Konstantinos Maleas (1879-1928)

Konstantinos Maleas

Konstantinos Maleas

Konstantinos Maleas was a Greek painter who was born in 1879. He was one of the most important Post-impressionist Greek painters of the 20th century. Along with Konstantinos Parthenis, he is sometimes considered Greece’s most important modern artist. He was born and grew up in Constantinople, far away from the Greek artistic center in Athens. The young painter avoided therefore the influence of the Munich School that dominated Athenian Art. He studied at the Phanar Greek Orthodox College and then left for Paris in 1901 at an age of 23 years to study initially architecture. In Paris he eventually decided to study painting until 1908 with Henri Martin.

In 1913 he returned to Greece, initially in Thessaloniki and then based in Athens. In 1917 he became founding member of the avant-garde art group Ομάδα Τέχνη, which imported the international contemporary art movements of the time to Greece. He traveled extensively in Greece, Western Europe, Palestine and Egypt where he drew some of the subjects for his famous landscapes. Apart from painting, he was also involved in public discussion of the modernization of the Greek language. He was a friend of Glenos, Delmouzos and Triantafylidis. He illustrated the first alphabet book in the new modern Greek language Demotiki (Αλφαβητάρι με τον ήλιο), and wrote articles for newspapers such as “Nouma”, “Elefthero Vima”, as well as writing for a number of art journals. Maleas was recognized for his artistic contribution by the Greek Government, which awarded him its ‘Highest Acknowledgement of Letters and Arts’.

Maleas work was influenced by the work of Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh, and by the art movements of symbolism, impressionism and fauvism. His paintings are characterized by very light and bright colors, the large brushes that revolutionized the stagnant Athenian art of the time. Most art critics condemned his work, and it was only Fotos Politis that recognized the value of Maleas’s work, also urging young artists to learn from his paintings. Maleas remains one of the most popular Greek modern artists, and his works are exhibited at the National Gallery of Athens and elsewhere.

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