Institute for Mediterranean Studies

Art criticism in Greece

Art criticism in Greece

The research program aims to gather extensively into a database the writings of the most important Greek art critics of the 20th century. It intends to create an archive which will provide researchers, through a multiple and flexible search system, not only with a bibliographical record of the material, but also with the actual texts of art criticism (in form of digitized reproduction) so as to offer the possibility of their direct reading.

The function of art criticism as an autonomous form of critical discourse is multiple. It mediates directly for the perception of the art work by the public, it constitutes a channel of communication with the artist, and it shapes the relationships between artists and artistic institutions. Depending on its authority and the extent of its readability it has the ability of intervening in the process of art-making: it may have an impact on the artists' choices, favor and accelerate their acceptance or marginalisation, introduce styles, new media and techniques etc. It is a critical discourse in dialogue with the artists, intersecting with art-producing itself, and constituting a creative factor within the overall function of art. However, beyond its direct connection with art production and its reception, art criticism also functions as a carrier of wider theoretical trends and ideological stances which express and simultaneously co-shape the intellectual and cultural orientation of the public.

Art criticism appeared in Greece already in late 19th and the early 20th century, as a consequence of a growing art production and exhibition activity, and gradually gained a permanent position in the daily press and literary and cultural magazines' columns. Art critics with a university degree in archaeology or art history emerged in the 1930s, claiming the field of art criticism from journalists and literature writers. After World War II the founding of the Greek Department of the International Association of Art Critics (A.I.C.A.) marked, institutionally this time, the vital role of art criticism within the Greek artistic scene.

Provided that in the field of art, from the late 19th century onwards, the predominant criterion was the notion of the "new" (regarding mostly morphological features) art criticism did not come to add superfluous opinions on relations between art works and their public, but to fill the notional gap produced by the refusal of modernist artists to align their work with familiar and accessible styles and their radical counter-suggestion for avant-garde revisions of visual experience.

The study of art criticism constitutes an integral research field within the history of art, which has not as yet been approached systematically. Its material has been so far treated as of secondary importance and it is used selectively in order to document the views of art historians, without being examined per se within its historical dimensions (in relation to the past and contemporary critical discourse), thus leaving unexploited crucial information for the multiple understanding of artistic phenomena, their reception and their connection to the wider ideological and social trends of different historical periods.

This IMS research program under the title Art criticism in Greece aims to gather extensively into a database the writings of the most important Greek art critics of the 20th century. It intends to create an archive which will provide researchers, through a multiple and flexible search system, not only with a bibliographical record of the material, but also with the actual texts of art criticism (in form of digitized reproduction) so as to offer the possibility of their direct reading. It also provides an archive of all reproductions of art works (also in digitized form) that had been published together with the texts. The possibility of conducting combined search covers the need of posing specialized questions. If for example the researcher is interested in finding which writers refer to the painter G. Bouzianis in the year 1955 or if (and in which specific articles) the art critic Anghelos Procopiou refers to abstract expressionism, s/he can pose the respective questions. In the case of texts that comment on art exhibitions, the database also provides identification of all art works mentioned in the text via their reference number in the exhibition catalogue (provided of course that such a catalogue had indeed been published and traced in the National Gallery Library or the National Library) so as to render easier the collation of comments on the same exhibition by different art critics. In addition, indexes of people's names (artists, art theorists, writers etc.), places, museums and galleries, institutions, as well as basic notions and terminology, offer the possibility of easily tracking them down in the texts (by title of publication, number of volume, issue and page). Furthermore, curricula vitae and bibliography of all publications of each art critic complete the information that can be drawn from the database.

Academic supervisor Evgenios D. Matthiopoulos (Professor of History of Western Art, Department of History and Archaeology, University of Crete)

Research team

  • Lefteris Spyrou (Doctor in Art History, Department of History and Archaeology, University of Crete)
  • Alina Chatzispyrou (Ph.D. candidate, Department of History and Archaeology, University of Crete)
  • Afroditi Kouki (Ph.D. candidate, Department of History and Archaeology, University of Crete)
  • Marianna Karali (Ph.D. candidate, Department of History and Archaeology, University of Crete)
  • Valantis Stiakakis (Postgraduate student, Department of History and Archaeology, University of Crete)
  • Yiannis Tzortzakakis (Postgraduate student, Department of History and Archaeology, University of Crete)
  • Eirini Matalliotaki (Postgraduate student, Department of History and Archaeology, University of Crete)
  • Xenia Daskalaki (Postgraduate student, Department of History and Archaeology, University of Crete)


Deliverables

Database

Up to now the following data have been entered into the database:

  1. The writings of the art critic Giorgos Petris (1916-1998) in the magazines Epitheorisi Technis (1955-1967), Chroniko (1976-82), Ikastika (1982-86), Anti (1975-77), Architektoniki Techni kai Diakosmisi (1964-66) and in the newspaper Avgi (1953-1967).
  2. The writings of the art critic and art historian Anghelos Procopiou (1909-1967) in the newspaper I Kathimerini from 1948 till the year of his death (1967).
  3. The articles of the art critic Tonis Spiteris (1910-1986) in the newspaper Eleftheria from 1955 to 1967.
  4. The writings of the byzantinologist Manolis Chatzidakis (1909-1998) in the newspaper Eleftheria from 1947 to 1955.
  5. The articles of Zacharias Papantoniou (1877-1940) in the newspaper Eleftheron Vima from 1926 to 1939.
  6. The articles of I. M. Panagiotopoulos (1901-1982) in the newspaper I Proia from 1931 to 1939.
  7. The writings of the art critic Eleni Vacalo (1921-2001) in the newspaper Ta Nea (1950-1962).
  8. The art historical and critical articles published in the magazines Nea Estia (1927-1940), Ellinika Grammata (1928-1930), Ergasia (1930-1939), Neoellinika Grammata(1935-1941) and Zygos (1955-1961) by major art critics of this period as Anastasios Drivas, Ilias Ziogas, Eleni Vakalo, I.M. Panagiotopoulos, Tonis Spiteris, Efi Ferentinou, Alexandros Xydis etc.

In addition, a collection of articles by art critics and art historians, in the form of digitized reproduction, has been completed and will currently be entered in the database. The afore mentioned collection includes articles by Marinos Kalligas (To Vima, 1947-1967), Nikos Alexiou (To Vima, 1956-1960), Dimitris Evanghelidis (Ta Nea, 1957-1960), Efi Ferentinou (Eleftheria, 1957-1961), Manolis Chatzidakis (To Vima, 1957-1965), as well as the art historical and critical articles in the magazines Techni (1938), Elliniki Dimiourgia (1948-1954), Nees Morfes (1962) and Zygos (1962-1965).

The program aims to gradually enrich the material with the art criticism of Nicolaos Episkopopoulos, Pavlos Nirvanas, D. I. Kalogeropoulos, Pericles Giannopoulos, Spyros Melas, Anastasios Drivas, Fotos Giofyllis, Veatriki Spiliadi and others.

