Monemvasia by Konstantinos Maleas

Konstantinos Maleas, 1879-1928
Monemvasia (Houses at Monemvasia), 1920-28, oil on cardboard, 50 x 57.5 cm
https://museum.bankofgreece.gr/topoianaforas/modern_greek_art/504_Maleas_en.html

Monemvasia by Konstantinos Maleas is one of my favourite paintings…of a city rugged, wildly beautiful, and very historic according to the Byzantine Chronicle of Monemvasia …Τότε δη και οι Λάκωνες το πατρώον έδαφος καταλιπόντες οι μεν εν τη νήσω Σικελίας εξέπλευσαν, οι και εις έτι εισίν εν αυτή εν τόπω καλουμένω δέμεννα και δεμενίται αντί Λακεδαιμονιτών κατονομαζόμενοι και την ιδίαν των Λακώνων διάλεκτον διασώζοντες. Οι δε δύσβατον τόπον παρά τον της θαλάσσης αιγιαλόν ευρόντες και πόλιν οχυράν οικοδομήσαντες και Μονεμβασίαν ταύτην ονομάσαντες διατο μίαν έχειν των εν αυτώ ειςπορευομένων την είςοδον εν αυτή τη πόλει κατώκησαν μετά και του ιδίου αυτών επισκόπου. (…That was the time (maybe 9th century) when the Laconians abandoned their Homeland, some traveled to Sicily – where they live until today, in Demenna, and are called Demenitai instead of Lacedaemonians – still using the Laconian Dialect. Some others discovered an inaccessible place, by the sea-​​shore, where they established a new city, and they named it Monemvasia, because it has only one entrance. This is the city they inhabited along with their Bishop.) https://chilonas.files.wordpress.com/2020/06/cea0ce91cea1ce91cea1cea4ce97ce9cce91-ce94-cea7cea1ce9fce9dce99ce9ace9f-ce9cce9fce9dce95ce9cce92ce91cea3ce99ce91cea3.pdf

Maleas’s painting of Monemvasia belongs to the Bank of Greece which acts as a guardian and disseminator of Greek culture through the activities of its Centre for Culture, Research, and Documentation. In 1928 the Bank began collecting artworks, gradually forming a core of creations by painters of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century, who stand out in Greek art history. Up to this day, the Collection comprises around 3,000 works of painting and printmaking, as well as a small number of sculptures, dating until nowadays and highlighting different aspects of Greek art. What an amazing achievement! https://www.bankofgreece.gr/en/the-bank/culture and https://museum.bankofgreece.gr/topoianaforas/index_en.html#home-slider

Monemvasia by Konstantinos Maleas, one of the masterpieces acquired by the Bank of Greece for its Art Collection, is a painting created by the artist during his mature, later period. In 2018, an Exhibition at the Benaki Museum, titled Frames of Reference from the Bank of Greece Collection was organized to celebrate the 90-year anniversary of the Bank’s start of operations, and Maleas’s painting of Monemvasia was presented with great acclaim. https://museum.bankofgreece.gr/topoianaforas/index_en.html#home-slider

The Exhibition experts introduce us to the painting in a masterful way… We are standing on high ground, facing a slope that winds down to the sea and the distant horizon. In the background, the rock of Monemvasia stands grandiose. The landscape is depicted in overlaid colour zones, for us to observe, successively, the slope, the trees, the sea and the rock. The choice of clear and bright colours is interesting, as they capture the intensity, the glow, and the purity of Greek light. The painterly world of Maleas, who has brought a new perspective to modern Greek painting, is defined by geometry. He designs his landscapes with a penetrating look, expressiveness, and wisdom. Details are simplified, reduced to the essentials. The pines are elliptical in shape, the cypress has the form of a cone, and the sea is rendered with a single shade of blue. Yet, the composition as a whole is far from simplistic, as the streamlined individual elements, coupled with the use of very bright colours, bestow it with pulse and rhythm. https://museum.bankofgreece.gr/topoianaforas/modern_greek_art/504_Maleas_en.html

For a Student Activity, please… Check HERE!

