Thedoros Vryzakis

Theodoros Vryzakis

Part 1

Theodoros Vryzakis – Greece expressing Gratitude…

1958, Oil on canvas, 215 by 157 centimeters, an endowment of Maria Ypsilantis, No of piece P.3202, National Gallery


Ideals exist, are born and achieve greatness in the musings and actions of people. Is the homeland ready to be "resurrected" and "ascend" to Heaven? Or... is she landing next to her "children"? Neither. The painting sends the message of the new beginning, a beginning free from the chains of slavery.
Art and history. Poets, sculptors, painters are, in a sense, historians. With their works, they ensure "immortality" in their subjects. Persons or facts. The Greek Revolution, as one of the leading events of the 19th century, was documented on the canvas of dozens of Greek and European artists. The tribute to the painters of "1821" begins with Theodoros Vryzakis...
The impact that wars, religious conflicts, and ideological clashes did not have, was achieved by the machines and economic institutions of the industrial revolution, by science, and art: these carved out the present form of Europe and established its place in the world. Maybe they haven't changed borders, but they have infiltrated the citizens of European countries and created this unique identity - a common ground of ideas and perceptions. Millions of lives have been sacrificed on the battlefields of religious and ideological conflicts, but, in the end, it was the philosophers, poets, scholars, craftsmen, sculptors, and painters who actually "wrote" European history. And made it part of every man. Eternal. Timeless, no less. They defined the present and influenced the future of the Old Continent and the entire planet. Those charismatic people who were able to capture the best traditions of nations, cultures, and religions on a page of technical instructions, a university textbook, a literary work, a painting, or a statue. They kept Europe alive and enlightened the world.
ΤWhile the Greeks were giving their blood for freedom, during the years the new state was taking its first steps, the art of painting played a crucial role. Painting, besides being an art form, was at the same time, the 'correspondent', the 'eyewitness', the 'media', the 'observer', the 'biographer', the 'historian'. It was always taking into consideration the limitations of speech, actions, and the exaggerated representation within the space of a few centimeters. Does a picture equal a thousand words? Wrong! A painting at the specific time was an entire encyclopedia. It affected millions of people.

In 1824 the "Massacre of Chios" by Eugene Delacroix shocked European public opinion. It is probably of no coincidence that one of the first concerns of the new Greek state was the establishment of the School of Fine Arts on 31 December 1836. Thanks to the scholarships of the new School eminent Greek painters studied at the Academy of Munich. They had already been preceded by Theodoros Vryzakis, the "painter of the Revolution". His works have been embedded into the collective subconscious of every Greek citizen, through the textbooks, the posters in the classrooms, and the countless tributes, published and electronic.

Theodoros Vryzakis – Farawell at Sounio…

1863, Oil on canvas, 67 by 78 centimeters, No of piece, P. 772, Donation by the University, National Gallery


Love in the war years. Because the fight makes sense when it's about the people and the things you love, for what you sense but don't speak about, for the people you "touch" no matter how far apart you are.
Theodoros Vryzakis was born in Thebes. Some sources stated his birth year in 1814, others in 1819, which is the most prevalent. In 1821 the Ottomans kidnapped his father, and a few years later, in 1828, he and his brother found refuge in the orphanage of Kapodistrias in Aegina. The next step in his life was the "Panhellenic" in Munich, a school for the children of Revolution fighters.

There he studied at the School of Fine Arts and spread his "wings," he became the first Greek painter of the School. He returned to Greece in 1848 to study the places and faces of his future works, namely the sites and fighters of the revolutionary war. He died in Munich in 1878 and donated all the works of his workshop to the University of Athens.

Theodoros Vryzakis – The Exodus of Messolonghi

1853. Oil on canvas, 169 by 127 centimeters, No of piece P.5446, National Gallery


How can anyone not cry at the sight of the mother hugging protectively her baby's naked body? At the same time, at the top of the painting, eternal life awaits. Almost 200 years have passed, and yet, the gunshots and the screams can still be heard. And something "magical": there is not much left of the war; what still haunts us is the sacrifice - the Struggle for a better, for a free Life.

Theodoros Vryzakis – The Reception of Lord Byron at Messolonghi

1861, Oil on canvas, 155 by 213 centimeters, Donation by the University, No of piece P. 460, National Gallery


He was rich, he was young, he was a foreigner. But he decided to live and die as a Greek. He fought for freedom, equality, civilization. This is the meaning of the phrase "like a Greek". It does not contain discrimination. Only values. The same values that would make one say, centuries later, "like a black soldier from the American south who lost his life fighting against fascism and imperialistic forces on the war fronts of Europe or in the jungles of the islands of the Pacific Ocean". It is the same ideal. The example does not change. Only the faces change.

Theodoros Vryzakis – Wounded blind man…

1850, Oil on canvas, 64 by 51 centimeters, Donation by the University, No of piece P.460, National Gallery


War comes at a price. Some people put on the armaments, lose their sight, lose their leg so that the next generation can play the lute, the tambourine, the lyre. A mere "thank you" would hardly be enough. It is of the essence that the lives of those who follow, their actions, their imprint, honor the desires and dreams of those who made the sacrifices. Maybe the generations will never really know one another. But the preceding ones are very familiar to the succeeding ones. Art made sure of that.