Greek Art After the Civil War

For many historians, the international response to the Greek Civil War is considered to mark the starting point of the Cold War. The conflict between the Greek government (backed by Western powers) and the Greek Communist Party (supported by regimes in Eastern Europe) arose out of the power vacuum that followed the end of the wartime occupation of Greece and lasted for three and a half years. It came to an end on 16 October 1949, with communism defeated.

That year also saw the launch of a number of artistic groups, formed with the aim of bringing Greeks together after the crisis. Among them were the Armos and Stathmi groups, which both received their first exhibitions in 1950 in Athens. Combining their training in Greek mythology and folk art with the teachings of the European avant-garde, the work on display ranged from the male nudes of Yannis Tsarouchis and the mythological surrealism of Nikos Engonopoulos to the cubist imaginings of Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas and the expressionist landscapes of Spyros Vassiliou. Together these artists would help shape a modern, post-war Greek identity through the soothing power of painting.

Nikos Engonopoulos, Apparition of Rigas Feraios in Evia, 1950. Oil on canvas. Private collection, Athens; Spyros Vassiliou, Galaxidi, 1950. Oil on wood © A. G. Leventis Gallery.

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