Off the harbor by Ioannis Altamouras

Ioannis Altamouras, 1852-1878
Off the harbor, 1874, oil on paper mounted on cardboard, 23.3 x 30.5 cm, Bank of Greece
https://museum.bankofgreece.gr/topoianaforas/modern_greek_art/501_Altamouras_en.html

Emily, / A ship is floating in the harbour now, / A wind is hovering o’er the mountain’s brow; / There is a path on the sea’s azure floor, / No keel has ever plough’d that path before; / The halcyons brood around the foamless isles; The treacherous Ocean has forsworn its wiles; / The merry mariners are bold and free: / Say, my heart’s sister, wilt thou sail with me? / Our bark is as an albatross, whose nest / Is a far Eden of the purple East; / And we between her wings will sit, while Night, / And Day, and Storm, and Calm, pursue their flight, / Our ministers, along the boundless Sea, / Treading each other’s heels, unheededly… wrote for Epipsychidion, Percy Bysshe Shelley back in 1821. Off the harbor by Ioannis Altamouras is a small painting that reminds me of Shelley’s description… A ship is floating in the harbour now… https://www.poetrysoup.com/famous/poem/epipsychidion_(excerpt)_5166

Ioannis Altmouras, an accomplished representative of the Seascape painting genre, is one of my favourite modern Greek painters. Born in Italy, his parents were both artists, Ioannis Altamouras was of Greek/Italian descent. He was the son of Saverio Altamura, an Italian Painter, and Professor at the Naples School of Fine Arts, and Eleni Boukouri from the island of Spetses, who, daringly dressed as a young man, studied Art in Italy, at times, under the tutelage of her future husband Saverio. Between 1857 and 1859 his parents separated, and Eleni took her two older children and returned to Greece, where she raised them teaching Art to prominent members of the Athenian society, including the Greek Queen, Olga. Eleni was Altamouras’s first Art Teacher, who, in 1871-72, coached by Nikephoros Lytras, studied at the School of Fine Arts in Athens. Between 1873 and 1876 Ioannis Altamouras was in Denmark, on a scholarship from King George I, where he continued his studies at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts at Copenhagen, close to the great painter of the time, Carl Frederick Sorensen. During the summer of 1876, Altamouras’s revolutionary spirit took him to the fishing village of Skagen, where 40 Danish painters had created the well-known “Skagen Colony”. It was at Skagen where the ideas of Impressionism in his art, took roots, as he spent time outdoors observing, the Skagen open horizon and the interplay of different colors in natural light. Sick with tuberculosis, Altamouras returns to Greece and tragically young, he died, six years later, in 1878. https://www.nationalgallery.gr/en/painting-permanent-exhibition/painter/altamouras-ioannis.html

Off the harbor by Ioannis Altamouras is a small painting in the Art Collection of the Bank of Greece, rarely seen by the public but nicely documented as it was exhibited in the 2018 Exhibition at the Benaki Museum, titled Frames of Reference from the Bank of Greece Collection. I like how it is described… A dull, rainy, and humid seascape is revealed in front of us. Small boats are scattered here and there, schematically defined, somewhat vaguely against the background. A little to the fore, we see a few boats painted in dark colours and contrasting the overall blue-white landscape. Their cross-like shape makes them a point of reference for the entire composition. Sea and sky appear united, in the absence of a clear separating line for the horizon. https://museum.bankofgreece.gr/topoianaforas/modern_greek_art/501_Altamouras_en.html

For a PowerPoint Student Activity on Altamouras’s Seascapes, please… Check HERE!

Garden in Corfu by Angelos Giallinas

Angelos Giallinas, 1857-1939
Garden in Corfu, early 20th century, Watercolour on Paper, 39×72 cm, Averoff Museum, Metsovo, Greece https://www.averoffmuseum.gr/garden-in-corfu/?lang=en

“…Tell me, the open codes of flowers, / Lick up the glance to pocket a whole mind. / Nothing precipitates, is left behind, / The island is all eyes. / The silence ponders, notes, and codifies. / We discover only what we set out to find.     /     I am at a loss to explain how writing / Turns this way this year, turns and tends – / But the line breaks off as voices do, and ends…” writes Lawrence Durrell about a One Grey Greek Stone, but somehow I think of the gloriously colourful Garden in Corfu by Angelos Giallinas… My mind plays games… https://poem-today.tumblr.com/post/184801455775/a-poem-by-lawrence-durrell

