Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Nikolaos Gyzis

The orphans
oil on canvas
90 × 66 cm
Private collection

"I cannot paint Greece as beautifully as I feel it" (Gyzis)

Nikolaos Gyzis (1842-1901) was one of Greece's most important 19th century painters and the major representative of the so-called 'Munich School', the major 19th century Greek art movement. He is one of the greatest painters ever to come out of Greece. Born in the village of Sklavohori on the island of Tinos, which has a long artistic history, he was considered a realist in his folk themes, an idealist in his allegorical themes and a symbolist in his religious themes.

He was one of six children of a carpenter. Very early in life he showed an interest in painting. In 1850 his family settled in Athens, where he studied at the Athens School of Arts. There, he was admitted at the age of 8 (four years earlier than the admission age of 12) and developed his natural skill in painting, following the curriculum as an observer for the first four years and as a student after that until 1864.

In 1865 he spread his wings for Munich. He won a scholarship to continue his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich, where he settled for the rest of his life, until his death in 1901. It was there that he approached great masters and came to know great artists. At the beginning of the 1870s returned to Greece for a period of several years, after which he produced a sequence paintings with more avowedly Greek themes. In the decade 1875-1885, his paintings in Munich were nostalgically reminiscent of scenes of everyday life in Greece, but his dream of returning to Greece one day never happened. In 1880, he was made an honorary member of the Academy of Fine Arts of Munich. In 1882, he received a diploma of recognition and a medal from King George I of Greece. He was very soon incorporated into the German pictorial climate, becoming one of the most characteristic representatives of the Greek artistic movement of the 'Munich School'. From 1886 onward he was a professor at the Academy of Munich and gradually turned from the detailed realistic depictions towards compositions of a singularly impressionistic character.

Towards the end of his life, in the 1890s, he took a turn toward more religious themes. In autumn of 1899, he didn't feel well and returned to Greece believing that he would regain his health. He died of leukemia in 1901, in Munich.