Street Market (1979-1982) by Panayiotis Tetsis
The exhibition starts in the museum lobby with a 15m long triptych bursting with the colours, noises, and aromas of a downtown Athens marketplace, painted in the artist’s characteristic post-Impressionistic style. It’s a scene that says that Athens’ National Gallery is open to everyone.
Portrait of Mrs. Serpieri (1869) by Nikephoros Lytras
Known as ‘the father of modern Greek painting’, Lytras was a favourite of King Otto and Queen Amalia and his portrait of the royal couple is his defining work. However, it was this larger-the-life portrait of the wife of a Greek industrialist that got him noticed by Athens’ newly formed Bourgeoisie – even more so given the super-opulent gold frame made in France.
On the Terrace (1897) by Iakovos Rizos
Paris-educated Rizos evokes the spirit of the Belle Epoque in this romanticised vision of late-19th-century Athenian aristocrats lounging on a balcony of a neoclassic house in Plaka, with the Acropolis resplendent in the background.
The Betrothal of the Children (1877) by Nikolaos Gyzis
The custom of Greek families engaging young children to be married during Ottoman times (possibly to protect them from the interests of Turks) is represented in this oil painting. The boy looks quizzically at his ring whilst the priest addresses the girl and the families look on in satisfaction.
Christ (ca 1900) by Konstantinos Parthenis
The theme of this monumental circular oil painting – depicting a mournful Christ wearing a thorny crown – is enhanced by the emotion portrayed in the colours (a spectrum of blues merging with yellow in place of a halo) and eyes gazing up at heaven.
Composition (1975) by Yannis Gaitis
You move on to 1970s pop art next with Yannis Gaitis’ characteristic stylised figures, gathered crowd-like to depict mass consumer society and dressed in the colours of the Greek flag.
Wall Painting (1932) by Fotis Kontoglou
This giant wall painting was never intended for public display, having originally lined the wall of the artist’s house. It is painted in a post-Byzantine church style, with sections depicting aspects central to his life, including a Pantheon of figures he admired (Homer, Pythagoras, Herodotus, Plutarch etc), his wife and daughter and depictions of his greatest fears.
The Studio (1960) by Nikos Hatzikyriakos-Ghika
In his idiosyncratic post-cubist style, Ghika gives us an insight into his workspace, including furniture and equipment that were part of his daily life. Not a single space is left unused in a style in part inspired by Picasso.
Bonus: 1821 in Painting
A number of permanent and temporary exhibits gathered to commemorate the bicentennial anniversary of Greece’s War of Independence against the Ottomans, representing some of the most iconic events and personalities of modern Greek history. Amongst them are Eugène Delacroix’s Episode from the Greek War of Independence, 1856 (showing a mounted soldier on the battlefield, wearing a flowing white ‘foustanella’ kilt, black sash belt and embroidered waistcoat) and The Massacre at Chios, 1824 (capturing the horrors of one of the war’s most brutal episodes).
Theodoros Vryzakis’ paintings include The Exodus from Missolonghi, 1853 (showing fleeing residents under attack by Turks seeking revenge for losing control of the city some months earlier), The Reception of Lord Byron at Missolonghi, 1861 (capturing the arrival of the English romantic poet who lost his life fighting with the Greeks in 1824) and Greece Expressing Gratitude, 1858 (a mythological allegory of the nation, finally liberated). Meanwhile, Nikolaos Gyzis’ After the Destruction of Psara, ca 1869-1898 portrays revolutionary leaders Giorgos Kolokotronis, Alexandros Mavrokordatos and Andreas Miaoulis as well as Bavarian lieutenant and Philhellene Karl Krazeisen.