Angelos Giallinas, an accomplished representative of the Watercolour medium and the genre of Landscape, is one of my favourite modern Greek painters. A Corfiote by birth, Giallinas first studied in his native Corfu at the private art school of Charalambos Pachis (1872 to 1875) but continued his studies in Venice, Naples and Rome, where, exposed to the medium of Watercolour, he decided to adopt it and excel in its intricacies. By 1878, he was back to Corfu busying himself travelling extensively to Constantinople, Asia Minor, Egypt, Italy, France, Spain and Switzerland, participating in the Panhellenic Exhibitions in Athens and presenting his first solo showing in 1886 at the Athenian Club. His talent was noticed by the British Ambassador to Greece, Clare Ford who commissioned Giallinas to paint for him seven albums of landscapes from Venice, Spain, Rhodes and Istanbul. Ford also arranged exhibitions in Athens and in London, which ran from 1891 to 1892, and introduced Giallinas to the European Court nobility. “Giallinas worked for King George I of Greece, and through this connection was patronised by George’s sister, Queen Alexandra, and King Edward VII when Prince and Princess of Wales. Later, Queen Mary, as Duchess of York, visited three exhibitions of Giallinas’s work in London.” https://www.nationalgallery.gr/en/painting-permanent-exhibition/painter/giallinas-angelos.html and https://www.rct.uk/collection/929332/garden-in-greece-or-corfu

Angelos Giallinas was never idle. Throughout his artistic career, he exhibited both in Greece and in Europe. His participation at the Exposition Universelle of 1900 in Paris was one such important affair while his grand solo exhibition at the Galerie D’Art Geo of 1918 is another. In 1902 he founded his own private Art School at Corfu. In 1907/8 he was commissioned to decorate with murals the Achilleion Palace in Corfu, built by Empress Elisabeth of Austria as her country residence. https://www.nationalgallery.gr/en/painting-permanent-exhibition/painter/giallinas-angelos.html

According to the Averoff Museum experts “Angelos Giallinas expressed himself primarily in watercolor. A large portion of his oeuvre comprised landscapes from the island of Corfu, his birthplace and home following his studies in Rome, Naples, and Venice. An extensive traveler, Giallinas made a multitude of watercolor renderings of views and scenes of the places he visited, work that he exhibited repeatedly in Greece as well as abroad. He was associated with the Scuola di Posilipo, founded in Naples by the painter Giacinto Gigante and the best-known school of watercolor technique. Giallinas brought images to paper with a sensitivity and spontaneity particular to this medium, without neglecting the careful attention to detail, which he rendered with an expert knowledge of drawing and the precise arrangement of areas of pure, bright color.” https://www.averoffmuseum.gr/garden-in-corfu/?lang=en

Garden in Corfu by Angelos Giallinas in the Averoff Museum in Metsovo is typical of the artist’s style. A poetic image of springtime, this colourful watercolour echoes the artist’s training in a Classicistic style of Romanticism and presents a well-balanced composition, attention to detail, sensitivity to light rendering and colouristic nuances. What is it not to admire…

For a Student Activity on the BLOG POST Garden in Corfu by Angelos Giallinas, please… Check HERE! https://www.teachercurator.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/Giallinas-CorfuGAG-StAct.docx

Corfu Garden http://www.mediterraneangardensocietyarchive.org/87-corfu.html

Clean Monday Feast

Spero Vassiliou, 1903-1985
Clean Monday Feast, 1950, oil on wood, 125×78, Municipality of Rhodes Museum of Modern Greek Art
https://paletaart.wordpress.com/2012/08/06/%CE%B2%CE%B1%CF%83%CE%B9%CE%BB%CE%B5%CE%AF%CE%BF%CF%85-%CF%83%CF%80%CF%8D%CF%81%CE%BF%CF%82-spyros-vassiliou-1903-1985/#jp-carousel-4424

Could Isaiah (Isaiah 1:1–20) introduce us to the theme of Clean Monday with his Old Testament verses? “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. Come now, let us argue it out, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be like snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Are the following Matthew verses (Matthew 6:14–21)  indicative of the Greek Orthodox festive, springtime atmosphere of Clean Monday? “When ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face, that thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret…” I like to think that the painting Clean Monday Feast by Spero Vassiliou embodies Matthew’s recommendations and presents the glorious Greek Clean Monday at its best!     https://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Isaiah%201:1%E2%80%9320&version=nrsv     and     https://bible.oremus.org/?passage=Matthew%206:14%E2%80%9321&version=nrsv

