giorgos Paralis (1908-1975)
Yannis Migadis (1926)
Dimitris Gioldasis (1897-1993)
Valias Semertzidis
(1911-1983)
Polykleitos Rengos
(1903-1984)
Vasilis Sperantzas (1938)
Alekos Fassianos (1935)
The young painters who had been brought up on the doctrines and the ideals of the Generation of the Thirties matured and developed their work in the post-war period, thus proving the dynamism and endurance of the hellenocentric precept. Ghika, Tsarouchis, Moralis and Engonopoulos would each follow “their own private way”, guided by that now distant ideal of “Greekness” which would lead them to utterly different destinations. The inheritors and descendants of the Generation of the Thirties led hellenocentric modernism to completion, burn-out, satiation, popularization and finally physical exhaustion. The moment was ripe for the great rupture.

The Phototropic Cubism of Chatzikyriakos-Ghika (1906-1994)

Nikos Chatzikyriakos-Ghika went to Paris at a very early age, at the beginnings of the Twenties. European Modernism had already completed its various revolutions through a series of movements that developed in different directions. This was a period of syncretism and tolerance. The post World War I optimism, the intellectual tolerance, the exuberant artistic ambience of Paris, defined the climate which had a formative influence on the young Ghika. His master Parthenis had prepared him through his methodical teaching based on geometrical principles to comprehend Cubism and geometric abstraction without much effort. Furthermore, this contemplative and educated painter would soon discover the same principles in Byzantine art as well. “In Paris which was the foremost artistic centre of the time”, he said, “I was spontaneously drawn to the most austere form of art, Cubism, or rather its second period, synthetic Cubism”.
While analytical Cubism sought the reduction of the visible to conceptual shapes, synthetic Cubism returned to their sources, to the senses, to a new acquaintance with the things themselves, which finally led to collage. Chatzikyriakos-Ghika was initiated on his own behalf in both these variants, but from nature, with light, colour and language all Greek.

Abstraction

Yannis Mitarakis (1898-1963)
Jannis Spyropoulos
(1912-1990)
Alekos Kontopoulos
(1904-1975)
Theodoros Stamos
(1922-1997)
Christos Lefakis (1906-1968)
Takis Marthas (1905-1965)
Giorgos Touyas (1922-1994)
Yannis Maltezos (1915-1987)
Giorgos Vakalo (1902-1991)
Kosmas Xenakis (1925-1984)
Nikos Sachinis (1924-1989)
Chryssa Romanou (1931-2006)
Vlassis Caniaris (1928)
Nikos Kessanlis (1930-2004)

Abstraction, the withdrawal from the visible world and its representation, the self-sufficiency of the painting language, to the point that it does not refer anywhere but to itself, had already been a part of European painting for half a century when it first appeared in Greece. The father of non-figurative art is considered to be Kandinsky who effected the critical turn in 1910.
Greek 20th century painting had frequently approached abstraction without ever definitively severing the umbilical cord with visible reality. This step would be ventured by several artists who started their careers in the Thirties having previously shared the concerns of their generation: Kontopoulos, Marthas, Lefakis, Spyropoulos. To this group we might add numerous young painters, some of whom were members of the Greek diaspora, such as Theodoros Stamos.
The turn to abstraction in Greece in the Fifties was connected to a new wave of non-figurative art which manifested itself at the same time in Europe and America (Abstract Expressionism, Lyrical Abstraction) and not with the abstract tendencies of the beginning of the century. The painting of Spyropoulos constitutes a unique contribution of Greece to the history of abstract art internationally.

From Pictorial Surface to Space

Nikos Kessanlis (1930-2004)
Dimitris Perdikidis (1922-1989)
Danil (Panagopoulos) (1924)
Vlassis Caniaris (1928)
Kostas Tsoklis (1930)
Stelios Mavromatis (1930)
Vasilis Skylakos (1930-2000)
Alexis Akrithakis (1939-1994)
Dimitris Kontos (1931-1996)
Stathis Logothetis (1925-1997)
Kostas Paniaras (1934)
Pavlos (Dionysopoulos) (1930)
Chryssa (Vardea) (1933)
Iason Molfesis (1925)
Modern art completed the destruction of the institutional language of painting when it succeeded in abolishing the frame of the painting. In his treatise of 1435 Leon Battista Alberti had called painting “an open window”. The frame represented the border between the imaginary and the real world. The abolition of perspective led the pictureʼs surface to its own self-signification. The abolition of the frame, that last bastion of traditional art, was completed in 1912 when Braque and Picasso created the first collages (pieces of paper stuck together) and assemblages using a variety of materials. The abolition of the frame and the penetration into space automatically signified the transcendence of the traditional boundaries set between the various categories of art (painting, sculpture). The poetics of the work were no longer founded on traditional rules but on the process of its construction, and the work of art became equivalent to an object, which lay claim to a place in life itself. Frequently, the artist produced his work as a happening, in front of the public, thus challenging it to participate in this act of creative becoming.
The centre of gravity now shifted from the object to the artist and the creative act itself. These daring investigations were completed by the second decade of the 20th century. The similar tendencies observed in America and Europe during the Sixties did not constitute a throwback to the daring quests of the avant-garde of the early 20th century. The new artistic inquiry developed under the auspices of a new social reality, which defined both its expressive means and its codices: the first post-war explosion of the consumption market (Pop Art, New Realism). The Greek artists who made a group exit from the asphyxiating climate in Greece at the end of the Civil War would actively participate in the ferment that marked the large artistic centres of Europe and America. During the Sixties and the Seventies, Greek art not only managed to become completely attuned with the international trends of avant-garde, but also enriched them with original investigative proposals.