Publications

  • Evgenios D. Matthiopoulos, “‘Lettres de Paris’: La réception de l’art contemporain dans le champ de la critique d’art à Athènes dans l’entre deux-guerres”, in Lucile Arnoux-Farnoux and Polina Kosmadaki (eds.), Le double voyage: Paris-Athènes, 1919 – 1939, conference proceedings (Athens, Benaki Museum / Institute Française d'Athènes, January 19 - 21, 2012), Athens: École française d’Athènes, 2018, 107-119.
  • Evgenios D. Matthiopoulos, “La réception du symbolisme en Grèce à travers l’œuvre de Costis Parthénis pendant la période 1900 1930”, in Catherine Méneux and Adriana Sotropa, (eds.), Quêtes de modernité(s) artistique(s) dans les Balkans au tournant du XXe siècle, conference proceedings (Paris, Université Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne, November 8 - 9, 2013), Paris: Website of HICSA and Centre François-Georges Pariset, 2016, 9-46. http://hicsa.univ-paris1.fr/documents/pdf/PublicationsLigne/Colloque%20Balkans/02_ 1_matthiopoulos.pdf
  • Evgenios D. Matthiopoulos, “Η ‘γενιά του ’30’ στην ιστοριογραφία της νεοελληνικής τέχνης: η προβληματική χρήση ενός αδιευκρίνιστου όρου και η κατασκευή μιαςανύπαρκτης ‘γενιάς’ καλλιτεχνών [The ‘generation of the ’30s’ in the historiography of modern Greek art: the problematic use of an unclear term and the construction of a non-existent ‘generation’ of artists]”, in Ζητήματα ιστορίας, μεθοδολογίας, ιστοριογραφίας [Issues of history, methodology, historiography], conference proceedings (Athens, Benaki Museum, January 15 - 17, 2012) (forthcoming). http://www.blod.gr/lectures/Pages/viewlecture.aspx?LectureID=2535
  • Lefteris Spyrou, “The art-criticisms of the director of the National Gallery Z. Papantoniou in the period 1896 – 1918”, in Aris Sarafianos and Panagiotis K. Ioannou (eds.), Ερευνητικά ζητήματα στην ιστορία της τέχνης: Από τον ύστερο μεσαίωνα μέχρι τις μέρες μας [Research issues in the history of art: From the late Middle Ages to the present day], conference proceedings (Athens, School of Fine Arts, November 30 - December 2, 2012), Athens: Asini, 2016, 463-478.
  • Lefteris Spyrou, “‘We can become perfect Europeans and at the same time remain excellent Greeks’. Identity formation and the display of National Gallery’s permanent collection in Athens during the 1950s”, proceedings of The 34th Congress of Art History, Beijing 2016: Terms. Session 6: Politics of Identity: Tradition and Origin (Beijing, Peking University, September 15 - 20, 2016) (forthcoming).
  • Evgenios D. Matthiopoulos, “Ζντάνωφ ή Πικάσσο; Το δίλημμα της μαρξιστικής αισθητικής και κριτικής της τέχνης στην Αθήνα μετά την Απελευθέρωση [Zhdanov or Picasso: The dilemma of Marxist aesthetics and art criticism in Athens after the Liberation]”, Ιστορικά [Historica] 62 (June 2015), 135-160.
  • Lefteris Spyrou, “Ο Ζαχαρίας Παπαντωνίου και η εκκλησιαστική τέχνη της Ζακύνθου [The director of the National Gallery in Athens Z. Papantoniou and the ecclesiastical painting on the island of Zakynthos]”, in Thedossis Pylarinos and Panagiota Tzivara (eds.), X International Panionian Conference. The Proceedings, vol. 2, conference proceedings (Corfu, Arpil 30 - May 5, 2014), Corfu, 2016, 723-734.
  • Lefteris Spyrou, “Οι σπουδές του Γιώργου Πετρή στην École Pratique des Hautes Études την περίοδο 1967 – 1973 και η συμβολή τους στη μετεξέλιξη του από τεχνοκρίτη σειστορικό τέχνης [The studies of Giorgos Petris at École Pratique des Hautes Études in 1967 – 1973 and their contribution to his transformation from an art-critic to art-historian]”, One-Day Scientific Conference on Greek art critics and art historians in Paris, 1945 – 1975, Athens, Benaki Museum, October 10, 2015 http://www.blod.gr/lectures/Pages/viewlecture.aspx?LectureID=1628
  • Giorgos Petris, Επιθεώρηση Τέχνης. Τεχνοκριτικά κείμενα 1953 – 1986 [The Art Review Periodical. Selected Essays on Art Criticism 1953 – 1986], edited - introduction by Evgenios D. Matthiopoulos, Athens – Heraklion: AICA-Hellas – University of Crete Press 2008.
  • Evgenios D. Matthiopoulos, “Η θεωρία της ‘ελληνικότητας’ του Μαρίνου Καλλιγά [Τhe ‘greekness’ theory of Marinos Kalligas]”, Ιστορικά [Historica], 49 (December 2008), 331-356.
  • Evgenios D. Matthiopoulos, “Η διαμάχη για την ‘καθαρή τέχνη’ [The Dispute Over ‘Pure Art’]”, in Natasha Karagelou (ed.), Στέρης. Έργα από τη συλλογή Κουτουλάκη [Steris. Works from the Koutoulakis Collection], exhibition catalogue (Athens, Benaki Museum, May 23 - July 27, 2008), Athens: Benaki Museum, 2008, 65-108.
  • Evgenios D. Matthiopoulos, “Η πρόσληψη της αφηρημένης τέχνης στην Ελλάδα (1945 – 1960), στο πεδίο της κριτικής της τέχνης [The reception of abstract art in Greece (1945 – 1960) in the field of art criticism», in Nikos Daskalothanasis (ed.), Προσεγγίσεις της καλλιτεχνικής δημιουργίας από την Αναγέννηση έως τις μέρες μας [Approaches to artistic creation from the Renaissance to the present day], conference proceedings (Athens, School of Fine Arts, November 25 - 27, 2005), Athens: Nefeli, 2008, 67-108.
  • Evgenios D. Matthiopoulos, “La réception de l'expressionnisme en Grèce, dans les trois premières décennies du ΧΧe siècle”, in Isabelle Krzywkowski and Cécile Millot (eds.), Expressionnisme(s) et avant-gardes, Paris: L'Improviste, 2007, 149-162.
  • Evgenios D. Matthiopoulos, “Ο Λαβύρινθος της σύγχρονης τέχνης και η Βαβέλ της τεχνοκριτικής στην Ελλάδα [The Labyrinth of modern art and the Babel of art criticism in Greece]”, in Χρήσεις της Γλώσσας [Uses of Language], conference proceedings (Athens, December 3 - 5, 2006) Athens: Society of Neohellenic Civilization Studies and General Education, 2006, 63-110.
  • Evgenios D. Matthiopoulos, “Ιδεολογία και τεχνοκριτική τα χρόνια 1949 – 1967: Ελληνοκεντρισμός, σοσιαλιστικός ρεαλισμός, μοντερνισμός [Ideology and art criticism in the years 1949 – 1967: greekness, socialist realism, modernism]”, in Twenty Explosive Years: 1949 – 1967, conference proceedings (Athens, November 10 - 12, 2000), Athens: Society of Neohellenic Civilization Studies and General Education, 2002, 363-400.

Project Team

Eugenios D. Matthiopoulos

Professor - History of Art
Department of History and Archaeology, University of Crete
Curriculum vitae

Marianna Karali

PhD candidate
Department of History and Archaeology, University of Crete

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