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Theophilos Chatzimichael, 1870-1934

Theophilos Chatzimichael, 1870-1934

Theophilos Chatzimichael, 1870-1934

The Greek Vincent Van Gogh, a unique folk artist-painter, was born in Varia of Lesvos. Theophilos began painting on wood and frescoes using his own paints. He was known for his eccentric ways and his habit of wearing national dress, and lived a life of deprivation and povetry. His works are primitive in their conception of anatomy and perspective, yet owe much of their charm and harmony to this primitive grasp of artistic essentials and the feel of the colors. A man of spontaneity, he was most drawn to themes from nature and the historical past. Theophilos painted in houses, in churches, in coffee-shops wherever he could get a plate of food for his work, and often without even that. There were many occasions on which a glass of ouzo was sufficent reward.

Hardly anyone recognized the beauty of Theophilos’ works – most regarded them as worthless. The artist was treated with mockery by his fellow countrymen. We owe much to his recognition to the art critic Stratis Eleftheriadis (Teriade). Teriade met him in 1928 and was immediately impressed. He asked Theophilos to paint on canvas, in an attempt to save for posterity the freshness of the artist’s work. According to Teriade, Theophilos never asked him for money. Thus it was that, in a new creative period at the end of his life, Theophilos produced some of his most representative works, the ones that we know him for. Owing to Teriade, works of Theophilos were displayed in Louvre, and are now on display in Teriade’s museum in Mytiline. Theophilos did not live to enjoy his fame, but he appreciated the respect and attention shown to him by a man from the world of serious art.

The Theophilos museum was built in 1964 in the suburb of Varia, about 6 kilometres from the centre of Mytilini, and houses 86 works by the Lesvos folk artist.

Source: www.hellenism.net

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