BLOG 34 30/05/2016 19th Century Greek Painters: Realism and Orientalism
19th Century Greek Painters: Realism and Orientalism
Theodoros Vryzakis ( Θεόδωρος Βρυζάκης )– 1819-1878 was a major Greek painter of the 19th century. He was the first Greek painter who studied in Munich and the main representative of romantic realism in historical painting popular in Greece in the 19th century. He is considered the first painter of modern Greece and a recorder of the Greek War of Independence which he viewed in a romantic and nostalgic way.
Vryzakis’ father was hanged by the Ottomans in 1821 at the beginning of the war and Theodoros fled into the mountains with his mother. By 1832, he was in an orphanage where his artistic talent was discovered by Friedrich Thiersch, a scholar who had played a significant role in making the Bavarian prince (Otto) the new King of Greece. Thiersch took him to Munich where he attended a school for orphans of the Greek revolution, founded by King Ludwig I. After completing his studies, he returned to Greece and enrolled at the Athens School of Fine Arts.
In 1844, Vryzakis returned to Munich on a scholarship and was admitted to the Academy of Fine Arts. His teachers there included Carl Wilhelm von Heideck and Peter von Hess, both known for their support of Greek independence. After graduating, he spent ten years travelling throughout Europe, including a two-year stay in Greece from 1848 to 1850 and at the end of his travels, exhibited several of his works depicting the Sieges of Messolonghi at the Exposition Universalle held on the Champs-Elysees in Paris in 1855. Most of these canvases were destroyed by a fire in 1929.
From 1861 to 1863, he worked in Manchester, England, painting murals at the Orthodox Church of the Annunciation. Four years later, he took part in a major exhibition in Leipzig. He painted little during the last decade of his life, due to an eye ailment. His death was due to heart disease. In his will, he left all of the works in his studio to the University of Athens and 760 Marks to repair the roof of the Salvatorkirche in Munich.
Nikolaos Gyzis ( Νικόλαος Γύζης )1842 – 1901 was born in the village of Sklavochori, on the island of Tinos and is considered one of Greece’s most important 19th-century painters. He was most famous for his work “Eros and the Painter”, his first genre painting. It was auctioned in May 2006 at Bonhams in London, being last exhibited in Greece in 1928. He was the major representative of the “Munich School”, following in the footsteps of Vryzakis.
In 1850, after his family settled in Athens, he studied arts at the Athens School of Fine Arts.
In 1865, he won a scholarship which enabled him to continue his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, where he settled for the rest of his life becoming one of its most characteristic representatives of the Greek artistic movement. From 1886 onward he was made professor at the Academy. Over time his work evolved from the detailed romantic and realistic compositions to a more impressionistic style.
Prior to him becoming a professor in Munich – at the beginning of the 1870s – he returned to Greece for a period of several years, after which he produced a series of paintings with specific Greek themes, such as the “Carnival at Athens” and the Arravoniasmata (“Engagement Ceremony”) and a little later the painting “After the destruction of Psara”. In the 1890’s, towards the end of his life, he turned towards more religious themes, His works are today exhibited at museums and private collections in Greece, Germany and elsewhere. Gyzis’ painting “The Secret School” was depicted on the reverse of the Greek 200 drachmas banknote from 1996-2001
Théodore Jacques Ralli ( Θεόδωρος Ράλλης ) 1852 – 1909, was born in Constantinople but spent most of his working life in Paris, France and in Egypt. He is best known for his orientalist paintings
Ralli was sent to Paris under the patronage of King Otto and studied under Jean-Leon Gerome, French painter and professor at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and under Jean-Jules-Antoine Lecomte du Nouy, both masters of orientalist paintings. After completing his studies, he travelled widely in North Africa and the Middle East, settling for a while in Cairo, Egypt. It was there that he found his inspiration for the romantic mysticism and sensuality of his many orientalistic paintings. His other genre paintings were often recollections of the life and customs of his Greek homeland, which he portrayed with a delicate and moving nostalgia. His paintings show great attention to detail, particularly the costumes and facial expressions. He is also noted for his artistic expressions of the varying light sources in his paintings such as rays of light, candles, or the glowing embers in the fireplace which are often rendered in soft colours.
Ralli’s first exhibition was at the prestigious Paris Salon in 1875, and from 1879 he regularly exhibited at the Royal Academy in London. He was a member of the Societe des Artistes Francais, where he received an honourable mention in 1885, and a silver medal in 1889 for his whole work He exhibited his paintings in the Salon de Rouen (1897, 1903, 1906 and 1909) and also in Athens during the Olympic Games of 1896. He also served as a member of the competition jury in 1900 at the Exposition Universalle. In 1901 he became a Chevalier of the Legion d’Honneur.
After his death, his fame seemed to have waned and only a few museums ever purchased his works. Most of his paintings are still in private collections. Several of his paintings were auctioned in the 20th century, but only obtained modest prices. However lately, his paintings have been rediscovered and are being auctioned at much higher prices. A study for the painting “Refectory in a Greek Monastery (Mount Athos)” was auctioned at 200,000 euros at Sotherby’s in London in 2007 and in January 2008, the actual painting “Refectory in a Greek Monastery (Mount Athos)” (1885) was auctioned at the record price of 670,000 euros to a Greek collector at an auction in Ghent, Belgium. In 2008, a work titled ‘Praying before the communion at Megara’ (1890), was sold at the Greek Sale, Bonhams, London, for £600,000.
Georgios Jakovides (Γεώργιος Ιακωβίδης) 1853 -1932, was born on the island of Lesbos and educated in Smyrna. From 1870 to 1876, Jakovides studied sculpture and painting at the Athens School of Fine Arts and in 1877 he went to the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich on a scholarship to continue his painting studies. He lived in Munich for 17 years where he worked in his studio, painting mythological scenes, genre pictures, and portraits. His work is influenced by German Realism and his most famous paintings were of children. In Munich, he was regarded as a successful German artist selling many of his works at high prices. In 1900, the Greek government invited him to return to Athens to organize the National Gallery of Athens, and in 1904 he was appointed Director of the Athens School of Fine Arts, where he taught for 25 years.
His works are found in the National Gallery of Athens, private collections and in museums and art galleries around the world including art galleries in Germany and the Art Institute of Chicago.
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