“Greeks who left their mark on the world in the last 200 years”
The goal of this pillar is to feature the lives and work of Greeks who left their mark on Greece and around the world.
““I was born Greek” – Melina Merkouri
We, Greeks may be few in numbers and maybe the spirit of our ancient past is what is dominant in our country’s presence abroad but, in reality, there have been a number of Greeks who have left their mark on the world since the inauguration of the modern Greek state.
Greek men and Greek women had an impact in science and arts, won Nobel prizes and Academy Awards, resolved problems, saved thousands of lives with their scientific discoveries and won world recognition and respect…
The timeline you see here is only indicative. Each citizen of Greece can add their facts and events regarding a particular Greek. Anyone can add a personal historical milestone and make their evaluation of events and people. Suggest their future actions. We will address all those involved. Those who contributed to the labor movement, the expansion and design of cities and infrastructure, the industrialization of the country, etc.
In 1811 Pavlos Prosalentis Sr (1784-1837) established in Corfu, the first school for the teaching of Fine Arts. It was named “Didaskaleion Oreon Technon” (School for the Fine Arts), and in 1815 the English Commissioner Thomas Maitland ruled its upgrade to “Demosia ton Kalon Technon Academia” (Public Academy of the Fine Arts).
Prosalentis was the first Greek sculptor to study abroad (1803-1806), namely at the Academy of St Lucas in Rome under Antonio Canova. His master’s influence, as well as the influence of ancient Greek art is evident in his statues as well as his busts. The bust of Plato (1815, marble, National Glyptothek, Athens) is considered the first piece of modern Greek sculpture.
In the mid-1840s, after a very successful career abroad with many awards and prizes, Lyssandros Kaftantzoglou accepts the proposal of the government and assumes the position of Director of the School of Arts at the Polytechnic. As an architect, he designed the National Metsoveion Polytechnic, the Opthalmiatreion of Athens (Eye Clinic), the Arsakeion Megaron, and several churches, the St. Dionysios Areopagetis and the old church of St. Andreas in Patra.
Our “national poet” (1798-1857) wrote the Hymn to Freedom in May 1823 in Zakynthos (Zante) while hearing the Turkish cannons firing at the siege of Messolonghi. As the forefather of modern Greek poetry, he laid the foundation for modern Greek lyricism. He leaned on traditional Greek literature, Erotokritos, and folk songs (demotic), and created a new language for Greek poetry.
The surviving manuscripts of the poet include many fragmented pieces, and three drafts of “Eleftheroi Poliorkimenoi” (Free Besieged) and are examples of his romantic anguish for perfectionism in expression. Solomos, greatly influenced by German Idealism, is regarded as a significant figure of European romanticism.
Within two years, Andreas Kalvos (1792-1869), the poet from Zakynthos (Zante,) published his 20 odes, Lyre (1824) and Lyrics (1826) in Geneva and Paris. Afterward, he seized to write poetry. A classist and a romantic, a student of Ugo Foscolo and a liberal partisan, Kalvos used his poetry to convince the philhellenic movement of the need for Greek independence.
The “patriotic” Kalvos is foremost a deeply political poet: the poet of the Greek Revolution. In his odes, in his peculiarly poetic verse, he praises liberty, virtue, justice, and glory. His style has neither predecessors nor successors.
Elisavet Moutzan-Martinegou (1801-1832) dedicated her life to writing, and yet she never saw any of her work published. In 1881, many years after her death, her son published a censored version of her autobiography, one of the very first scripts in modern Greek literature that uses experience as means of literary expression.
The author spoke about women’s oppression and gender determination in male-dominated Eptanisa (Ionian islands) and boldly stated her aversion to marriage and married life, choosing her dedication to studies and writing instead.
Her literary work established her as a pioneer of women’s movement, which gained momentum in the following years. She died very young, in 1832, shortly after the birth of her son.
“When I came to Athens, I hired a painter, a foreigner from the West, and I asked him to paint the fights. I did not know his language. He did two or three, they were not good, I paid him, and he left. Then, I brought in from Sparta, a fighter, Panagiotis Zografos was his name…. He and I walked the hills, and I showed him our positions, our fights, the leaders of the armies, the Turkish army, the Greek army…”
This excerpt from the Memoirs of Makrigiannis transpires the aesthetic and narrative difference between Turkish-occupied Greece and the West. Vernacular art, with its simple, bold style and mostly descriptive nature, was in full contradiction with the illusional technique of depiction, which was used in the West since the Renaissance.
Panagiotis Zografos (Apr. 1790 - after 1843) was from Sparta, and he was a chieftain during the Revolution of 1821. Very little is known about his studies and his work. He was a painter of religious icons which explains the influence of the Byzantine artistic style on his mannerism.
Theodoros Vryzakis (1814 – 1878) was born in Thebes, lived through the horror of war (the Turks hanged his father), and grew up in an orphanage in Aegina. In 1832 he went to Munich and became the first Greek to enroll in the Academy of Munich, thus marking the beginning of the “School of Munich” ( an artistic term describing the body of Greek artists who studied art in Munich and returned to Greece bringing with them the aesthetic trends and concepts that were taught in Germany).
Vryzakis mostly insisted on the idealized depiction of the Revolution, and he created a series of paintings that, in due time, identified with the historical events. However, his work is devoid of realism. It appears strikingly staged as in his picture “The exodus of Messolonghi” (1853, National Gallery, Athens), where he depicts the Greeks guided by Jesus Christ and surrounded by divine light while they fight the Turks.
Nikolaos Saripolos was born in Cyprus, but his family was persecuted during the Revolution, and they escaped to Trieste. As an advisor to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and a university professor, he participated in the 2nd National Assembly and proposed the Constitution of 1864. He had nine children and published a plethora of legal and historical studies.
Eleni Boukoura-Altamoura was the daughter of Revolution fighter captain Yiannis Boukouras. She went to Rome in 1848 to study painting. To achieve this, she dressed as a man and assumed the name of Chrysinis Boukouris. She became the first woman to enroll in an art school since, in the middle of the 19th century, women were taught art only at home. She remained in Italy for a long time; she also studied at the Academies of Florence and Naples. She wedded art professor Saverio Altamoura and had three children. They divorced in 1857, at which time she returned to Greece and started teaching at the Arsakeion School for Girls and exhibiting her work. Her mental health was challenged by the death of two of her children, Sofia, and painter Ioannis Altamoura. Isolated and largely forgotten, she died in Spetses in 1900 while the bulk of her work is lost. She allegedly burned most of her paintings in 1878, after the death of her son.
Konstantinos Paparrigopoulos is considered the “father” of modern Greek historiography. Already with his first brief version of the History of the Greek Nation in 1853 (work that was completed in 1860 to 1874), he laid the groundwork for the most sustainable and influential ideological model of Greek historiography: the three-part continuum, Antiquity, Byzantium, Modern Era.
His battle was to demonstrate the faults in Fallmerayer’s theory concerning the racial origins of the Greeks and to continue the efforts of Sp. Zampelos to restore the presence of Byzantium in the nation’s history. He was a keen advocate of Megali Idea and a chief member of the Greek foreign policy in the 19th century, an inspirational figure for intellectuals, politicians, even kings.
Iakovos Polylas (1825-1896) was a versatile personality, a close friend, and student of Dionisios Solomos. Being himself influenced by Schiller and Hegel, he familiarized our “national poet” with German philosophy. He combated with a sense of great responsibility and devotion with the manuscripts and unfinished works of Solomos, he cataloged them and published “Evriskomena” for the first time in 1859. His debate with Spyridon Zampelis and the aptly critical “Prolegomena” initiated a fruitful literary discussion on Dionisios Solomos. He translated Homer’s “Odyssey” and “Iliad” and Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and “The Tempest” and provided some of the most profound literary translations in Greek.
The “Alexandrian” (1863-1933) brought an international aura to modern Greek poetry. Modern, even before modernism was a term, a scholar and an aesthetician, a realist, and lover of detailed verse. He compelled Greek poetry with his hedonistic, esoteric sentiment in the social context of the time. He glorified beauty and pleasure of the flesh.
He was a master at saying a lot with very little. His style was ironic, esoteric, unrhymed, focused on detail and precise expression, qualities that made him a novelty among the poets of his time. Although his bibliography is rather small, just 154 published poems, it is an inexhaustible field for humanistic and poetry studies.
The publication of “Papissa Ioanna” turned out to be the most outrageous literary scandal of 19th century Greece. Emmanuel Roidis (1836-1904) is the most consistent descendant of the Enlightenment in the modern Greek state, a deconstructor of certainties and clichés. Sarcastic, penetrating, and with a compelling personal style, acrimonious and anti-cleric, the “objector” Roidis cast his criticizing gaze upon the social ills of the modern Greek society of his time.
He waved the banner of rationality and positivism in times when the renouncement of “Megali Idea” (political movement for the revival of Greece’s past glory and Byzantium) was a social stigma. He was the paradigm of a quarrelsome and intrusive intellectual who questioned the social norms relentlessly and was a conscientious objector in the 19th century.
“Endowed by nature with an abundance of artistic presents, Lytras would thrive and succeed in any environment and amass great wealth. He preferred to dedicate his talent to his country, becoming not only a main advocate but also the founder of modern Greek art”.
In his article, Themistoclis Sofoulis (Newspaper, 10 November 1888) stated what research has proven: Nikiforos Lytras is the foremost artist of the 19th century who contributed to the maturity of the new nation’s artistic expression, tackled many art issues and, mostly, excelled as a teacher for many young artists.
Furthermore, with his works “Kalanta” (Caroling) 1872, and “Psariano Moiroloi” (Wailing at Psara) after 1888, he is recognized as the initiator of the folklore in Greek art. Nikiforos Lytras was born in Tinos in 1832 and studied painting in Athens (1850-1855.) He acquired his artistic identity in Munich, where he studied from 1860 to 1865. He returned to Athens in 1866 and was elected professor at the School of Fine Arts, a position he held until his death in 1904.
Nikolaos G. Politis (1852-1921) shaped the modern Greek ideology and introduced Greece to the science of Ethnology. His “Studies on the life of modern Greeks” (1871-1874) and his collection of folk tales, demotic songs, fables, local customs, and traditions of contemporary Hellenism establish him as an influential figure in the development of national identity.
In 1883, through the magazine Hestia, he organized a literary contest on “Hellenic” themes, a gesture that sparked the interest and involvement of major Greek authors with ethnography, realism, and psychological profiling in literature. The work of N. Politis, based on the study of ethnography, influenced the ideological maturity of the Greek nation at the turn of the 20th century greatly.
DimitriosVikelas (1835-1908) was an exemplary intellectual with a significant influence on issues dealing with modern Greek education.
