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On June 11, 2022, the exhibition « 1922-2022, S. Papaloukas, F. Kontoglou, S. Vassiliou. Remembrance and Art Stories » was inaugurated at the Historical Archive Museum of Hydra , as part of the commemorative events for the centenary of the Asia Minor Catastrophe. The exhibition features works by three major representatives of Greek art of the early twentieth century: Spyros Papaloukas , Fotis Kontoglou and Spyros Vassiliou , all of which were prominent and influential painters with links to the Generation of the 1930s. The exhibition features better and lesser known works of religious art (draft sketches, drawings and icons) by the three artists and it is curated by Andromachi Katselaki, PhD Archaeology, MA in Art History and Maria Nanou, MA in History of Byzantine Art & Director of the Department of Research, Management and Conservation of Byzantine and post-Byzantine Monuments of the Volos Academy for Theological Studies.

The exhibition aims at highlighting the way in which each if the three featured artists, present different aspects of ecclesiastical painting, inspired by the spirit of Modernism; although their works were created during the same historical period, each artist’s delivery is purely personal and also pioneering artistic way, as they followed distinct paths, although parallel to each other. Through these works, the painters prove that they assimilated and developed the aesthetic values of Byzantine, post-Byzantine and folk painting, creating in their works an osmosis between tradition and modernism, while at the same time ascertaining Byzantine art as part of European art.

The exhibits have been organised into three sections; the first one is dedicated to the formative process of copying original Byzantine works as part of an icon-painter’s training, and it only features works by Papaloukas and Kontoglou; the second one is dedicated to monumental painting, highlighting the personal artistic expression of each artist in the murals they created for Greek orthodox churches; the third one features representative examples of portable icons created by the artists.

According to the curators, Spyros Papaloukas (1892-1957), the earliest of the three artists, was also the first to create works of monumental painting; the impressive murals he created for the Metropolitan Church of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary in the city of Amfissa (1927-1932) are testament to his bold as well as masterful combination of Byzantine aesthetics and Western principles, breathing a breath of fresh air into the religious painting of his time through a dialogue of byzantine iconography with the spirit of expressionism.

Spyros Vassiliou (1902-1985) gave his own unique interpretation of religious painting when he was commissioned to decorate the Holy Church of Saint Dionysius the Areopagite in Athens; his was an innovative and refreshing approach, marked by the introduction of a timeless realism, while at the same time he remained true to the spirit of Byzantine and Greek folk art.

Finally, Fotis Kontoglou (1895/6-1965) has for decades been considered the modern Greek icon painter par excellence : his art has been inextricably linked with the byzantine tradition, as he managed to take modern Greek religious icon painting back to its Byzantine roots, having fully assimilated not only the style but also the essence of Byzantine art. Hailing from the Asia Minor seaside town of Ayvalik (Aivali or Kydonies in Greek), Kontoglou personally experienced the effects of the Asia Minor Catastrophe, as he had to migrate to Greece.

All three artists were linked with the Generation of the '30s, the dominant Modernist movement in Greece, who combined folk and modern artistic elements in the quest for "Greekness". As the two co-curators point out, the artists of the Generation of the '30s were deeply affected by the Asia Minor Catastrophe, and turned to Greek cultural tradition to draw strength and inspiration. Papaloukas and Kontoglou, who had also been fellow students at the Athens School of Fine Arts , experienced the events on a personal level, while Vassiliou was actually a follower of their example.

The Exhibition will be open up to Wednesday, July 27, 2022, and visiting hours are 9.00 – 16.00 & 19.30 – 21.30. Additional info is available at the Museum webpage, https://www.iamy.gr/

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