The modern-day Greek state was established in 1821 after many centuries of Ottoman Rule. This declaration was followed by a bloody Greek War of Independence (1821-1829).
Because of the Ottoman occupation of mainland Greece, only a few Greek islands were exposed to the Renaissance and other influences from Western Europe.
Crete, or the Kingdom of Candia as it was known until the 17th century, and some of the Ionic islands had been under Venetian rule since the Middle Ages.
Modern Greek art started when the country became Independent and was highly influenced by this transition period in the 19th century.
In this article, you’ll discover some of the most famous Greek painters in history.
1. El Greco
El Greco (1541-1614) is the nickname of a Greek painter whose real name was Domḗnikos Theotokópoulos. He was born in the Kingdom of Candia which was part of the Republic of Venice at the time and quickly made a name for himself with his unique Mannerist paintings.
He moved to Venice, Rome, and eventually settled in Toledo, Spain, where he spent the rest of his life. The paintings of El Greco have been influential to artists until the modern age. His distinctive style was revolutionary at the time and can be described as such until today, a clear sign of the artist’s genius.
2. Nikolaos Gyzis
Nikolaos Gyzis (1842-1901) can be described as one of the most influential Greek painters of the 19th century. He was born n the island of Tinos but his family moved to Athens in 1850. Here he received formal art education at the Athens School of Fine Arts.
He subsequently moved to Munich where he continued his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in the german city. This academic education set the tone for the rest of his career which is defined by excellent realism and naturalism. He became a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich in 1886 and spent the rest of his life there.
3. Theodoros Vryzakis
Theodoros Vryzakis (1819-1878) was a Greek painter who witnessed the Greek War of Independence firsthand. His father was murdered by the Ottoman troops in 1821and he had to flee with his mother to the mountains. By the year 1832, he was living in an orphanage where his artistic talent was discovered.
This talent was discovered by German scholar Friedrich Thiersch who brought Vryzakis to Munich to study at the Academy of Fine Arts in the city. With his personal experience of the tragic events during the 1820s, he mainly focused on historical scenes that depict important moments during the Greek War of Independence.
4. Ioannis Altamouras
Ioannis Altamouras (1852-1878) was the son of a renowned female Greek artist named Eleni Boukoura-Altamoura (1821-1900). He inherited the artistic talent of his mother and he was accepted to the Athens School of Fine Arts in the early 1870s.
He managed to earn a scholarship awarded by King George II of Greece and continued his studies in Copenhagen between 1873 and 1876. His most famous paintings were seascapes but life came to a tragic end at the age of 26 when he passed away from Tuberculosis. His mother never recovered from this loss and was driven to madness during the final decades of her life.
5. Nikiforos Lytras
Nikiforos Lytras (1832-1904) was another Greek artist who was born on the Greek island of Tinos in the Aegean Sea. He studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts. He was a great talent as he won a prestigious scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Munich in 1860.
He was one of many painters of the Munich School, a group of artists who studied at the art academy in the city between 1850 and 1918. He became a professor at the school in 1866 and held this position for the rest of his life. He painted history paintings, works derived from Greek mythology, as well as everyday subjects.
6. Georgios Jakobides
Georgios Jakobides (1853-1932) was yet another Greek representative of the Munich School. His journey was very similar to that of the other Greek painters on this list as he first studied at the art academy in Athens before moving to Munich to study in Germany.
He lived in Munich for 17 years and was one of the most renowned Realism artists in the city at the time. He produced hundreds of paintings during his career, many of which were portraits featuring children. He later switched careers and became the co-founder of the National Gallery of Athens and became the museum’s first curator.
7. Yannis Tsarouchis
Yannis Tsarouchis (1910-1989) was one of the most renowned modernist Greek painters of the 20th century. He was born in the port city of Piraeus and studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts between 1929 and 1935. He later traveled the world and absorbed a wide variety of influences.
These range from Byzantine iconography to Impressionist paintings. He later moved to Paris in 1967 and a museum dedicated to his works was opened in 1982 in Maroussi, Athens called the Yannis Tsarouchis Foundation Museum. His most famous works have a homoerotic undertone.
8. Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas
Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas (1906-1994) was another leading Greek artist of the 20th century. Apart from being a painter, the versatile artist was also a sculptor, engraver, writer, and academic who became the co-founder of the Association of Greek Art Critics or “AICA-Hellas.”
He traveled to Paris during his early age and was inspired by the Avant-Garde artists of the early 20th century. He became one of the most renowned Greek Cubist artists during this period. His favorite source of inspiration was the amazing Greek landscape which he aimed to depict as harmonious as possible.