He was involved in many types of writing: novel, poetry, travel journal, essay, articles, memoirs, autobiography, translation. He was an intellectual as well as a merchant in the Greek community in London. With his autobiographical and anti-heroic novel LoukisLaras (1879), which embodied the spirit of his era, he completed the romantic literary cycle of the Revolution of 1821.
The broadness of his intellect is evident in his participation, as president of IOC, in the revival of the Olympic Games in 1896 and the establishment of the Society for the Advancement of Beneficial Books.
Kostis Palamas (1859-1943) had an uninterrupted and insightful presence in the Greek literary scene for 60 years, starting with his ‘Songs of my country.” He documented the national desire of Megali Idea, he conveyed the European aesthetic and ideological movements to post-Revolution Greece, led the poetic language to maturity and revitalized romanticism in Greece.
Especially with “Foinikia” (Palm tree) (1900) and “AsaleftiZoi” (Motionless Life) (1904), he “traveled” poetically from the lyricism of Solomos to “pure Poetry.”
At the same time, his literary critiques comprised the modern Greek rule. He was recognized as the literary equivalent of politicians CharilaosTrikoupis and Eleftherios Venizelos.
KallirhoeParen (1861-1940) is the first Greek feminist. Having been exposed to the international feminist movement, she imported the feminist agenda to Greece on issues that had to do with the education and employment of women. She was the editor of the “Newspaper for Women” for 30 years (1887-1917), the first Greek woman editor and journalist. The newspaper was a pioneering publication at the time since it was written exclusively by women. KallirhoeParen’s humanitarian activism was as productive as her literary work. She contributed substantially to the preservation of Greek folk tradition with the foundation of the Lyceum of Women in 1911.
Giannis Psiharis was a linguist who became known as an ardent combatant of demoticism, insisting that the fight for the establishment of a new language at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, was not only literary but ideological as well. He was a professor of Linguistics at the School of Eastern Languages in Paris. From his position, he resisted adamantly to the use of archaic language and supported the “language of the common people.”
His novel “My voyage” (1888) was a turning point in the transition of literature to the demotic language. He defended the demotic language with his literary work and the numerous studies he completed, influencing his contemporary authors gravely.
One of the first technological feats in 19th century Greece was the opening of the canal at the isthmus of Corinth. The works captivated painter Konstantinos Volanakis (1837-1907), who painted the works on the opening as well as the inauguration ceremony in a number of paintings. Volanakis’ specialty as a painter was seascapes. He studied at the Munich Academy and returned to Greece in 1882, internationally recognized as the recipient of prestigious awards with his Naval Battle at Lissa (1868, Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest.)
When he returned to Athens, he had already been offered a teaching position at the School of Fine Arts and a commission from the Ministry of Shipping, a painting depicting the Battle at Salamis (1882, Nautical Museum of Greece.) The picture was full of symbolisms: on the one hand, it bore testimony to the continuance between ancient Greece and the modern Greek state, and on the other side, the glorious scenes of the victory of the ancient Greeks against the Persians were juxtaposed with the triumphs of the Greeks during the Revolution of 1821.
Undoubtedly, though, his most characteristic work is the depiction of harbor scenes, especially the harbor of Piraeus, and seascapes with the soft tones of the sunset and a melancholic mood.
Konstantinos Karatheodori realized his fondness for mathematics while taking measurements at the Great Pyramid of Cheops for the British company that constructed the dam of Aswan. He left Egypt to go to Germany and study under renowned mathematicians. After he concluded his doctorate, he wanted to return to Greece, but all he was offered was a job as a math teacher at a rural high school. He remained in Germany and became a university professor. He was well acquainted with Albert Einstein.
MarinosAntypas participates at the Cretan struggle for independence. He takes a leave from his studies at the Law School of Athens and joins the Cretan Revolution of 1896 with several of his fellow students. He returns to the capital with a chest wound. He participates in rallies and demonstrations against the king and his family, blaming them for the defeat at the Greek-Turkish war of 1897 and gets himself arrested.
For a brief time, he becomes active in politics and publishing in Kefalonia, and then he goes to Thessaly to supervise his uncle’s estates. During that time, he canceled the debts of serfs, raised their wages to 75% instead of 25% of the crop production, and instigated Sunday as a day off work. Furthermore, he initiated rallies where he informed poor peasants of their rights and urged them to claim them.
In 1907 he was murdered by command of the estate owners of the area. Allegedly, his last words were: “equality, fraternity, liberty.”
Maria Kalapothaki (1859-1941) was the first Greek woman to become a doctor. She was educated in The United States and France, where women were not excluded from classes, labs, anatomy labs, hospital wards, and operation rooms. Upon her return, Kalapothaki focuses her research on chronic gastrointestinal problems of babies, a significant problem of the Greek society of the time.
However, with the eruption of the Greek-Turkish war of 1897, Queen Olga entrusts her with the training of volunteer nurses. For her contribution, she was decorated by the Queen. In 1899 she was awarded the cross and red ribbon silver medal at a special ceremony held at the palace.
His parents, especially his mother, wanted to see Manolis Kalomiris become a doctor. But music ran in his veins. After he finished his high school studies in Constantinople, he went to Vienna to study music. From there, his next stop was Russia and then Athens.
As a teacher at the “Athens Conservatory,” he founded the “Greek Conservatory” and later the “National Conservatory,” thus enhancing the musical horizons of the country. He was a sworn enemy of the demotic language and, yet, he used the popular language of the ordinary people in the program of his first concert in Athens, after his return from Moscow.
Tellos Agras (1899-1944) was a soft-spoken lesser poet, but a significant critic of the Thirties, a supporter of the artistic concept of “the form is the artist’s applied moral.” As a poet, he systematically praised the lower classes, the Athenian neighborhoods, the small streets. As a critic, he approached the writings with respect and spirituality and treated them with attention and a slight irony. He organized the field of criticism in Greece and left, as a valuable legacy, his critiques on Kavafis and Karyotakis.
1900 - Georgios Iakovidis assumes the position of director at the National Gallery
At the beginning of the 20th century, a large number of Greek people believed that Georgios Iakovidis (1853-1932), together with the painters Lytras and Gyzis, formed an “artistic triumvirate.” Iakovidis had triumphantly returned to Athens in May of 1900, carrying with him the Gold Medal from the International Exhibition of Paris (1900) for his painting “Children’s Concert.”
He was already famous in Munich, but his wife’s death made him seek a change. He returned to Greece to assume the position of director of the National Pinakothek, the establishment of which was a persistent request of the artistic community.
In 1904 Lytras died, and Iakovidis assumed his position at the School of Fine Arts, and in 1910 he was elected president of the newly founded Association of Greek Artists. So, in a decade, Iakovidis headed three major art institutions: The National Pinakothek, the School of Fine Arts, and the artists’ trade union, confirming his dominance in the artistic circles of Athens and the academic community.
Nikolaos Gyzis (1842-1901) was the most well-known Greek painter of the 19th century, a painter who passionately supported the Greek and European romantic desire for the “artistic rejuvenation” of ancient Greece. When he died, in 1901, sculptor LazarosSochos compared him to the classical Greek artists Parrasios, Zeuxis and Apellis and, also, to DomenicosTheotocopoulos (El Greco.) Gyzis was a stellar example of what a young student who arrives from Athens to Munich can accomplish. His appointment as head of the department of painting of the Academy of Munich further established him as a beacon for young artists.
From the beginning of his career, Gyzis tried to balance between two thematic options: idealistic representation and ethography. However, in 1890, he decided to endorse idealistic imagery, a medium that established him as one of the most influential representatives of Jugendstil, the German School of Art Nouveau.
In 1903, a group of female students at the Athens School of Fine Arts, led by Sophia Laskaridou, reached the palace and petitioned to King George I, the implementation of mixed male and female classes at the School and the elimination of private tutoring for women. Their main request was equal treatment and equal rights as students and the participation of women students in the studies of male nude, a subject forbidden to female students at the time. Laskaridou (1882-1965) had concluded her education in the Department for Women (1894-1900) and had done graduate work in Paris, but she returned to the School in 1903 and received her proper degree in 1907. She won a scholarship to continue her studies in Munich and Paris and returned to Athens again in 1915. She is considered one of the most prominent female painters of the early 20th century: she specialized in landscapes, initiated new mediums and techniques, and participated in many exhibitions. She taught painting at the School for Pre-School Teachers in Kallithea, which was established by her mother, renowned educator EkateriniChristomanou.
GregoriosXenopoulos (1867-1951) created one of the most influential female characters of Greek literature, Stella Violanti (1909.) Stella became synonymous with the female struggle for gender and sexual self-determination.
He was the pioneer of middle-class realism in the modern Greek novel and theater. His starting point is the Ionian and Athenian society, and from there, he deviates into a vibrant naturalism that, at times, approaches Ibsen’s dramatic style. As the director of the legendary children’s magazine Diaplasis ton Paidon (1896-1948) and the founder of the newspaper Nea Hestia he was noted for his insight and foresight by introducing the Alexandrian poet Kavafis to the Greek public in 1903.
Musician and composer Nikos Skaltotas (1904-1949) did not have the chance to enjoy professional recognition during his short life. In his work, he managed to combine his classical and folk influences with his variations on the 12-verse scheme. He graduated from the Athens Conservatory as a violin virtuoso and won the gold medal for his performance. He continued his studies in Berlin and returned to Athens after a separation. His return to his home country was not as he expected it to be. The musical establishment never accepted him into their circles, and this professional isolation resulted in him freelancing as a violin player. Towards the end of his life, his marriage to pianist Maria Pagali resulted in two children who distinguished themselves in painting and chess.
Dimitris Pikionis wanted to be a painter, but instead, he left his architectural print on numerous buildings throughout Greece. He designed the archaeological space that surrounds the hills of the Acropolis and Philopappos by combining universal elements with Greek traditional methods. Even though he had a very successful career abroad, he returned to Greece and fought in the Balkan Wars. He published the magazine the 3rd Eye through which he kept alive his love for painting and philosophical and aesthetic escapades.
AggelosSikelianos (1884-1951) is the visionary, lashing, and infinite poet of Lyrical Life. A revivalist and a master craftsman of metric and lyrical verse, he created a new poetic scene by adopting a new vibrating language.
Pastoral and theatrical, with his unusual attractiveness and mesmerizing voice, he aimed for an “art that strives for the divine.” Alafroiskiotos (1909) (Moonstruck) is the work that marks his passage into a mature symbolistic phase, which led him to the sublime Mother of God. He signals the arrival of GiorgosSeferis and the generation of the ’30s as a chain link between traditional and modern poetry.
Glynos was an educator and a philosopher who marked with his work and efforts the Greek intellectual community at the beginning of the 20th century. DimitriosGlynos (1882-1943) was among the first intellectuals who perceived the fact that the social transformation in Greece must be achieved through education.