Art and Technology

Konstantinos Xenakis (1931)
Bia Davou (1932-1996)
Pantelis Xagoraris (1929)
Giorgos Touyas (1922-1994)
Niki Kanagini (1933)
Michalis Katzourakis (1933)
The relationship between science and art is a very old one. The avant-garde was ideologically prepared to establish and maintain privileged relations with science and technology, as it believed in progress and sang its praises.
Technology would constitute the starting point for the artistic inquiries of the Russian Constructivist movement around 1920. Constructivism placed the artist at the heart of the new society which depended for its progress on technology and industry.
These inquiries in the field of technology would find a temperate climate in the Bauhaus. When later, in 1933, the renowned school was closed down by the Nazis, the quests connected to it would emigrate with it to the United States. Today, the Mecca of these inquiries is considered to be MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which has been attended by a number of Greek artists. Technology and mathematics have also guided the artistic investigations of quite a number of Greek painters.

Figurative Painting
Expression, Gesture, Material, Texture

Panayiotis Tetsis (1925)
Giorgos Mavroidis (1913)
Alkis Pierrakos (1920)
Eva Boulgoura (1917)
Orestis Kanellis (1910-1979)
Makis Theofylaktopoulos
(1939)
Dimitris Mytaras (1934)
Christos Karas (1930)
John Christoforou (1921)
Demosthenis Kokkinidis
(1929)
Thanos Tsingos (1914-1965)
Dikos Vyzantios (1924)
Manolis Kalliyannis (1923)
Ilias Dekoulakos (1929-1998)
In Greece, the Mediterranean tendency to focus on the figure is a permanent feature. Abstract and non-figurative trends are but brief interludes. The figure has returned most vigorously after a brief eclipse in the Sixties, enriched with the experience of abstract investigations. In this context, some painters, such as Panayiotis Tetsis, have managed to create a colouristic painting of the plein air, with powerful harmonies, aptly interpreting the nature of Greek light. Each part of the pictorial surface can be read as pure painting and as part of the enigma of the image. The powerful structure of the composition complements the structural function of colour and line.

Aspects of Pop Art

Giorgos Vakirtzis (1923-1988)
Giorgos Ioannou (1926)
Christos Sarakatsianos (1937)
Yannis Gaitis (1923-1984)
Pop Art (the name is derived from the initial letters of Popular Art) was born in the United States, where the first explosion of the consumer society was to be observed in the Sixties. The codices of Pop Art have their sources in the language of advertising: graphics standardization, simplified shapes, plain colour, repetition and the monumental enlargement of a consumer item.
In Europe Pop Art acquired a different character: New Realism (Nouveau Realisme, as it was known in France) appropriated the rubbish of consumer culture which then deviated from its original use in order to create a new aesthetic object. The giant cinema poster is the most original variant of Pop Art in Greece.

Real-Transcendent

Thomas Fanourakis
(1915-1993)
Sarantis Karavouzis (1938)
Lefteris Kanakakis
(1934-1985)
Thanasis Stefopoulos (1928)
Giorgos Vakalo (1902-1991)
Petros Zoumboulakis (1937)
Daniel Gounaridis (1934)
Dimos Skoulakis (1939)
Grigoris Semitekolo (1935)
Thodoros Manolidis (1940)
Michalis Makroulakis (1940)
Achilleas Droungas (1940)
Sotiris Sorongas (1936)
Nikos Houliaras (1940)
The Seventies were launched with the return to figurative painting, which marched in step with American Hyperrealism and various European types of Realism. The Greek version shares with these currents the new image originating from photography and the mass media. The return to the image encouraged many artists to inaugurate a new dialogue with the people and things of the period. This group includes artists who revealed the invisible through the visible, the transcendent through the real. Such painters approached the subject with an almost realistic immediacy. However, they ultimately managed to suggest in an allusive way the metaphysical frisson of another place and another time.

Transformations of the Image at the End of the 20th Century

Dikos Vyzantios (1924)
Takis Katsouridis (1933)
Giorgos Vakirtzis (1923-1988)
Antonis Apergis (1938)
Christos Karas (1930)
Dimitris Mytaras (1934)
Demosthenis Kokkinidis
(1929)
After the restoration of democracy in Greece changes are to be observed which foreshadow the deep rupture in the post-modern period. Many figurative painters who, because of political conditions, exercised criticism of the regime through their work, now felt free to express their own personal desires without remorse. The liberating climate of the post-modern condition, which proclaimed tolerance and eclecticism, favoured these transformations. Even the older artists, such as Yannis Tsarouchis, opened a new dialogue with the past, while reshaping and modernizing works from their imaginary museum.
Postmodernism had a catalytic effect on modern Greek art. The old disputes between figurative and abstract painters no longer had any raison dʼ etre in the climate of acceptance, syncretism and globalization. The key word for modern artists is Nostos, the return. The return to tradition, nature, the familiar everyday life, with tenderness, irony and a playful disposition. Art tends to reject the role of witness and judge and to once more become philanthropic, consoling and delightful. This ruling principle has abolished the borders which had divided painters on canvas from artists who expressed themselves through constructions, environments or happenings. Peaceful coexistence is also a consequence of the pax post-moderna universalis.

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