Austerity and Affluence… two words that best describe, in my humble opinion, Vassiliou’s painting Clean Monday Feast in the Municipality of Rhodes Museum of Modern Greek Art. Let me explain…

Austerity… in the green, tripod, metal table, centrally displayed, full of traditional νηστίσιμα(fasting foods) humble delicacies that mark the beginning of Lent… for the day, Clean Monday, when relatives and friends celebrate the upcoming period of humility, self-criticism and mutual forgiveness. Vassiliou’s green coloured table displays a piece of Lagana, the unleavened popular bread of the day, Throubes, sun-dried black olives, crunchy spring onions, the grocer’s halva with tasty almonds, the heart of tender lettuce, a deep yellow plate full of crisp, local “greens,”  a white plate with salty, but so tasty red fish roe, and retsina, the Greek resinated white wine, popular in Greece for at least 2,000 years.

Affluence… in the love the artist held for the simple things of everyday life, insignificant at first sight, yet eloquent, meaningful and deeply moving for all the initiates of Greek Clean Monday rituals. Spero Vassiliou’s family tradition for Clean Monday was to invite his friends for a day’s feast on the roof(ταράτσα) of his house, below the Acropolis of Athens! The 1950 painting, titled Clean Monday Feast, is glowingly colourful, brightly sunny, gloriously festive!

Spero Vassiliou “studied painting at the “School of Arts” (later Athens School of Fine Arts) from 1921 to 1926. He was among the students who struggled for the reorganization of the School and who attended the studio of the newly elected professor, Nikos Lytras.” An active member of the Greek Artists Association, Vasiliou put together solo exhibitions as early as 1929, participated in creating stage design and costumes for about 140 plays, and won the prestigious Academy of Athens Award for designing the frescoes in the church of Saint Dionysius Areopagites in Athens. By the late 1940s, Vassiliou was an active member of the Greek intelligentsia representing a style linked to surrealism or pop art with a dominant dose of “aspects of contemporary Greek life in a picturesque and vivid way, sometimes inspired by folklore forms…”     http://dp.iset.gr/en/artist/view.html?id=1080

Municipality of Rhodes Museum of Modern Greek Art – The original Historic Building in Symi Square
https://www.rodos-palace.gr/discover-rhodes/510/Museums-and-Antiquities/

The painting Clean Monday Feast by Spero Vassiliou is part of the Collection of the Municipality of Rhodes Museum of Modern Greek Art. The driving force behind the creation of the Municipality Museum was Andreas Ioannou, “a distinguished scholar of modern Greek art, writer and prefect of Dodecanese.” He foresaw the leading role Rhodes could play as a cultural center of international fame and decided, back in the 1950s, to create an emblematic Museum of Modern Greek Art. “For this reason he came in contact with the leading Greek artists, acquired their emblematic works and housed them in the historic building of Symi Square at the entrance of the Medieval City of Rhodes, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.”     https://www.mgamuseum.gr/el/to-mouseio/  

Today, the Municipality Museum has 4 very distinct Art Galleries. The original Historic Building on Symi Square is the center where Engravings of the 19th – 20th centuries, Publications and Posters will be exhibited. The “Nestorideion Melathron” houses the Museum’s permanent collection of 20th century Modern Greek Art, including Vassiliou’s Clean Monday Feast. The Modern Art Centre, situated at the main thoroughfare in the Medieval Town “Palaio Syssitio,” has been chosen as the center for the first permanent exhibition dedicated to the famous and characteristic Rhodesian Ceramic Art. Finally, in 2010, the Museum inaugurated a new center dedicated to the cultural activities of the island.     https://www.mgamuseum.gr/el/to-mouseio/

Get enthused by Spero Vassiliou’s Painting Clean Monday Feast and prepare a Student Activity inspired by the depicted Kites! Use a List of ONLINE sites to find out what best suits your students! Click HERE!