Education for Glynos was a political act. He designed and instigated the "reforms that did not happen" (1913, 1917-1920) participated in the founding of the educational Association together with other militant demoticists while, at the same time, giving a socialist dimension to his educational dream. Late in his career, he passed from educational reform to social rebellion, and, during the German occupation, he wrote his manifest, "What EAM is and wants."
Alexandros Papadiamantis (1851-1911) is the foremost Modern Greek writer; his caliber extended beyond Greek borders. He started by writing historical novels, and quickly he switched to realistic narration with expressive and lyrical, almost poetic, undertones! His unique use of language, the concealed eroticism, and the narrative ability are all components of the "magic" that infiltrates his work and the reason for his controversial acceptance in the Greek academic environment.
His "religiousness" contributed to the literary preservation of the orthodox traditions and customs of the lower classes both in his native Skiathos and in the humble neighborhoods of Athens, the quarters of the poor, the destitute, the distraught. With the enigmatic "Fonissa" (Murderer), he gave a literary as well as a psychological perspective to the study of human evil.
IoannaStefanopoli (1875-1961) is the first female Greek student. Hailing from Constantinople, she enrolls at the School of Philosophy at the University of Athens at age 15. Her enrollment was met with negative reactions both from the Dean of the School and the University's School of Theology.
Eleftherios Venizelos appointed her head of the Athens News Agency. From her position as well as her position as the editor-in-chief of the newspaper Messagerd'Athènes, she supported the political maneuvers of Venizelos and the Allies, she drew attention to the issue of the Italian occupation of the Dodecanese and had a pivotal role in the negotiations for the drawing of the Treaty of Sèvres (1920.)
Kostas Varnalis (1884-1974) was a poet and a critic of profound artistic culture, a visionary of the conjunction of lyricism, satire, and social insight. He published "The Burning Light" in 1922, and from then on, he left his idealism in favor of a satirical and sarcastic mannerism with which he criticized the hypocrisy and morals of the society. His heretic and, at times, grotesque poetry and acute critical thinking made him one of the most multifaceted and interesting Greek literary personalities of the 20th century.
The "Art Group," especially during its early period (1917-1919), was an exciting assortment representing the Greek version of modernism in art. The first exhibition of the "Group" opened on Christmas day in 1917, and the artists who exhibited were painters PeriklisVyzantios, Stavros Kantzikis, LykourgosKogevinas, Nikos Lytras, Konstantinos Maleas, Nikolaos Othonaios, Konstantinos Parthenis, OthonPervolarakis, DimitriosStefanopoulos, TheofrastosTriantafyllidis, OdysseasFokas, and sculptors GrigoriosZevgolis and Michalis Tombros.
Among the participants, Lytras, Othonaios, Kantzikis and Triantafyllidis had studied in Munich, and the rest of them in France where they had assimilated impressionism and post-impressionism with an emphasis on symbolism (Parthenis,) fauvism and Japanism (Maleas,) Art Nouveau (Pervolarakis.)
The unequivocal leader of the "Art Group" was Nikolaos Lytras (1883-1927,) who had studied in Munich, and until the establishment of Maleas and Parthenis, he was considered the most innovative artist of his generation. His painting style inclined toward German impressionism with the addition of some expressionistic qualities. In 1923, Lytras was appointed professor at the School of Fine Arts, a position he maintained until his death, influencing younger well-known artists (Asteriadis, Vassiliou, etc.)
The writer from Corfu (1872-1923,) last descendant of the Ionian noblesse, published four novels within ten years (1912-1922.) His exciting narrative style, the humanistic core of his work and the socialist references introduced a populist setting to modern Greek literature. He narrates his stories about tragic lives and fatal circumstances with naturalistic strength, like in "The life and death of Karavelas." He focused on the raw reality of the decadence of the aristocracy of the Ionian islands. He dove profoundly into the transitional norms of a dying world, much like Tomasi di Lampedusa did in "The Leopard."
"I do not paint to make pictures, but because I cannot do anything else but paint…" said Bouzianis (1885-1959) at an interview for the magazine "The Artist" in 1912. The painter concluded his studies in Athens and settled in Munich, where he associated with the artists of the Vienna Secession. However, the pivotal point in his career was his acquaintance with Heinrich Barchfeld, a gallery owner in Leipzig. Thanks to Barchfeld, in 1921, Bouzianis opened his first solo exhibition at the Pinakothek of Kemnitz in Saxony, and many of his paintings were bought by the Museum of Leipzig. In 1937, many of Bouzianis' paintings at the Museums of Leipzig and Kemintz were confiscated by the Nazi during the purge against "degenerate art."
Bouzianis had already returned to Greece in November 1934 where he was promised the position of professor at the School of Fine Arts. Bouzianis' return to Greece's unsophisticated and limited artistic environment imposed on him a peculiar isolation from the rich stimuli of Europe. However, with his first exhibition at "Parnassos," he became established as one of the most influential painters of the time.
'Helegeia and Satires" (Elegy and Satires, 1927) is the most poignant and marginal poetic anthology of the 20th century in Greece. Kostas Karyotakis (1896-1928) perceives reality through physical pain. His poetry, ridden with pessimism, disgust and despair, sarcastically turns its back to a hostile modern world. Karyotakis, as it was often said by many, "he came from elsewhere all alone," brought contemporary Greek poetry to the farthest boundaries of silence. With an existential approach overwhelming his poetry, he buried bliss under tons of sarcasm, a sarcasm that he revered with his suicide.
The lady of Ro. She earned the title by dedicating her life to the small and remote island. She was born in Kastelorizo in 1890 but settled with her husband on the small island in 1927. When her husband died in 1940, she continued living there with her mother, and when she died in 1943, Despoina remained on the island until her death in 1982. During the German occupation, she gave refuge to the members of the Sacred Band, and she did not leave her island even when it became a target for bombing. In 1975, when a Turkish journalist and two accomplices tried to raise the Turkish flag on Ro, DespoinaAchladioti reacted immediately and took the foreign flag down.
By comparison, Dimitris Galanis (1879-1966) is for the art of the 1930s what Nikolaos Gyzis is for the 19th century. Just as Gyzis was established as an artist in Munich, a professor in the legendary Academy, Galanis was established in the artistic scene of Paris. In essence, he acquainted himself with the top artists of the time (Derain, Matisse, etc.,) he was an active member of the Parisian avant-garde, he pioneered in the field of engraving and succeeded professionally with his appointment as professor at the engraving department of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
Just as Gyzis in Munich, Galanis functioned as a beacon for young artists in Paris, teaching and helping young Greek artists who went to Paris for graduate studies. His reputation is the reason for the transition of the German-influenced Greek art to the French artistic pursuits at the beginning of the 20th century. Furthermore, his solo exhibition at "IliouMelathron" (1928) had a high impact on the substantiation of engraving as a dynamic medium which, through the teachings of Galanis, led to international fame and prizes for artists such as Tassos, Katraki, Grammatopoulos, etc.
The liberal writer and scholar (1906-1966) challenged stereotypical standards, trying to overcome them with delicate intellectual balance and bipolar argumentation: East-West, Greece-Europe, tradition-modernism, cosmopolitan-local, absolutism-nihilism. He raised the bar for prose writing with his "Free Spirit" in 1929.
His robust thinking possessed European orientation and bourgeois sophistication. He was both a visionary supporter of a United Europe and a strong regionalist. He remained impartial in his intellectual openness with a spirit that dominated by humanism and freedom.
Nellie Sougioultzoglou-Seraidari (1899-1998), internationally known as Nelly's, carries out the most talked-about photographic session in Greek history, which was published in a French magazine. Nelly's hailed from Aidini in Asia Minor and was educated in Dresden under photographers Hugo Erfurth and Franz Filder. Among her most famous works is the photographing documentation of the Delphic Festivals of AggelosSikelianos and Eva Palmer and the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin.
However, the one work that made her genuinely exceptional as a photographer were the photographs of Mona Paeva, and the Hungarian dancer Nikolska in the following year. These sessions provoked the conservative morals of the time, established new aesthetic criteria for art, and in 1936 these same pictures became posters for the Greek Pavilion at the Tourism Fair in Paris.
Maria Polydouri was a poet, the creator of some of the most beautiful love poems in modern Greek literature. Her poetry struggles for the ideal and the unattainable. She stood against the taboos and the social norms of her time, the fake morality, and the prejudice of the male-dominated Greek society of the 1920s. She wrote freely, her verse talked about burning desire, passion, and lust and, yet, it wasn’t melodramatic. In her short life (1902-1930), Maria Polydouri became greatly influenced by the poet Kostas Kariotakis, and she was called the "sick rose" of Greek poetry. She celebrated love with ecstatic eroticism, poetic spontaneity, and a revealing disposition. She died of tuberculosis at Sotiria sanatorium in 1930.
Kefallinos' (1894-1957) appointment at the engraving department of the School of Fine Arts was the deciding moment for the institutional recognition of engraving as one of the Fine Arts. This led to a thriving period at the department and the emergence of many excellent engravers, most of them Kefallinos' students.
Kefallinos was born in Alexandria and was educated in Belgium and France. As a teacher, he was exceptionally gifted, progressive, and a bright example for his students. His main concern was the artistic aptitude of his students, as well as for them to shape an individual and unique artistic style. He accomplished this by holding discussions on modern art, on the role of the artist in society, the usefullness of engraving in the bookbinding field.
In this fertile and stimulating workshop, flourished artists who will, later, shape the modern Greek artistic generation of the 30s. Among them were TassosAlevizos, VassoKatraki, LoukiaMaggiorou, Georgios Moschos, Kostas Grammatopoulos, Tonia Nikolaidou, GiorgisVarlamis, GiorgosManousakis, TelemachosKanthos, etc. Also, famous painters Yiannis Moralis, Nikos Engonopoulos, and Yiannis Tsarouchis frequented Kefallinos' workshop and were greatly influenced by his teachings.
The most powerful and characteristic poetic voice of the Greek 20th century. Giorgos Seferis (1900-1971) was the central personality of Greek poetry and a primary delegate of modernism in Greece. In his poetry, we find a harmonious union of Greek popular tradition with the new movements from Europe and Western civilization.
His "Mythistorima" (Mythical Narrative) in 1935 was the turning point in the history of modern Greek poetry. His uniqueness resided in his masterful economy of words and the art of poetic simplicity. He was the first Greek Nobel Laureate (1963) and the literary critic who organized and documented the essay in an open dialogue with the literary past.
He reflected profoundly on Hellenism and the managing of the national tragedy of the loss of Asia Minor, a course that defined him as a custodian of national self-awareness.
After the war, Nikos Svoronos emerged as an innovator of historiography with a Marxist approach but beyond the narrow party boundaries. In the entirety of his work but especially in "Review of the modern Greek history" (1953/1976) he tried to understand the Greek history holistically, as an ethnic continuum that identifies with the "rebel" character of the Greeks. His struggle was equally divided between the nationalist exploitation and the Marxist rejections. As a historian, he placed the source of contemporary Hellenism and its path to national independence in Byzantium and the 400 years of Ottoman occupation.
