Modern Greek art began in the early 19th century, after the modern Greek State was founded, and continued until around World War II. Modern Greek art is said to have been shaped by the socioeconomic conditions of Greeks, including the large communities of Greeks living throughout Europe as well as the Greek social elite.
Modern Greek art was also influenced by external art such as those originating from France and Germany. Greek artists took elements from colleagues around Europe, which created a distinctive style. Here is a look into Modern Greek art:
Many Greek artists during the 19th century studied at the school of Munich, where they were taught true fresco for mural paintings. Fresco is a technique of mural painting that is created on wet lime plaster. These were often done on the interiors of palaces and villas. During the Modern Greek art period, these were often theatrical and emotional. Popular with the school of Munich were landscapes, rural life, urban life, and still life.
The Munich Style
During the late 1920s, Spyros Vikatos at the Athens School of Arts was using the Munich Style of painting, which consisted of a dark palette and a bravura brush. When using bravura, brushstrokes are bold and irregular. Vikatos’ paintings were very personal as he highlighted them in white, which created a pulsating surface that a figure would emerge from.
Genre painting portrays everyday tasks of the countryside and urban centers. These paintings depicted events such as festivals and mourning as well as pastoral and agricultural scenes. Genre paintings included items such as local costumes and everyday objects. These were the most popular paintings during the Modern Greek art period.
Nikolaos Gyzis was a prominent Greek artist of the 19th century who was a representative of the Munich School. He was famous for his genre paintings, which depicted rural scenes from before the Greek Revolution.
Portrait paintings were the next popular type of painting during the Modern Greek art period. These paintings started out depicting freedom fighters but transitioned into paintings showing the middle class and merchants. Early Greek portraits allowed a glimpse into the new urban class. Elaborate costumes, expensive jewelry, and distinctive professions were used to show the urban class.
At the beginning of the 20th century, impressionism had reached Greece by way of Germany. In fact, impressionism had made its way into the School of Fine Arts. For Modern Greek art, this meant that landscapes were becoming the main subject in paintings. Landscapes gave painters the opportunity to focus on color and light as an area of study.
Realistic landscape paintings began growing in popularity in Greece during the end of the 19th century. These paintings were done with short, quick brushstrokes, which draws viewer’s eye into them. Painters would use pure colors, mainly supplementary tones, which increased brilliance and luminosity, making the paintings seem more realistic.
Modern Greek art is comprised of different techniques and subject matter. Its influence can be found not only close to home, but throughout Europe.