Boat of Greeks

Dionysis Tsokos, 1820-1862
Boat of Greeks, 1844 to 1847, oil on canvas, 29×23 cm, Averoff Museum, Metsovo, Greece
https://www.averoffmuseum.gr/boat-of-greeks/?lang=en
 

“…Fill high the bowl with Samian wine!  /  On Suli’s rock, and Parga’s shore,  /  Exists the remnant of a line  /  Such as the Doric mothers bore;  /  And there, perhaps, some seed is sown,  /  The Heracleidan blood might own.          /          Trust not for freedom to the Franks—  /  They have a king who buys and sells;  /  In native swords and native ranks  /  The only hope of courage dwells:  /  But Turkish force and Latin fraud  /  Would break your shield, however broad….” Writes George Gordon Byron in The Isles of Greece and makes the best possible introduction for Dionysis Tsokos’s Boat of Geeks at the Averoff Museum in Metsovo.     https://englishverse.com/poems/the_isles_of_greece

Dionysis Tsokos’s painting Boat of Geeks is closely connected to the fate of the small city of Parga on the Ionian Coast of Epirus. Parga, a small city/fortress, was always closely connected to the European political interests of the Ionian Islands. Since 1360 when the fortress of Parga was built with the help of the Normans who held, at the time the island of Corfu, the Pargians faced countless Ottoman attacks while they were under Venetian, French or British rule. In 1815 the inhabitants of the city of Parga rebelled against the French rule, under the instigation of the British, and a short period of British rule started. Seeing Parga as the stepping stone to achieving their final goal: to occupy the Ionian Islands, the British, in 1817, sold Parga to Ali Pasha for 150,000 pounds.     https://www.kastra.eu/castleen.php?kastro=parga

Edward Lear, 1812-1888
Parga, Journals of a Landscape painter in Albania etc., London, Richard Bentley, 1851,  14×21 cm, Benaki Museum Library
https://eng.travelogues.gr/collection.php?view=283

What happened next is best described in the October 1819 edition of the Edinburgh Review… “As soon as the notice was given [of how much Ali was to be charged for their homeland] every family marched solemnly out of its dwelling, without tears or lamentation; and the men, preceded by their priests, and followed by their sons, proceeded to the sepulchres of their fathers, and silently unearthed and collected their remains, – which they placed upon a huge pile of wood which they had previously erected before one of their churches. They even took their arms in their hands, and, setting fire to the pile, stood motionless and silent around it, till the whole was consumed. During this melancholy ceremony, some of Ali’s troops, impatient for possession, approached the gates of the town; upon which a deputation of citizens was sent to inform our Governor, that if a single Infidel was admitted before the remains of their ancestors were secured from profanation, and they themselves, with their families, fairly embarked, they would all instantly put to death their wives and children, – and die with their arms in their hands, – and not without a bloody revenge on those who had bought and sold their country. Such a remonstrance, at such a moment, was felt and respected, as it ought by those to whom it was addressed. General Adam succeeded in stopping the march of the Mussulmans. The pile burnt out – and the people embarked in silence…”      http://newsteadabbeybyronsociety.org/works/downloads/sale_parga.pdf     and      https://books.google.gr/books?id=7kNBAAAAYAAJ&pg=RA1-PA12&lpg=RA1-PA12&dq=Edinburgh+Review+Sale+of+Parga&source=bl&ots=hZxwnxM1hD&sig=ACfU3U3ac4JXKloQ18zhWLsbpAsGjXXTtQ&hl=el&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwjug-2Ly5jvAhVfQhUIHaLnBgkQ6AEwB3oECAkQAw#v=onepage&q=Edinburgh%20Review%20Sale%20of%20Parga&f=false pp. 22-23

Boat of Geeks by Dionysis Tsokos depicts the final act of Parga’s sale by the British to Ali Pasha… “a boat full of refugees – resistance fighters, a priest, and a woman – floundering on the waves as it heads for foreign shores. One gallant lad stands embracing the mast and holding the Greek flag, gazing intently at the fatherland he is abandoning, while the captain holds fast to the helm.”     https://www.averoffmuseum.gr/boat-of-greeks/?lang=en

Dionysis Tsokos, 1820-1862
The Flight from Parga, after 1847, oil on canvas, 37×47 cm, E. Koutlidis Foundation Collection, National Gallery of Greece, Athens
https://www.nationalgallery.gr/en/painting-permanent-exhibition/painting/the-years-of-othon%E2%80%99s-reign/history-painting/the-flight-from-parga.html

Dionysis Tsokos created two paintings on the theme of Greeks fleeing Parga after the shocking 1819 British sale to Ali Pasha. The earliest, chronologically, of the two paintings, is today exhibited in the Averoff Museum at Metsovo, one of my favourite Art Museums in Greece, the second painting, dated a little later is part of the E. Koutlidis Collection and is exhibited in Athens at the National Gallery. For a Student “Compare and Contrast” Activity on Dionysis Tsokos’s paintings, please… Check HERE!