The Pilot Special School of Athens was the first school dedicated to children with special needs and specific learning and growth disabilities. She rooted for demoticism, and she was an active member of the Women's Association for Women's Rights. She found herself in the eye of the storm during the crisis of "Marasleiaka," the purges against the demotic language. She fought in the Greek Resistance during WWII, and she was persecuted for her political beliefs by being exiled to Makronisos. She joined the Communist party when democracy was restored after the military junta years.
The philosopher-poet of the "Mythology of Beauty" reflected on beauty as a modus vivendi. Demetrios Kapetanakis (1912-1944) was a shining meteor among the intelligentsia of the '30s. His few essays and poems were written for a variety of publications, in Greece and abroad, and adopted an exciting writing style which was appealing to his readers.
His readings on Plato, Proust, Rimbaud, Dickinson, and his translations of Hölderlin's works, were delicate and profound, and plunged with an erotic disposition into the quest for the meaning of life. He had an impressive literary presence in England, and died of leukemia in London in 1944.
Sykoutris is regarded as the most important Greek scholar, second only to Korais. He was an internationally recognized classical linguist and a perceptive interpreter of classical Greek and foreign literature. IoannisSykoutris gave new life to the ancient texts and introduced philology to daily life. Particularly groundbreaking and impressive were his studies on Plato’s “Symposium” (1934) and Aristotle’s “Poetics” (1937, posthumous edition).
He published his work on the Greek orator, Demosthenes, for the German publishing house Teubner in Leipzig. He made an impression on the conservative Greek literary scene in the 1930s through the Literary Circle and the Scientific Tutorial. However, in Greece, he never had the recognition he desired. The conservative faculty at the University of Athens twice rejected his candidacy for an academic position. His suicide put an end to a short but brilliant career.
Melina Merkouri's involvement with politics was inevitable since she descended from a family that fought in the Revolution of 1821, her grandfather Spyros Merkouris was mayor of Athens and her father, Stamatis Merkouris was a member of the Greek Parliament and a minister. In 1949 she triumphed with her performance in "A Streetcar Named Desire" at the Art Theater of KarolosKoun. In 1955 she starred in the film "Stella" by Michalis Kakogiannis. At that year's Cannes Film Festival, she met director Jules Dassin, and in 1960 she gained international stardom with "Never on Sunday."
She fought the military junta between 1967 and 1974 fervently. After the Metapolitefsi (Transition to democracy), she became Minister for Culture, and her name was associated with the fight for the return of the Parthenon Marbles. Her legacy was The Unification of the Archaeological Sites of Athens, a project that transformed the appearance of the nation's capital.
Nikos Engonopoulos (1907-1985) was born in Athens, spent his childhood in Istanbul, and attended a boarding school in Paris. In 1927 he settled in Athens permanently and begun his dual apprenticeship in painting; in the School of Fine Arts and privately, with FotisKontoglou. But the poet preceded the painter. Engonopoulos made his first melodramatic and scandalous appearance in Greek literary circles with his "Do not speak to the driver" in 1938, three years after Andreas Empeirikos published his "Ypsikaminos" (Blast Furnace.)
Much later, Engonopoulos commented on the event: "When my book appeared, the scandal that erupted far exceeded the boldest imagination."
His first solo exhibition in November 1939 at the house of poet Nicholas Kalas, was equally provocative and boisterous. The painter had already adopted a personal style the followed him until the end of his life. His painting, "La très noble dame ElisavetMoutzanMartinegou," (1956) balances on the crossroads between Byzantine and surrealistic expression, with clear attributions to Giorgio de Chirico.
The intellectual Konstantinos Despotopoulos was also a volleyball player. He fought at the Greek-Italian War of 1940 as the beginning of the war found him serving his military duty in Syros. During the German occupation, he wrote for the press of the Resistance. He assumed the presidency of the Greek-Soviet Association and became involved in the struggle for the annexation of the Dodecanese, resulting in his dismissal from the university and his exile. He was exiled to Makronisos, where he refused to sign the denouncement declaration, stating: "It is my duty to guard the honor of Greek philosophy."
The first exhibition of Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas (1906-1994) took place in 1928 in the Stratigopoulou gallery. In the 1930s, the painter became acquainted with Dimitris Pikions, StratisDoukas, and the German Klaus Frislander. At the time, he started the process of re-connecting with popular culture: he wandered in immigrant quarters, photographed the modest neighborhoods, tools, objects, and toys. In his studio, his art was influenced by French avant-garde. He acquired his individual style by exploiting a new area: landscape painting.
His meaningful and fertile relationship with the island of Hydra and his commitment to the profound study of the savage landscape of the island enabled him to invent a personal and original medium of artistic communication. The "Grand Panorama of Hydra" (1938), which Ghikas exhibited at the Panhellenic Exhibition in Zappeion, introduced modernism to the Greek public. The painter had finally succeeded in what he had set out to achieve when he arrived from Paris, when he was talking about "Mediterranean" painting: to create a school of "Greek modernism." In 1946, at his first retrospective exhibition, he was finally recognized as one of the most prominent Greek painters.
Penelope Delta (1871-1941) was undoubtedly the most famous Greek writer of juvenile literature. She implemented the educational character of juvenile literature through a robust ideological background and a dedicated aesthetic perspective. Her novels led many generations of Greek people into adulthood but were just as easily read by adults. She was a staunch supporter of the educational benefit of demoticism.
In the entirety of her work, Literature and History formed an ideological pillar in the development of the nation at the beginning of the 20th century. Her mental and psychological state was delicate and caused her much emotional distress and spells of depression, which were documented in her journals. She committed suicide in 1941, on the day the German army entered Athens.
A classical linguist and expert on Homer of international fame, I.T. Kakridis (1901-1992) devoted his life to the study of ancient Greek Classics. In 1941 he was drawn to the so-called "Accents Trial" caused by his students' accusations on the use of the monotonic system in his teaching. He collaborated with N. Kazantzakis on the translations of the Iliad and Odyssey, a project that stimulated a new expressive potential for the modern Greek language.
He studied the modern Greek culture (poetry, prose, ethnography) in depth and believed in its homogeneity. From his position as President of the newly founded Educational Institute during Georgios Papandreou (1964-1965) educational reform, he was a decisively influential contributor to Greek education.
In 1942 the great teacher of theater (1908-1987) founded the Theatre of Art, where he staged plays of great authors such as Ibsen, George Bernard Shaw, Pirandello, and after the liberation, for the first time in Greece, plays by Lorca, Tennessee Williams, Miller, etc. In 1942 he established the drama school of his theatre, which was attended by major directors and actors of the post-war generation. In 1949 due to financial difficulties, the theatre halted its operation, but in 1954 it was reinstituted. Koun started to produce plays by contemporary playwrights, such as Ionesco, Dario Fo, Beckett, Brecht, and Pinter, as well as works by contemporary Greek playwrights such as Campanellis, Kechaidis, and Anagnostakis.
At the same time, he begins his dedicated involvement with ancient tragedy and comedy.
In 1959 he stages Aristophanes' 'The Birds, a memorable performance because it was considered provocative at the time, a theatrical fiasco even. In reality, it became memorable because of the amazing translation by VassilisRotas, Manos Hadjidakis' unparalleled music, and legendary costumes and sets by Tsarouchis. Although government minister K. Tsatsos banned the performance, it was repeated in 1960 and performed in many countries. "The Birds" won the first prize at the Festival of Nations in 1965.
Sotiria Bellou escaped a broken marriage and moved to Athens at the beginning of the war in 1940. She joined the Resistance with EAM and participated in the fights of Dekemvriana and the Battle of Athens. In 1943, she was arrested, tortured, and exiled. After the end of the German occupation and the Civil War, she became the grande dame of the rebetiko song. All famous songwriters entrusted her with their songs, which she performed with her characteristic, hoarse voice.
Filopoimen Finos (1908-1977) identifies with the "golden" age of Greek cinematography as the greatest producer of films ever. However, it is little known that with his camera, he filmed the Greek-Italian war at the Albanian borders. When the Germans invaded Greece, they tried to find and destroy the films, but he hid them well and they could not be found. The Germans destroyed his studio, arrested him and his father, and sentenced them to death. His father was executed.
On October 12th, 1944, when the German troops evacuated Athens, Finos documented the actual moment of the liberation. In this film, he recorded one of the most historical and symbolic events in Greece's modern history, the lowering of the Nazi flag by a German soldier and his humiliating departure through the ancient marbles of Acropolis.
At the end of WWII, Katina Paxinou receives the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in front of an audience of soldiers and nurses. She was the first non-American to receive such an award, and it was for her role in "For whom the bell tolls" based on the novel by Ernest Hemingway. In 1947 she received the Cocteau Prize for her role in Eugene O'Neil's "Mourning becomes Electra." In 1920 she performed her first notable role as Beatrice in Dimitris Mitropoulos' opera by the same name. Mitropoulos and Paxinou maintained a warm friendship and lengthy correspondence over the years.
Her first theater role was in 1929, at the Kotopouli theater in the play "La femme nue" by Henry Bataille. It is there she meets and later marries Alexis Minotis. In 1950 she held the leading role in Lorca's "The House of Bernarda Alba" at the American National Theater. In 1957 she becomes a permanent member of the National Theater. She was decorated with the Order of George I and the Order of West Germany, and was honored with the French Prize "Isabella d' Este."
Christos Papakyriakopoulos was a scientistic with a brilliant mathematical mind. He did his research on geometric topology at Princeton University, USA, where he was known simply as "Papa" because of the difficulty of his peers to pronounce Greek last names. He graduated from Varvakeion and finished his doctorate at the University of Athens in 1943. A letter to Ralph Fox on Dehn's lemma opened Princeton's door for him. He went to Princeton marked as a communist since he had participated in the Resistance with EAM and the demonstrations of December 3rd, 1944.
MatsiHatzilazarou (1914-1987) was one of the boldest erotic voices of modern Greek poetry. With her bizarre and lyrical style, she cried for the erotic liberation of women. The central point in her poetry is the sensual embodiment and daring expression of female sexuality. Her primal, iconoclastic poetry celebrates the essence of life. During her Paris years, she published poetry in French, and her preoccupation with the linguistic form is apparent in the use of three languages in her book of poetry 7x3 (1984).
For Doxiadis, San Francisco marked his involvement with reconstruction and restructuring. Upon his return to Greece, he undertakes key positions such as Deputy Minister for Reconstruction. At the same time, Doxiadis represented the country at international fora, such as the UN's International Conference for Housing, City Planning, and Reconstruction in 1947. He was the Greek mediator for the Italian war reparations.
