Do you like modern and contemporary art? Then for sure, Athens is the place to be. There are many options to see modern art in Athens, in galleries as well as fabulous museums.
In this article, I chose to introduce you to a very known Greek painter and one of Greece’s leading 20th-century artists, Yιannis Moralis. (Γιάννης Μόραλης)
You can find his paintings in public and private collections in Greece, as well as abroad.
Greece might be known for its ancient Greek culture, statues, ceramics, and temples, but is also a country where you can see a lot of modern art and contemporary architecture, as well as visit museums covering the living artists or those numerous famous Greek names and talented artists of the 20th century.
Who was Yιannis Moralis?
Ηe was born in the town of Arta (Epirus) in 1916, but lived in Preveza from 1922-1927, due to the fact that his father served as Principal at High School of Preveza. (*)
Yiannis Moralis moved to Athens with his parents in 1927. From the age of 15, he studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts (1931-1936).
In 1936 he graduated and the next year, with a scholarship of the Athens Academy, he left for Rome.
Moralis would stay in Italy until November 1937, and then moves to Paris where he studied at École Nationale des Beaux-Arts. At the same time, he registered in École des Arts et Metiers, to master mosaic.
With the declaration of World War II, most students are forced to abandon their studies in Paris and so is Moralis, who returns to Greece hurriedly.
In 1940 he exhibited a series of engravings with the group “Free Artists” in Piraeus. In the same year he assigned to the army and serves his term while participating in the last pre-war Pan-Hellenic Exhibition in Zappeion, where he also receives the bronze medal.
Ιn 1947 he was elected Professor at the Athens School of Fine Arts, where he remained until 1983. For years he taught the younger generations of Greek painters.
In 1949 he formed, with other artists including Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas, Yannis Tsarouchis, Nikos Nikolaou, Nikos Engonopoulos and Panayiotis Tetsis, the “Armos” art group.
This group had its first exhibition in 1950 in the Zappeio, Athens.
From 1954, he began his collaboration with the Theater of Art of Karolos Koun, and later on, he also collaborated with the National Theater.
In 1958, together with Yiannis Tsarouchis and sculptor Antonis Soutsos, he represents Greece at the Venice Biennale.
In 1959 Moralis’ first solo exhibition was organized, which took place in the exhibition hall “Armos” in Kolonaki. The exhibited works were mostly those with were shown in the Venice Biennale of the year before.
In 1959, the architects Vasiliadis, Vourekas, and Staikos assigned him to study the decoration of the outer walls of the North- and Southwest side of the Hilton Hotel in Athens. In 1962 the engraved marble composition by Moralis was completed, which you can still go to see as of today.
From the 1970s, he moved from the realistic depictions of the human form of his earlier works towards more geometric and abstract paintings, for which he is most known with the general public.
Theatre and Sculptures
It is important to mention that Moralis was not only a painter and art professor but also a talented printmaker and sculptor. Over the years, Moralis was involved with creating the theatrical set and costume designs for the Greek National Theatre and Greek National Ballet; illustrating poetic works by Odysseas Elytis and Giorgos Seferis; making record covers for famous composers as Manos Hatzidakis, Mikis Theodorakis, etc…and decorating architectural works such as the façade of the Athens Hilton and the Athens Metro-Station “Panepistimiou (red line).
Yannis Moralis died in 2009
In 2019, the Benaki Museum in Athens organized a retrospective, showing all those various art forms the artist was experimenting with, from one decade to another.
(*) In Preveza, the Athanasiadis Mansion was named after the painter, in order to pay tribute to him. It is located at the historic center of Preveza.
It hosts many artworks and several cultural activities. It is open since 2012. When you visit that area in Greece, it is worth it to visit this mansion, as well as Preveza
Note: Even if there is no exhibit of your taste in the Benaki Museum, it is always worth visiting the Benaki Museum with its contemporary architecture, as well as the café and museum shop.
Benaki Museum – Pireos Street Annexe (Be careful to go to the correct building, since there are 4 Benaki museums, spread over the center of Athens).
138 Pireos & Andronikou St.
Closest metro station: Keramikos (Blue Line)