Monday, 23 April 2012

Nikolaos Gyzis, paintings that rejoice life 111 after the demise of their creator

NOT many things seem so unnatural to me as the claim that the classic greek painter Nikolaos Gyzis was the academic standard of his times, unless accompanied with the clarification of what was consider academic in his times! In this article I would like to present to our readers one of the most dynamic personalities in art of all eras in Greece, an excellent man and artist exemplar for the turn of the 20th century, for whom books have been written yet essential elements of his personality and paintings are not stressed, or known to the non specialized public, and whose contribution changed everything in Greek Art.
By Paris Kapralos

Nikolaos Gyzis, an extremely dynamic, cordial personality and a truly natural talent, was able to assimilate and blend in a rare manner all the knowledge and experience he came in contact with, and to transcribe it in a way that contributed to the progress of Greek art at his times, as very few other visual artists have accomplished. His works retain their strength and their emotional charge, even 111 years after his death. His works do not remain merely "immortal", a term reserved for other major painters in the arts history; they often remain alive.

Born in a poor family of carpenters Onoufrios Gyzis Gyzis and Margaret, nee Psaltis, in a little village named “Sklavochori” on the island of Tinos the 1st of March 1842, he followed the family to resettlement in Athens in 1850 and attended the so called "School of Fine Arts" (1854 - 1864), with teachers Agathaggelos Triantafyllou, Ludwig Thiersch and Filippos Margaritis, replaced in 1855 -after his retirement- by Nikiforos Lytras, who became close friends with the young Gyzis. It is said that it was Lytras who urged Gyzis to continue with his studies at the  Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Munich from from June 1865. Before this was possible many things had to be settled first. The young artist was deprived of a fortune that would allow him to move abroad, if it wasn't for a charity of the of the church to assist him encouraged by another man that foresaw the talent of the young artist, the art fanatic Nikolaos Nazos, who also added his funding to this of the church to support Gyzis.

His first teachers in Munich were Ansouts Hermann (Hermann Anschütz) and Alexander Wagner (Alexander Wagner), while in 1868 -again with the encouragement of Lytras -was admitted to the laboratory of Karl von Piloty, a famous teacher with a significant personal focus on multifaceted historical paintings. Nevertheless Piloty had the reputation of an excellent teacher that didn't force this students to replicate what he did, but to perfect their design and enrich colour ranges, otherwise leaving room for personal expression and development to them

Actually, the marathon of recognition begins on 1870 for Gyzis, with so many awards as many nominations and a glimpse of financial independence from his donors and protectors. In 1872 he returns to Greece temporarily, setting up his atelier in the centre of Athens, where he remained nearly a year and a half strolling around the city and travelling around the country very often in search fro the Greek representative types of face, body, stature. Next, he travels to Asia Minor along with Lytras in search of similar studies, collecting important material. In that period discounted original designs with extreme stunts of Anatolia; all of these paintings are rare in light, colour, and realistic expression. Then he travels to Tinos and Megara -where he paints a series of projects, and for a few months he resides in Smyrni (Izmir). Disappointed by the prevailing conditions in Greece in May 1874 he departs from Athens, having  a heavy load of experience and pictures in his artistic baggage, and returned to Munich, where he lived almost continuously until the end of his life. In 1876, he travelled along with Nikiforos Lytras in Paris, and one year later married Artemis  Nazou, daughter of his patron, who gave birth to their four daughters. The course worthy of going to Germany, participates in the International Art Exhibition in Munich in 1879 not only as a painter but also as a member of the jury, and in 1880 was named an honorary member of the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and in 1888 was elected professor at same institution. In Germany hailed as few artists of his time. 1895, last visited Greece. In 1898 the German government buys many of his paintings to the National Gallery, and the artist working on a painting entitled "The Apotheosis of Bavaria," so states in a letter "I would love to create the apotheosis of Greece, but I cannot carry this burden alone, since most people who claim they work for its apotheosis, they really strip Greece bare”.

Contracting leukemia he died in Munich on 1901. It is said that an unfinished letter was recovered after his death, concluding at the phrase “Well, let us never give up hope and chase happiness in every aspect of our lives”. He was buried in the cemetery of Nord-fidhof in Munich, and as an homage the sculptor Heinrich Waderé crafted the grave's monument, his friend and well-known German painter Franzvon Lenbach  sketched him on the deathbed, while Kostis Palamas, the national poet of Greece wrote the poem "In the tomb of Nicholas Gyzis"..

On his works
Nikolaos Gyzis is one of the most important representatives of the academic realism of the late 19th century, belonging, in the somewhat more conservative than he ever was, art scene of the "Munich School". Even if the higher of the German critics of the era called him “more german than the Germans”, his paintings convey the colours, smells and images of the East and Greece inj a manner no other painter portrayed with such vividness and completeness. In the case of Nikolaos Gyzis, even the most suspicious the art lover will understand that the term "academic realism" is -so to speak- incompatible in the manic commitment to a rational commitment to the project accuracy and rigor of chiaroscuro, since the word "academic" nowadays is poorly understood as similar to the word “classic” in form and style: his works are all alive, have depth found to few artists of his time and even after him, so intense, that few has managed to combine realism and idealism with symbolist elements in an excellent manner. Let “academic” in the case of Gyzis remind us of the ancient Athens Academy, when the word really meant eclectic and not simply classical with a sip of conservatism to taste!

The work of Nikolaos Gizis divided into three periods: the "German"-which covers the first seven years of flight in Germany, the "idealist," starting from March 1876, when the author first tackled the great allegorical work, the panel "Art and spirits," and, ten years later, in 1886 started what many call the "Neo-idealistic" Gizis period, when the painter studies the life and spirit of the ancient and subordinate to a Platonic philosophical approach and the quest for eternal beauty. Furthermore, from 1890 onwards he is sketching / designing series of signs and posters at the relevant orders, which was also recognized as both art and a boost in graphic arts. Religious person, with strong existential quests, turned at the end of the path to metaphysical and allegorical scenes. The dominant element of his so-called "religious" is the struggle of good over evil and the final victory of Good.

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