Kornilios Kastoriadis (1922-1997) was a meta-Marxist philosopher of autonomy and radical thinking, an influential intellectual of post-war Europe, with a significant role in the May '68 movement. Kastoriadis' most vital contribution concerns the fusion of social institutions and psychoanalysis as it is manifested in his book The Imaginary Institution of Society (1974.) Together with Claude Lefevre, he published the magazine SocialismeouBarbarie (1949-1965), one of the most iconic publications of post-war Europe. Very early in his career, he addressed a profound criticism of socialism and Stalinist bureaucracy as well as of capitalism and the brutality of totalitarianism.
In the aftermath of 'Dekemvriana" the French Institute of Athens and its director Octave Merlier offer a number of scholarships for young scientists and artists to study in France. On December 21st the "Mataroa" transports the Greek recipients from Peireus to Taranta to board the train to Paris. Among them, there were painters NtikosVyzantios, Anna Kindyni, PavlosPantelakis, Eleni Stathopoulou, Konstantinos Grammatikopoulos, sculptors Bela Raftopoulou, Konstantinos Valsamis, Kostas Andreou, Kostas Koulentianos, FrosoEfthimiadi, and, lastly, Agamemnon (Memos) Makris (1913-1993.) Makris was a student of Michalis Tombros and Thanasis Apartis at the School of Fine Arts, where he had exhibited a very mature style of work.
At the same time, he had been active in the Resistance. In France, Makris excelled, but he was expelled from the country in 1950. He settled in Hungary, where he managed to establish himself as one of the most well-known European sculptors of the post-war era. His sculptural oeuvre depicted his vision for a better, socialist world with humanity in its center.
"The Straw Hats" is one of the most enchanting coming-of-age novels of modern Greek literature, mainly because its protagonists are teenage girls. In her book, Margarita Lyberakis (1919-2001) balanced masterfully between a rich poetic layering and existential depth. In the aftermath of the civil war she wrote her novel The Other Alexander (1949) and gave an allegoric statement on the question of human existence. She lived in France for many years, came in touch with existentialism, the cinematic narrative and the stylistic mannerism of the New Novel (Nouveau Roman.) Additionally, she was a successful scriptwriter, especially in Nikos Koundouros' Magic City and Jules Dassin's Phaedra.
MimikaKranakis' (1920-2008) bilingual (French and Greek) novel "Contre Temps," moves between the realistic and avant-garde style of writing, relying heavily on lyricism, symbolism, and musicality. Like many Greeks of her generation, she went into exile in 1945 and lived in Paris, where, in 1947, she published in Greek her first erotic and autobiographical novel "Contre Temps." She engaged in a sensitive and confessional tone expressing childish grief. She taught as a Philosophy professor at the University of Nanterre (1967-1985.) In her final work, "Philhellènes," she focused on the idiosyncratic home nostalgia of Greek émigrés.
In 1933, Konstantinos Parthenis completed “The Veneration of Athanasios Diakos,” perhaps his most significant painting. The painting was exhibited at the Venice Biennale in 1938 and at the Panhellenic Exposition in Athens in 1948, where it received the gold medal. However, the prizes were later revoked and Parthenis isolated himself in house where he continued to work until his death. It was a tragic end for him, widely considered today as the most important Greek visual artist of the 20th century.
He contributed persistently to the transition of Greek art from the school of Munich to Paris and from formality to modernism. He was an innovative painter, constantly breaking new ground and introducing modern concepts and at the same time, an inspirational teacher at the School of Fine Arts. In 1963, fellow artist PeriklisVyzantios wrote about Parthenis’ 1917 Athens exhibition: “A fresh air blew for art that day. Half of the left side of the room was lit up by his brilliant paintings. His work filled the exhibition with oxygen, as if a large window had been opened to the countryside.”
The historical and coherent comprehension of modern Greek literature and Enlightenment and Romanticism in Greece would have been challenging without the meticulous work of K.T. Dimaras (1904-1992.) In 1949, our "national linguist" compiled the first systematically organized history of modern Greek literature, an unprecedented and fundamental accomplishment. Based on his European, humanistic education as well as on his Greek heritage, he fought to affirm that Greek and European traditions were inherently integrated. Dimaras placed the essence of modern Hellenism in the center of his studies. He played a pivotal role in the establishment of the National Hellenic Research Foundation and the Institute for Modern Greek Studies at the Sorbonne.
«Well, I don't think that this snobbishness regarding the rebetiko song can stand in our way of appreciating its worth and loving it for the truth and the power it contains. These songs are familiar and intimate to us in so many ways that nothing comes even remotely close to them» These are the words Manos Hatzidakis used to give to the rebetiko song the recognition it deserved.
His career reflects the social reality of Greece at the time Manos Hatzidakis took his first professional steps: porter, ice cream vendor, photo shop employee, and nurse's assistant. In 1961 Manos Hatzidakis won the Oscar for best original song for "Children of Piraeus," and the spotlight falls on him. In 1972 he founded the music theater-cafe "Polytropo" and in 1989 the "Orchestra of Colors."
His ideological identity for many remains a puzzle, so let's trust his own words: "I am a democrat, a bourgeois, a humanist, and a revisionist of the right. I have never been an anti-communist. I also contain the left. But the left doesn't contain me."
Kazantzakis is the foremost well-known and comprehensive Greek writer abroad. His works have been translated to numerous languages and have been adapted in theater, cinema and television. Nikos Kazantzakis’ (1883-1957) wandering soul produced an ample and fierce bibliography. Exuberant, ascetic, metaphysical, meditative, ambitious and passionate as a writer, he loved the large scale in composition but considered himself a poet. His mark on Greek literature was made after WWII. His religious and philosophical views are manifested in his books “The Saviors of God” and “The Last Temptation of Christ.”
Ellie Lambridi (1896-1970) was the first female Greek philosopher. She popularized philosophical thought in Greece by translating ancient writers (like Thucydides) and by introducing foreign philosophers. She bore an unconventional personality with a political mind a fact that caused her the loss of her Greek citizenship twice. She was active in feminism and left-wing politics and, yet, she did not hesitate to criticize both when they contradicted with her philosophy.
With “Introduction to Philosophy” (1962) and her studies on analytical philosophers Bergson, Russell, Popper and Wittgenstein, she examined contemporary philosophical issues. In her autobiographical work “Nike” (1961) she mourns the death of her daughter with a hymn to women.
Yannis Tsarouchis' (1910-1989) first exhibition took place in a shop on Nikis Street in 1938, and it received negative reviews because it showed "indecent nudes" and "filth." At the time, he was establishing his personal style by exploring the portrayal of male nudity and lower-class men. In 1952, he exhibited his work at the British Council, which was the starting point for his acceptance. Poet Odysseas Elytis said about him: "A radical cannot be a classicist at the same time. But Tsarouchis can do it. When this painter dared to search for the god Hermes not on Mount Olympus but in the "café Olympus" mythology came out of the books and inhabited the earth, and the artist's eyes viewed the word through a different lens. […] Tsarouchis tried to eliminate the frivolous ornamentation from the icon of Hellenism, and for that, he is an avant-garde who did not destroy tradition but redefined it."
Besides his painting, Tsarouchis shined in set and costume designing for iconic films such as M. Kakogiannis' "Stella," operas (Cherubini's “Medea” with M. Callas, director A. Minotis, Dallas, 1958) and theater performances which were highly accepted (Perses, 1965) or caused a scandal (The Birds, 1959.)
Eleni Skoura (1896-1991), a lawyer from Volos, was active during the Greek-Italian war and the Occupation as President of volunteer organizations. In the summer of 1942, she was arrested and jailed by the Germans. She assumed an active role in politics after the enactment of the women's right to vote in 1951. Alexandros Papagos nominated her as a candidate of his party for the Prefecture of Thessaloniki at the 1953 general elections. She was elected and remained a member of Parliament until 1956. She had a successful contribution to social and women's issues. The state honored her with the Military Medal for Extraordinary Accomplishments and the Order of Beneficence.
A profound and pioneering philosopher, Kostas Papaioannou (1925-1981) was active in post-war Paris where he dared, as a thinker, to doubt the Marxist doctrine and the soviet totalitarianism. He captured the tragic circumstances of humanity in the 20th century, already with his first work “Man and his Shadow” (1951.) His work included interesting references to the study of ancient art and the philosophy of culture and history.
Countless women around the world owe their lives to the “pap test” for the timely detection of precancerous cells in the cervix. Hailing from Kymi, Papanikolaou moved to Athens where he enrolled in medical school at the age of 15. He received his degree at 21 and did his military duty. Between his two great loves, philosophy and biology, he chose the second one. “I am not a dreamer anymore. Science snatched me out of Nietzsche’s hands. I have my feet on solid ground now…” he wrote to his father from Germany where he was studying. For his extraordinary contribution to humanity the Academy of Athens acknowledged him as an honorary member in 1957.
GiorgosTzavellas (1916-1976), a self-taught director, wrote and directed the film The Counterfeit Coin and presented it abroad for the first time. It is a collection of four subplots that interconnect through a narrator (Dimitris Myrat). It was the first film of its kind in Greece. The soundtrack was written by Manos Hadjidakis, and the protagonists were some of the most famous Greek actors of the time, Dimitris Horn, Elli Lambeti, Vasilis Logothetidis, Ilya Livykou, and Mimis Fotopoulos. The film received awards at the Film Festival of Bari and Moscow and also at the Cannes Film Festival and the Film Festival of Karlovy Vary.
Olympic Airways was the company that set new rules in air transport by adding the element of luxury next to safety and comfort. The uniforms of its crews were designed by famous designers, and the menu was impeccably planned and served even during short voyages. Aristotelis Onassis was born in Smyrna in Asia Minor, came to Greece as a refugee, and immigrated to Argentina. He created a colossal empire of numerous companies and entreprises. The jewel in his empire's crown was without a doubt Olympic Airways. He became globally famous when he got married to John Kennedy's widow, Jackie Kennedy. His personal life was marked by his relationship with Maria Callas and the loss of his son Alexandros in a plane accident in 1973. With his first wife, Tina Livanos, he had two children Alexandros and Christina.
In 1908 Alexandros Delmouzos was the principal at Volos All-Girls Preparatory School, where he first initiated his groundbreaking methods of teaching. For these methods and his philosophy and opinions on education, he was persecuted several times and criticizedat the Marasleiaka controversy (1926). He was one of the founding members of the Educational Group and the reform conflicts of 1910. Still, his disagreement with the socialist perspective of Glynos led to the breakup of the Group in 1927. During the dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas he was accused of undermining the institutions of country, religion and family and he resigned his positions as professor of Philosophy at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki and supervisor at the Pilot School. He remained loyal to his beliefs on education until the end of his life.