If you wish to learn more about the Greek War of Independence and the Bicentennial Celebrations in 2021, please VISIT the official Greece 1821-2021 Bicentennial site http://www.greece2021.gr, Twitter, https://twitter.com/Greece_2021, Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/Greece2021/, and Instagram, https://www.instagram.com/greece2021/?hl=el

Nearchos the Potter

Archaic Black-Figure  Terracotta Aryballos (oil flask) by Nearchos, Archaic – ca. 570 BC, 7.8 cm, MET, NY
Archaic Black-Figure  Terracotta fragment of a Kantharos (drinking cup) by Nearchos, Archaic – ca. 550 BC, 15,5 cm, National Archaeological Museum, Athens
Antenor Kore,  525-500 BC, Parian Marble, Acropolis Museum, Athens

In the words of Simonides of Ceos, “Painting is silent poetry, and poetry is painting with the gift of speech.” (Quoted by Plutarch, De Gloria Atheniensium 3.346f).  I wonder if Nearchos, the celebrated Athenian painter and potter, was a poet at heart!

Looking at Attic Black-Figure pottery, you get the impression that sometime during the second quarter of the 6th century, an artistic revival takes place. The artists of the time, pottery makers and pottery painters show an exquisitely refined technique and draughtsmanship of a very high order indeed. Among them, Nearchos, potter and vase painter, stands at the very top.

Nearchos comes from Attica and is considered today a great master of the Black-Figure style. His career as a potter most probably started as a student in the workshop of Kleitias and Ergotimos, the famous creators of the François Vase. He lived and prospered in Athens, sometime between 570 and 555 BC, where he established a flourishing workshop. He raised two sons, Tleson and Ergoteles, who trained to become famous potters themselves. Later in his life, established, respected and wealthy, a “poet” at hart, he commissioned a beautiful Kore for the Acropolis of Athens, and acquired further admiration and fame.

Archaic Black-Figure  Terracotta fragment of a Kantharos (drinking cup) by Nearchos, Archaic – ca. 550 BC, 15,5 cm, National Archaeological Museum, Athens

A small ostracon of a Kantharos vase in the National Archaeological Museum at Athens was my introduction to his artistic abilities. I like how precise, dense and detailed his “incisions” are in depicting contour details and how the use of colour, white and purple enhances his composition. I also feel for the depicted story, the dialogue between Achilles and his god-sent horses… his fierce admonition “Xanthus and Balius, Podarge’s famous foals, this time think of a way to bring your master back alive when the fight is done, not leave him dead on the field, as you did brave Patroclus” and Xanthus’s devastating answer “This once, mighty Achilles, we will save you, yes, even though the hour of your doom draws nigh, nor indeed will we be the cause of your death even then, rather a mightier god and relentless Fate…” (Iliad, Rhapsody Τ) https://www.poetryintranslation.com/PITBR/Greek/Iliad19.php#anchor_Toc239246279

Archaic Black-Figure  Terracotta Aryballos (oil flask) by Nearchos, Archaic – ca. 570 BC, 7.8 cm, the MET, NY

The small Aryballos at the MET is another Nearchos favourite of mine. This is a small, “intimate” item of great ergonomic qualities. Imagine… admiring it as it comfortably fits the palm of your hand, filled with your chosen perfumed oil! The shape is perfectly balanced and the design is rowdy and exotic… pygmies fighting cranes, satyrs, Hermes, Perseus and two tritons! Think… your new aryballos will be the talk of your fellow athletes in your favourite Palestra!!!     https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/252451

Antenor Kore, 525-500 BC, Parian Marble, the Acropolis Museum, Athens

The Antenor Kore was found, battered and in several fragments, during the 19th century excavations on the Athenian Acropolis, in the so-called Perserschutt, the “Persian debris” level. It is a late Archaic statue of a young girl, her long, auburn hair beautifully groomed in locks and curls, dressed in chiton and an Ionian Peplos, adorned with jewelry, smiling, happy to honour goddess Athena. Fragments of a Pentelic marble statue base identify Nearchos  the Potter as the  donor and Antenor, son of Eumares as the sculptor. The dedicatory inscription, translated, reads: Nearchos the potter dedicated this work as an offering to Athena / Antenor the son of Eumares made the statue.

