Theophilos Hatzimichael

Theophilos HatzimichaelTheophilos is considered one of the most representative Greek popular artists. Through his passion for painting but also his general lifestyle, he expresses his great love and admiration that had for his country and for anything Hellenic. Born in Lesvos somewhere near 1970*, has decided in his youth to visit Smyrne, an important commercial center of the Middle East, in order to seek better fortune. There he practices his art professionally but despite the big number of commissions, he was struggling financially and the poor conditions hardly improve at all.

After almost four years he leaves Smyrne to go to Volos. For the years that came, he wondered in the villages that surrounded Pelion painting constantly and creating his personal pictorial codes. Sometime near 1926-27, distressed by the misbehaviour of his co fellows and his health shaken by the hardships, he returns permanently to his home land. There, having as basis the town of Mytilene, he wondered in the surrounding villages continuing to create.

Θεόφιλος ΧατζημιχαήλNear 1928 he meets Tériade, who overwhelmed by his paintings, was determined to give relief to Theophilos tormented life. He purchased some of him pictures, while he commissioned him a great number of paintings, without a time limit, aiming to their exhibition in Paris. The friendly attitude of Tériade and his father Takis Eleftheriadis towards Theophilos, as well as their financial support, gave him the convenience to create more than a hundred and twenty paintings within almost six years. These paintings were exhibited in France, in 1936, sparking the public’s admiration and recognition. Unfortunately, Theophilos did not live to see this triumph, he had already been found dead in March of 1934, in his house in Mytilene. The death certificate recorded “Heart Disease” as cause of death, but for others the most probable cause of death is food poisoning.

Tériade was one of the first to realize the value and importance of the art of Theophilos that established him as one of our most important Greek popular artists. He chose the best thirty seven pictures of those he had commissioned him in order to display them at the exhibitions he organized all over Europe. In 1979, he donated them to the Museum that bears his name, so that they remain in the artist’s homeland. The pictures of Theophilos depict a great variation of Hellenic subjects that we can divide in two major categories: those which portray nature and men, and those that through the very personal aspect of the artist portray Greek mythology, history and religion.

Θεόφιλος ΧατζημιχαήλTheophilos had the power to transform even the most humble surfaces, such as cartons, boards of wood, tin cans, cotton clothes, walls of houses and stores into works of art. Through his colours that are full of Greek light and express a purely Hellenic atmosphere and landscape, he conveys the full of bravery and freshness interior world of his. The shades and the way they are combined, sometimes brilliantly, vividly and dramatically and sometimes calmly, softly and poetically, but always harmonically connected one to another, alter his icons into a real world. By looking at his paintings, the viewer not only sees the premeditated shapes, colours and representations but takes active part in them.

* The dates mentioned in the biographical data of Theophilos, have many times become a subject of discussion and questioning, by many researchers. Wars, social reclassifications and popular immigration during the agitated times that Theophanous lived, does not allow precision in dates.