Yiannis Ritsos (1909-1990) is the communist poet of Hellenism; his poetry symbolizes the intersections of human passions, desires, and struggles. He draws his poetry from ancient motifs and narrates the ancient myths using the tragedies of the 20th century and the lonely and troubled psyche of modern man. His poemsmet with the music of Mikis Theodorakis and other critical Greek composers and became songs. In 1956, this poet of social revolution, initiated with “Moonlight Sonata” a series of poetic monologues that spoke of loneliness and despair and man’s devastation under the weight of history and oppression.
The sculptor Chryssa (ChryssaVardea-Mavromichali), one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century internationally, was born in Athens in 1933. In 1953 she left for Paris and attended classes at the Académie de la Grande Chaumiere. One year later, she moved to San Francisco and studied at the California School of Fine Arts. She settled in New York in 1957, where she began working on the famous series “Cycladic Books’’ (1957-1962), a compilation of plaster, minimalist reliefs. Very quickly, with her pioneering work, she managed to establish herself in the demanding artistic scene of New York. Her first solo exhibition -where she presented installations with letters and numbers- took place at the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1961. Stuart Preston wrote in the Times about the ‘’pure, classic, bright sense of order’’ which defined the Greek sculptor. Gradually, Chryssa began to use materials such as stainless steel and neon lamps in her sculptures, drawing inspiration from the landscape of the big city. ‘’ I saw Times Square with the lights and the letters,’’ she later said, ‘’and I realized that it was as beautiful and as hard to imitate as Japanese calligraphy.’’ She came back to Greece in 1992, and she died in Athens in 2013.
In “The Last Lie,” Michalis Kakogiannis directed Ellie Lambeti (1926-1983) for the third time. Manos Hadjidakis wrote the music, and Yannis Tsarouchis did the set design. The film participated in the competition section at the Cannes Film Festival. These were the most productive years for Ellie Lambeti, both in the movies and in theater. One year later, she and Dimitris Horn separated, and their theater company dissolved. Ellie Lambeti (born Ellie Loukou) was a young girl with a slight lisp and very expressive eyes, who failed the entrance exams at the two most prestigious drama schools in Greece. In the end, one of them accepted her, and she became one of the greatest actors of her generation. She was both commercially and artistically acclaimed.
After the war, engraver VassoKatraki (1914-1988) chose the common people (mothers with children and fishers) as the subject of her work, which she portrayed using simple forms and bold lines. Her morphology changed when she chose a new medium for her art, stone. She wrote in 1966: “While experimenting with engraving on traditional materials like wood or copper, I felt that my expressive voice was being limited. In my wanderings, I discovered a material that would fulfill my artistic needs, sandstone.”
The use of stone opened up new horizons for Katraki: minimalist shapes replaced her intricate and detailed themes, referencing to Cycladic art and black figures on white spaces or non-spaces. Thanks to those compositions she was awarded a prize in the Engraving Biennial of Lugano in 1958 and, in the same year, the 1st prize at the Alexandria Biennial. Her international awards were testimonies to the flourishing of engraving as an art in modern Greece.
Stavros Niarchos was a shipping tycoon and famous art collector. While working at his uncles’ mills, he envisioned his future relating to the sea and proposed to them to invest in cargo ships. The great depression of 1929 became his golden ticket to success when he bought his first six ships. Even though he immigrated to the United States in the 1930s, he did not avoid his involvement in the war operations during WWII. After the war, he resumed his business and managed to create the largest privately owned shipping fleet in the world.
With his film “Shadows,” Greek-descended actor and director John Cassavetes won the Critics’ Award at the 1960 Venice Film Festival. As an actor, he participated in Polanski’s “Rosemary’s Baby” and Robert Aldrich’s “Dirty Dozen” (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award in a Supporting Role). His rebellious personality and his desire to realize his dream led to friction with the Hollywood establishment. At the same time film critics praised and accepted him for his impromptu style, which he borrowed from cinéma verité.
In 1968 he directed possibly his best film “Faces,” which was a nominee in three categories at the Academy Awards, for the performances of Lynn Carlin and John Marley and Cassavetes’ script. In 1975 he was nominated again for Best Director for “A woman under the influence.” In 1978 he acted with Kirk Douglas in Brian De Palma’s “The Fury,” and his film “Love Streams” received the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival.
The writer from the Greek community of Egypt (1911-1980) was among the reformers of the leftist representation in literature and art in the 20th century. He tried to avoid both socialist realism and dogmatism in his philosophical thinking and style. With his “AkyvernitesPoliteies” (Cities adrift), he fused modernistic style with analytical realism. He aimed to create the most cosmopolitan novel of modern Greek literature and caused ideological and aesthetic controversy with the use of the character Little Man in his book. He studied the work and philosophy of Kavafis, and his findings modified the way people perceived and understood Kavafis until then.
During the time he was serving in the army in the city of Ioannina, young Manos Eleftheriou (1938-2018) begun his career in writing. His talent was astonishing; he was a poet, screenwriter, novelist, lyricist, columnist, editor, illustrator, radio producer, in all, a prolific personality. In 1954 he made his first appearance in discography. He collaborated with leading song makers, Christos Leontis, Mikis Theodorakis, Yiannis Markopoulos, etc. In 2005 he won the State Literary Award for his novel “In the time of chrysanthemums.” The Academy of Athens honored him with a lifetime achievement award in 2013.
ZisimosLorenzatos (1915-2004) was a literary critic with profound intellectual knowledge, critical thinking, and captivating language use who centered on modern Greek tradition. He translated Blake and Pounds and wrote about Andre Gide. With his manuscript “The Lost Center,” he shifted from modernism and the post-Renaissance humanistic tradition to “applied metaphysics.” He strongly opposed the principles of modernism and focused on the traditions of Greek orthodoxy. His legacy includes significant studies on major Greek writers, Papadiamantis, Solomos, Sikelianos, Makrigiannis, etc.
Maria Hors (1921-2015), the iconic Greek choreographer who was responsible for the ceremony of the Lighting of the Olympic Flame during a period of 50 years, choreographed more than 120 performances of 30 ancient tragedies. She was the permanent choreographer at the National Theater and also, she taught dance, expressive movement, and improvisation at its Drama School. She also taught at the Theater Workshop of Spyros Evaggelatos, at the Workshop of the Opera Theater and the Athens Conservatory. In 1961 Maria Hors created the dance sections for Cherubini's Medea with Maria Callas' astonishing performance in the title role. Alexis Minotis directed, and Yiannis Tsarouchis did the set design for the opera. It was performed in the theater of Epidaurus and at La Scala in Milan.
AlekosAlexandrakis (1928-2005) was mainly known as one of the greatest leading men of his time. At the time, though, he was very active politically. He created a great uproar when at an interview, he stated that he wanted to spend Christmas with ManolisGlezos, a political symbol of the left who was in jail for treason at the time. In 1961 he directed his film “Synoikia to Oneiro” (A neighborhood called Dream) on a script by Kostas Kotzias and TassosLeivaditis and music by Mikis Theodorakis. Large parts of the film were censored, and at the premier police forces prevented the public from entering the theater. At a later interview, Alexandrakis said that the police commissioner canceled the screening of the film and accused him of communist propaganda. Nevertheless, the film received awards at the Thessaloniki Film Festival.
In 1961 the adventures of Tintin were brought to the cinema for the first time with the French-Belgian film "Tintin et le Mystere de la Toison d' Or" a large part of which had been shot in Greece. The sets were designed by Marilene Aravantino. Today, Marilena Aravantinou (1927-2019) is considered the first female Greek set designer. She had been a student of Moralis at the School of Fine Arts. At the same time, during the period 1950-1953, she worked closely with Yiannis Tsarouchis in the creation of sets.
Since 1953 she started working on her own, collaborating with large theater companies in Athens (Kyveli-Katrakis, Lambeti-Horn, etc.). She worked successfully in both theater and cinema in Greek films ("The Man on the Train," 1958 "A Hero with Slippers," 1958, etc.). Also, in major international productions ("It happened in Athens," 1962, "The sailor from Gibraltar," 1967, "Peter and Paul," 1981, etc.). One of her last projects for the cinema was for the movie "Absences" (1987), by Giorgios Katakouzinos. In 1975 she became fully dedicated to painting, and she displayed her work in exhibitions in Athens and abroad.
Dido Sotiriou (1909-2004) was a writer whose work was intertwined with all the tragic and defining historical events that Hellenism endured during the 20th century, beginning with the devastation of Smyrna and Asia Minor and reaching the post-civil war years. Thanks to her narrative style which was influenced by oriental tales, she became a favorite writer, especially of young people who discovered in her work, the hardships of the people and their dreams for a brighter future. Matomena Homata (Bloody Earth) passionately described the persecutions and purges against the Greek population at the Amele Taburu (Labour Battalions) during the Asia Minor Greek genocide.
It is a phrase often used by Dimitris Horn (1921-1998), a phrase that defined him throughout his life and his art. He was the son of Pantelis Horn, a well-known theater writer. His godmother was the famous actor Kyveli who introduced him to the theater. The decisive point, though, in his life as an artist was his collaboration with the renowned Marika Kotopouli. His talent, his manly charm, and his expressive voice left their print on many movies by George Tzavellas, Alekos Sakellarios, and others, as well as the theatrical production of "Odos Oneiron" by Manos Hadjidakis where he performed the song "Ethopoios" (Actor).
He performed as the leading actor in many theatrical productions, the most famous of which was the theatrical troupe of Lambeti-Pappas-Horn. He was very fond of radio and recorded many plays for it. He also broadcasted a satirical radio show for many years, a five-minute weekly show based on scripts written by Kostas Pretenderis.
In 2000, Stamatis Fasoulis established the Horn theatrical award for young actors. The winner is presented with the golden cross owned by Dimitris Horn, and at the next award ceremony, he offers it to the new winner.
A healthy mind in a healthy body. Grigoris Lambrakis took care of his mind as well as his body but also cared deeply about society. Being the 14th of 18 children, he learned at a very young age to share and support. He was an athlete, a doctor, and a politician. He made his mark in history by participating in the1963 Peace Marathon alone even though there were threats on his life. During the German occupation, he organized soup kitchens and protests to help the suffering people. He was assassinated by far-right extremists in May of 1963. Following his participation in a march for peace and nuclear disarmament in Thessaloniki, he was severely injured on the head with a crowbar. He died in the hospital four days later. His assassination led to Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis' historical phrase, "Who is finally ruling this country?" The events of the assassination were documented in the book "Z" by Vassilis Vassilikos and the book-based movie by Kostas Gavras.
Dimitris Hatzis (1913-1981) was a great 20th century novelist, a reserved "recorder" of the hardship and resentment of the Greek people. His work is defined by sensitivity and humanistic realism. In "The end of our small town" (1953-1963), he described the economic and social changes in 1930s Greece, the requiem of a primitive and crumbling world. He was a follower of Papadiamantis' writing style, and he skillfully made use of poetry and lyricism in his work. During the Metapolitefsi (post-dictatorship) years, he searched for the identity of a New Hellenism, in a renewed Enlightenment removed from populism and archaeolatry.