If you still wonder whether Nearchos, the celebrated Athenian painter and potter, was a poet at heart! My answer would emphatically be… YES! https://museum.classics.cam.ac.uk/collections/casts/antenor-kore     and     https://www.theacropolismuseum.gr/sites/default/files/antinor_gr_0.pdf

For a student-friendly Activity Worksheet on Learning from Ancient Greek Pottery… Click HERE!

Theodoros Ralli

Theodoros Ralli, 1852-1909
Veiled Woman, 1889, oil on vellum, diameter 22 cm, ALPHA Bank Collection

“Art is ANYTHING you can get away with” Andy Warhol once said… How true is he when we consider the artistic oeuvre of Theodoros Ralli and his amazing Orientalism! A wealthy Greek ex-patriate artist, living between the West, mostly in Paris, and the East, Cairo during the cold month of winter, Theodoros Ralli is a true cosmopolitan of the late 19th century Gilded Age.

“A perfect Parisian type, wearing a beret à la Hermonville and a light brown vest with gold trim buttoned to the neck, still very youthful and of an open, jovial character, Mr. Ralli is a delightful conversationalist and very gallant.”

Not just so… Theodoros Ralli, born in Constantinople, at the crossroads of East and West, the mythical capital of the Byzantine Empire and the alluring EAST, was destined to become the most representative of the Greek, Orientalist painters. He was “the offspring of a wealthy family from the island of Chios, active in commerce in England and around the world.” Theodoros Ralli had no financial problems to pursue, unobstructed, his passion for the Arts. The photographs of his Parisian Studio that still survive today preserve his appearance and way of living. Documents of the period present him as a personality, and discuss “his courtesy, gentility, humour, patience, tenacity, smoking habit, love of Wagnerian opera, a weakness for watercolourists, aversion to long-term relationships, industriousness and his love for the fair sex, in Parisian Studios he had the nickname of Don Juan.”  All documents “reinforce the picture of a man who despite his genteel and fragile appearance, disposed of enormous psychic reserves, had an iron will and the perseverance to become what he had dreamed of becoming: a painter.”

The Artist’s Studio in Paris

Theodoros Ralli studied painting under the academic teacher and Orientalist painter Jean-Leon Gerome until approximately 1880, sharing his teacher’s aversion towards Impressionism and the avant-garde movements of the later 19th century. He exhibited, uninterruptedly, in the official French Salons, the World Exhibitions of Paris, as well as many other exhibitions both inside and outside France, winning medals and establishing international recognition. He travelled extensively to Greece and many Middle Eastern countries, drawing inspiration for his paintings. He kept two Studios, one in Paris and another in Cairo, where he kept warm and stimulated during wintertime.

Theodoros Ralli, 1852-1909
Veiled Woman, 1889, oil on vellum, diameter 22 cm, ALPHA Bank Collection

Orientalism in later 19th century Art is a tantalizing, multi-faceted, genre much loved by Europeans of the time. We can trace it back to the merchants of the Silk Road, the few adventurous Northern European travellers of the “Grand Tour,” or the Venetian Renaissance fiestas painted by Veronese, the Dutch Curiosity Cabinets, Rococo eroticism or to the many Odalisques that inspired both Ingres and Delacroix. Then we have to consider Napoleon, his Egyptian Campaign of 1798-1801, and the gradual European desire for… political involvement and colonialism. Whatever the cause of European curiosity and pathos for the East, it lingered for a long time, inspiring and creating great works of art. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/euor/hd_euor.htm    and    https://www.artuk.org/discover/stories/inspired-by-the-east-thoughts-about-orientalism

For a Student Activity on Orientalism inspired by Theodoros Ralli, please… Click HERE!

Written both in Greek and English, this is a valuable source of information for the Artist: Theodoros Ralli, Looking East – The catalogue was first published on the occasion of the exhibition “Theodoros Ralli. Looking East” Benaki Museum, Museum of Islamic Art, 11th December 2014 – 22nd February 2015 https://www.benaki.org/images/publications/pdf/rallis.pdf

For Browsing through a collection of paintings by Theodoros Ralli, go to https://paletaart.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/%CF%81%CE%AC%CE%BB%CE%BB%CE%B7%CF%82-%CE%B8%CE%B5%CF%8C%CE%B4%CF%89%CF%81%CE%BF%CF%82-rallis-theodoros-1852-1909/