A remarkable exhibition focusing on Philhellenism in Art is currently running at the B. & M. Theocharakis Foundation, in Athens. Philhellenism (the love of Greek culture) was an intellectual fashion prominent at the turn of the 19th century. The exhibition presents paintings and objects d’art from the collection of Michalis and Dimitra Varkaraki.

 “the one way for us to become great, perhaps inimitable, is by imitating the ancients”

When struggling Greeks decided to throw off the Turkish yoke in 1821, European sympathy peaked. Hundreds of intellectuals and everyday people rushed to help with their pen, their swords, and their financial assistance. Artistic creation in all its forms was one of the most significant manifestation of sympathy to the Greek people: poetry, drama, music and especially painting, as well as other visual arts.

Philhellenism as a concept first developed in the West during the Renaissance. However, during the years of the Enlightenment it became evident how helpful it was to the Greek spirit in the formation of new political ideas. This new movement was founded by Johann Joachim Winckelann  (1771-1768), who identified aesthetic ideas and ethical norms in Greek art. His motto was : “the one way for us to become great, perhaps inimitable, is by imitating the ancients.”

9

3

Europeans pinpointed the culture of ancient Greece as the foundation of all Western culture and idealized the way of life of the “ancients” making it their ethical compass. This newly found interest promoted sympathy about Greece and its people during the tough years of the Turkish occupation.

European painters of the 19th century presented this expression through their works using decorative and everyday objects (dishes, clocks, statues, perfume bottles, cartridges, candlesticks, crockery etc). With a variety of themes and colors they managed to portray traditional Greek landscapes and people. Maintaining a dramatic tone, they underscored the theme of the struggle for freedom.

11

This exhibition of masterpieces, collected by Michalis and Dimitra Varkaraki, will be an unforgettable experience for all visitors. Being able to admire first- hand the works of some of the most renowned artists of the Philhellenic movement will certainly be awe-inspiring.

Exhibition curators: Fani – Maria Tsigkakou,
Duration: 24 February 2015 – 3 May 2015
Opening hours: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday: 10:00-18:00, Thursday: 10:00-20:00
B& M. Theocharakis Foundation of the Fine Arts and Music
Vassilisis Sofias 9 & Merlin 1, 106 71 Athens
Links: http://www.thf.gr/
http://ieg-ego.eu/en/threads/models-and-stereotypes/graecomania-and-philhellenism