The son of a Navy officer, Michalis Dertouzos graduated from Athens College and continued his studies in the USA. As the director of the MIT Computer Science Lab from 1974 to 2001, he is associated with a series of technological innovations that contributed to the development of the worldwide web. In 1997, he stated for Scientific American: "We made a big mistake when we separated technology and humanism. It is time to put them back together."
In 1964 the painted dresses Pepi's, which were created by painters Pepi Svoronou (1934-2011) and Dimosthenis Kokkinidis (1929-2020), were promoted in major stores in New York, Boston, and other large American cities. Svoronou remembered: "I started by myself, with two suitcases filled with samples of dresses and ties. I am enthusiastic about my work. We do not copy anyone, and we have a personal style. It is an original kind and it excites people." Two years later, in 1966, a Pepi's evening dress received an award at the 25th Semaine de la Boutique at the Parisian Grand Hotel, solidifying the success of their groundbreaking effort abroad. That was the starting point for their commercial success and the distribution of their dresses in Europe as well. The two painters started to work on the idea of hand-made and hand-painted dresses in 1961, and they dominated international markets for almost two decades. In 1976 Kokkinidis joined the faculty at the School of Fine Arts, and Svoronou faced a dilemma; the transition to mass production or not. Consequently, they both quit designing clothes and focused on painting. Pepi Svoronou exhibited her expressionist paintings in her first solo exhibition in Athens in 1989.
In 1964, Michalis Kakogiannis (1921-2011), one of the most important cinematographers in Greece and internationally, manages to make the Greek identity and Mikis Theodorakis' music with "Alexis Zorbas" known all over the world. He has already filmed "Stella" in 1955 with Melina Merkouri's unforgetable performance. Cypriot Kakogiannis studied in London during WWII and collaborated with the Cypriot service at BBC in a series of radio shows.
He met many outstanding artists at his work; for some years he occupied the desk next to George Orwell. In 1946 during the airing of a show, he met writer Nikos Kazantzakis. He returned to Greece in 1953 and made his cinematographic debut with the film "Windfalls in Athens" with Ellie Lambeti and Dimitris Horn. In 1961 he directed the film "Electra" based on Euripides' play with Irene Pappas in another astounding performance. The film entered the competition section at the Cannes Film Festival and it won the award of Best Cinematic Transposition.
A writer of empirical writing and first-person narrative, Ioannou excelled in the hybrid genre he called "work of prose." Ioannou (1927-1985) employs a confessional and autobiographic tone, a total lack of fiction, keenness, economy of words, and a sympathy for commonness, very basic and plain stylistic forms for his time. His empirical style is evident when he talks about refugee life in Thessaloniki. The eroticism in his work is carefully hinted, rising through a sense of guilt, religious catechism, and sin. His literary ancestry is linked to Kavafis and Papadiamantis.
Natalia Mela (1923-2019) was the daughter of Macedonian Struggle fighter Pavlos Melas and Natalia Dragoumi, and one of the most notable modern Greek female sculptors. She graduated from the Athens School of Fine Arts, where she was a student of Kostas Dimitriadis and Michalis Tombros. Mela also attended the workshop of Thanasis Apartis. After her graduation, she set up her own studio workshop, which quickly became a meeting place for major artists of the 30s generation, like Yiannis Tsarouchis, Nikos Engonopoulos, Andreas Empeirikos and her close friend Yiannis Moralis.
In 1951 she married famous architect Aris Konstantinidis. She created her first sculptures using marble, clay, and stone, having been greatly influenced by Pikionis' work. Later, she started using iron as a medium and, influenced by Picasso and Duchamp, she worked with geometric and abstract forms. She became internationally known with a sculpture series based on the animal kingdom where her most distinctive work "Rooster" belongs. In March 2011, the Academy of Athens honored her with the Excellence in Fine Arts Award for her "innovative and expressive work."
Giorgos Zoggolopoulos (1903-2004) is a unique artistic personality of the 20th century in Greece. He created his most personal, innovative, and mature work from the 70s to the 90s, and he was called a "perpetual teenager" thanks to his constantly transforming artistic language and his experimentation with forms and materials. His creative beginning can be placed in the realistic style of the 30s. Still, he managed to break away from the formal barriers of his education and explore abstraction and later on mobile art, sustaining a constant dialogue with all the avant-garde movements of the second half of the 20th century. It is not by accident that he was one of the very few artists who lived and worked in Greece his whole life and, yet, he enjoyed wide international recognition.
However, in 1966, the installation of his sculpture Cor-ten, a 17,75 meters piece at the north entrance of the Thessaloniki International Exposition, provoked outrage among the inhabitants, and it was called a "monster." The sculpture, which can be considered as the pinnacle of Zoggolopoulos' geometric art expression, also initiates the sculptor's experimentation with the play between light and shadow and the use of glass lenses and water as sculptural mediums.
Philippos Iliou was the kind of historian who stood against nationalism, formalism and ideological manipulations. He studied contemporary Greek history, Enlightenment, orthodox national education, the Greek resistance and the Greek left. PhilipposIliou (1934-2004), an activist of the left, was an interventionist historian and intellectual, who organized major collective projects, the Institute for Marxist studies, the Society for the Study of Modern Greek Enlightenment, the History magazine, the Bibliological Workshop. His major achievement is the Greek Bibliography of the 19th century, a strong foundation for the study of history and book production in the 19th century.
The first half of the 60s was a flourishing period for Greek art, Greek artists were honored with prizes at international competitions and exhibitions. The government of Georgios Papandreou was trying to restart the country at the aftermath of the civil war when in April 1967 the military coup imposed a junta and put the country in a cast for seven years. The intellectuals, the artists and the writers adopted a voluntary distancing from anything public or state-organized in a silent protest against the dictators. In visual arts this self-restraint ended in May of 1969 with the exhibition of VlassisKaniaris (1928-2011) at the New Gallery in Kolonaki.
The authorities did not close down the exhibition and people flocked the gallery to see the peculiar art pieces: installations and sculptures made out of gypsum, wire and red carnations. In a symbolic gesture, the artist gave each guest a red carnation planted in a small gypsum cube. It meant that even though it is in a cast, the flower still grows. Since then, artists like Kokkinidis, Dekoulakos, Kopsidis, Valavanidis, Botsoglou, Psychopedis, etc., began to organize, under the nose of the military, exhibitions which had a political symbolism disguised under the interpretations of modern art movements from Europe.
Manolis Anagnostakis (1925-2005) was the literary moral consciousness of the Left, a post-war poet who documented in his poetry the spirit of the era and the moral decadence. The ideological vision and its painful cancelation are the focal point in his poetry. He laid the foundation for the antidogmatic literary critique and created the short-lived but very important magazine “Kritiki” (Critique, 1959-1961.) In his later years he showed us how satire, humor, and parody is the most accurate way for poetry to talk about politics.
G.P. Savidis (1929-1995) made an impact on Greek literature mainly thanks to his research on Kavafis and his involvement with publishing, critiquing, and archiving. He also taught. His views on people and issues in the modern Greek literary world were dominant during his time. He edited in an exemplary way the publishing of poetry. Before he assumed his post as professor at the University of Thessaly where he introduced modernism in his teaching, he was the director of the Modern Greek-English Review and of the magazine Tachydromos (Postman) which was a breeding ground for many of the most famous modern Greek writers.
Amalia Flaming was arrested under the pretext that she planned to aid AlekosPanagoulis’ escape from prison. She was a woman who managed to combine science with political and social action. During the German occupation she was a member of the Resistance and with a scholarship from the British Council she worked at the legendary Wright Fleming Institute. She was married to scientist Alexander Fleming and became director of the Evangelismos Hospital in Athens. She entered the Greek Parliament as a member of PASOK in 1977. She fought for human rights, women’s emancipation and world peace.
Melpo Axioti (1905-1973) is the greatest Greek female writer of the 20th century. Her first novel “Difficult Nights” (1938) introduced a modernistic style to Greek literature. She was a political exile both in Western and in Eastern Europe. The tool of her writing lies in self-identification, in inner monologue and a flowing language. Axioti has the power to use her childhood memories from her island, Mykonos, in a constructive leap from the personal to the collective. During her later years her books “My house” (1965) and “Kadmo” (1972) bring to the surface a dying world and seal her literary path with a heartbreaking fictional autobiography.
“One must not blather. One must adhere to discipline. One must contain the composition from anything superficial…” said Yiannis Moralis (1914-2009) defining his artistic thinking. Moralis’ art followed a slow and evolutionary road from representation to abstraction but never without a theme in his painting. Intensity, explosion, chromatic passion were never components in his work. On the contrary, what prevailed in his artist style was peacefulness and tranquility, timelessness and simplicity. He addressed the viewer’s deepest desire by letting his geometric shapes, curves and straight lines, interact with each other in an intellectual dialogue. The essence of Moralis’ art is this: a hymn to life, a modern classicism that strives for immortality. This new direction in Moralis’ art was presented publicly for the first time in March 1972 at his third solo exhibition at the Iolas-Zoumboulakis Gallery. His “Girl who paints” is at the center of the exhibition as a kind of “key” for the decoding of the master’s abstract dialogue.
“I am sorry I will disappoint those who were kind enough to nominate me for one of the National Awards this year. I am thankful to them, but I must decline this distinction. I stand strongly by my principle never to challenge my personal free will and judgment with circumstantial interferences,” wrote KlearhosLoukopoulos in December 1972, when he declined the 2nd National Prize in Visual Arts. Before him, the Prize was declined by painter AlekosKontopoulos, followed by engraver GiorgosVarlamos. The enactment of the National Prizes in Literature, Theater, and the Arts was the military dictatorship’s most significant intervention in the art field. The collective refusal of the artists to accept them and the subsequent noise it created prompted the regime to withdraw them silently.
KlearhosLoukopoulos (1906-1995) was one of the most prominent post-war sculptors and one of the most renowned ambassadors of abstract art. With his monumental pieces, often inspired by Minoan art, he helped modern Greek sculpture in its transition from the sterile imitation of ancient art to its contemporary identity.
Tonia Marketaki (1942-1994) studied in the cinematography department at the legendary cinema school IDHEC in Paris even though she wanted to become a director, a field of studies that was not offered to women at the time. During the military dictatorship in Greece, she was arrested and imprisoned. She escaped to Algiers, where she worked for the Ministry of Agriculture, producing educational films for farmers. She returned to Greece in 1973 and directed possibly her best film, “Violent John.” The film received awards at the Film Festival of Thessaloniki and represented the country in the festivals of San Remo and Berlin. The movie “Violent John” is a milestone in modern Greek cinema, a sharp criticism on social taboos and the place of women in Greek society, where she was suffocating under the predicaments of family honor and dowry.
The April 1967 military coup in Greece finds Despo Diamantidou (1916-2004) in the USA, participating in the theatrical production of the film “Never on Sunday” (Ilya Darling). She chooses to stay there in exile until the return of democracy. Her talent and the fact that she was multilingual helped her participate in many productions in the USA. She was chosen by Woody Allen, to play his mother in one of the most influential films in cinema history, “The Peacemaker.” She was a close friend of Melina Merkouri, a very talented actor in the cinema and the theater and a well-known and respected translator of plays.
Aris Alexandrou’s “Kivotio” is a fringe work of post-war literature, a text that has many layers and interpretations. It introduced passionate discussions on the relationship between literature, realism, and left-wing ideology. This novel by Alexandrou was written during the dictatorship (1966-1972), and its subject was the ideological dead-end and the discarded dreams. The crusade of the left is presented as empty and meaningless, and according to critic D. Raftopoulos, “Kivotio” was a philosophical invitation to opposition and anti-fight. At the same time, Alexandrou was a great translator of Russian literature, of more than 80 works, especially Dostoevsky and Akhmatova.
The Asia Minor Catastrophe brought Manolis Andronikos to Thessaloniki. He studied at the School of Philosophy at the Aristotle University. He served in the army during WWII, in the Middle East front. As an archaeologist, he worked in many excavation sites in Veroia, Naoussa, Kilkis, Halkidiki, and Thessaloniki. Still, he made his mark in history for the excavation at Vergina, where he discovered the unlooted Macedonian tomb II in the Great Tomb, alleged to be Philip’s II of Macedonia.
The “prima donna assoluta” of opera opened the 1951 season at La Scala in Milan with the “Sicilian Vespers” and won instant recognition. From that performance on, she went from one triumph to the next. All major opera houses were at her feet, from the Metropolitan Opera in New York to the Herod Auditorium in Athens, the Covent Garden, and La Opera de Paris. During her performance as Bellini’s “Norma,” two white doves were released at the Theater of Epidaurus, and the audience went in frenzy. The whole world was kneeling before the Greek diva. In 1957 she met Aristotelis Onassis, and they started a passionate affair.
D. N. Maronitis (1929-2016) was a many-sided and passionate public intellectual during the years of the military dictatorship in Greece (1967-1974) and the subsequent transitional period of political stability and democracy. His specialty was writing insightful and profound articles for newspapers, which he, characteristically, transformed from a fleeting and circumstantial piece to superior prose. Trained as a classical philologist, he contributed immensely to the maturity of modern Greek philology. Most importantly, his most valuable contribution was the creation of a relationship between humanistic education and democratic values.
An important poet of post-war Europe Odysseas Elytis (1911-1996) dug deep into the soul of Greek tradition from Antiquity to Byzantium and created a rich and expressive poetic language. He glorified the sanctity of Greek nature and love, incorporating surrealism in his vocabulary. “Axion Esti” (1959), adorned by the music of Mikis Theodorakis, became the hymn of contemporary era. His initial light and sensual intonation traveled from light to darkness and fought with death in his final collections, especially in the extraordinary “Elegeia tis Oxopetras” (The Elegies of the Oxopetra”
Psaronikos or the Archangel of Crete? The great musician was born in Anogeia of Rethymnon. His life and his work are influenced by his roots. He was first established as the voice of resistance against the dictatorship in 1971 when he performed along with composer Yiannis Markopoulos at the clubhouse “Ledra.” In 1973 he participated in the theater play “To Megalo mas Tsirko.” He never ceased to talk and sing about Crete, and he was a founding member of the Cretan football club OFI.
Minos Volanakis (1925-1999) was a noted Greek theater director and translator. He finished his studies and worked in London and the USA before he returned to Greece in the 1960s. He directed the plays “Waiting for Godot” by Samuel Beckett, Aristophanes’ “Lysistrata” for the Athens Festival in collaboration with the National Theater of Northern Greece, of which he became the director after the restoration of democracy in 1974. In 1982 he envisioned the transformation of the quarries of Attika to open-air theaters. He visited and reviewed around 45 quarries and chose three in neglected neighborhoods of Athens. Petroupoli in West Attica, (Theater of the Stone), Vyrona in East Attica (Theater of the Rocks-Melina Merkouri), and Nikaia in Piraeus (Katrakeio).
Jannis Kounelis (1936-2017) settles in Rome in 1956. His first pieces were full of symbols, elaborating on his feelings of isolation as a foreigner. He used monumental canvases where he painted letters and numbers in black color wishing to replace the established dialect of communication with a new artistic language. He soon associated himself with Arte Povera and started creating enigmatic pieces in the form of installations and performances. He used non-conventional, cheap material, and transformed his work into a vessel for political statements on the individual and society. His artistic climax was achieved at the legendary exhibition of twelve live horses at L’ Attico Gallery in Rome in 1969.
For this, the artist challenged the virtual language but not the representation itself, he opted to replace the representation of the horses with actual live ones: life had taken the place of art, and the boundaries between them became obsolete. In 1977 he returned to Greece with a performance at a taverna in Ampelokipoi. His triumphant return home, though, was accomplished with a retrospective exhibition in the hold of the ship “Ionion”
Pianist, composer, and conductor, Dimitris Mitropoulos belongs in the pantheon of Greek musicians. He holds a gold medal from the Athens Conservatory for his skill as a pianist, a distinction that has been attributed very few times. Because of his formidable music education, he reached the position of conductor at the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. He died with his baguette in his hand during the rehearsals of Gustav Mahler’s Third Symphony with the orchestra of La Scala of Milan. He was just 64 years old.
Alkis Aggelou (1917-2001) was a dedicated authority on the scholastics of the Turkish occupation period. He completed of K.T. Dimaras' work on Enlightenment and expanded the boundaries of modern Greek literature. He studied comparative history and philosophy by deconstructing the affirmations of the past. His many-sided literary personality was demonstrated in his studies on Korais, the modern Greek Enlightenment, Plato, Roidis, and the Fanariotes. His literary legacy is the compilation of the "New Greek Encyclopedia" (Hermes publishing house, 1969), a project that was followed through by Hestia.
For his movie "An eternity and one day" Theodoros Angelopoulos (1935-2012), or Theo, as the international community knew him, won the Palm D' Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 1998. He has been awarded prizes for most of his movies and the entirety of his work at major film festivals, meanwhile, he's recognized as one of the greatest directors of all times. His final movie, "The Other Sea," the third part of his "trilogy of modern Greece," remained incomplete because the great filmmaker, who according to their personal testimony influenced among others, Kurosawa, Bergman, Wenders and Tarkovsky, was killed by a passing motorcycle while shooting at Drapetsona. In the movie "The Other Sea," Aggelopoulos used a director's ploy, the staging of Bertolt Brecht's Three-Penny Opera, to commence a profound mapping of the crisis in Greece focusing on the refugee and immigrant issues.
Kostas Axelos (1924-2010) was a philosopher and scholar of poetic metaphysics and planetary thinking with a substantial body of work on Marx, Heraclitus, and Heidegger. He left for Paris in 1945 aboard the legendary ship "Mataroa," which carried a large number of Greek recipients of scholarships granted by the French state. An associate at first and later editor-in-chief of the review "Arguments" (1956-1962), he also directed the Minuit publishing house's series by the same name. He opposed Jean-Paul Sartre and reconciled the contemporary post-philosophical reasoning with the concept of "play" and fragmented expression.
Christos Kapralos (1909-1993) is one of the greatest Greek sculptors of the 20th century a visionary who pointed out that Greek art in its “ethnic,” anthropocentric context could also become global. Kapralos was born in Panaitolio of Aitoloakarnanias in a poor peasant family. During the years 1930-1934, he studied painting at the School of Fine Arts, and from 1934 to 1939, he lived in Paris. He returned to Panaitolio during the German occupation. During his stay, he worked in the tobacco fields and created small sculptures with his mother and the village children as models. Shortly afterwards he started working on the Monument of the Battle of Pindos using plaster. This piece became known as the frieze of Pindos.
In 1951 the sculptor visited Aegina for the first time and began using the local limestone. He used limestone to create a frieze that represented the cultivation and processing of tobacco. From 1952 to 1956, he used limestone to recreate the frieze of Pindos, which is his most famous sculpture of that period. Without a doubt, it is one of the most powerful monumental groups of modern Greek sculpture, which has references to both archaic and vernacular art. In 2002 the frieze of Pindos was installed at the Peristyle of the Hellenic Parliament, where it is found today.
The poetry of Katerina Aggelaki-Rouk glorified the human body in all its painful but also liberating instances. The collection of her work is full of love’s youthful passion and the reflectiveness of maturity. She was a sensual and existential poet whose work addressed loss, decay, loneliness, sadness, fear of death. Her poetry dove bravely and sincerely deep into the soul of the individual. Her verse touched and consoled the pains and wounds of human existence.
On May 29, Lefteris Vogiatzis (1944-2013) plays in his last performance. One of the most significant contemporary Greek theater directors and actors, in 2001 he staged for the first time in Greece the play Cleansed by Sarah Kane, in which he played the role of Tinker. In Tinker's costume and holding Sarah Kane's book, he will say goodbye to his friends on stage at the Cyclades Street Theater a few hours before his funeral. Following Karolos Koun, Lefteris Vogiatzis renewed the aesthetics of theater in Greece.
Tireless, thorough, profound, analytical, he had said that he became a director by chance. In 1989 he founded the Ancient Drama Workshop, directing Sophocles' Antigone. An indoors Antigone. Every performance from the Greek or foreign repertoire was a theatrical event. He has been the teacher of many of the best contemporary actors. In August of 2012, being ill already, he directed Moliere's Amphitryon in Epidaurus and was adored by the audience. His cinema presence as an actor was small: he participated in many films by Nikos Panagiotopoulos and also starred in the films Eastern Region by Vassilis Vafeas, Rosa by Christoforos Christofis and Acropol by Pantelis Voulgaris.
In December 2015, Yiannis Behrakis and his team of Reuters photographers were awarded the Pulitzer Prize for their photographic coverage of the refugee crisis in the Mediterranean. It was the last among many international awards for Behrakis, awards that established him as one of the most important photojournalists of recent years globally. The Greek photographer was born in Athens in 1960 and studied photography, initially at the Athens School of Arts and Technology, and later at the University of Middlesex, in London. His collaboration with Reuters began in 1989, with the coverage of the Libyan crisis. Since then, he worked mainly as a war correspondent, covering conflicts in places such as the Balkans, Chechnya, Sierra Leone, the Middle East, Somalia, etc. “My mission is to recount the story so that you can decide what to do. My mission is to make sure that nobody can say, “I did not know,” he stated in his acceptance speech at the award ceremony for the Pulitzer Prize. He died in Athens in 2019.