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An old-school adventurer and lover of Greece May 4, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Exhibitions Greece, Arts Museums.
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Czech-born artist is presenting a collection of paintings at the Benaki Museum until May 20 

Philhellenism doubtlessly has changed drastically since the 19th century. From the romantic travelers who arrived under harsh conditions to see the glorious nature and ancient ruins up close, the country now welcomes thousands of tourists going through Athenian monuments in a single morning.

Nicholas Egon, who is currently presenting a collection of paintings at the Benaki Museum in Athens, is a lover of Greece in the old, traditional way. Born to Czech and Hungarian aristocrats in Czechoslovakia in 1921, he belongs to those who embraced Greece with real emotion. Since his first visit to Greece in the 1940s, Egon has done plenty for the country. Perhaps his greatest accomplishment is the development of the Runciman Lectures, which award prominent scientists in honor of the celebrated Byzantinologist. In short, his strong feelings for Greece went far beyond his paintings, turning into substantial support of Greek culture abroad.

Egon has led a sensational life. This might not come across when viewing his watercolors that depict sunsets, broken capitals, trees, wildflowers and some of his early portraits. In contrast with his tumultuous life, the artist’s Greek landscapes appear serene, uninfluenced by destructive human intervention.

The Czech aristocrat, who studied Greek mythology at an early age, left home at the age of 16 in order to live dangerously. In the beginning, he took odd jobs in the South of France before going on to London where he designed film posters for a living. He became the official war artist of the Czechoslovak army in 1940 and joined the British Royal Air Force in Basra in 1944.

In 1949, Egon came to Greece to execute a series of paintings, aiming to draw attention to the hardships of the country following World War II and the civil war. He met the Royal family, painted portraits of its members and followed the battles of Vitsi and Grammos as a special observer. When the artist returned to Britain, he sold the works with the proceeds going in aid of Greek refugees.

At the Benaki Museum, the watercolors reflect his passion for Greece, its nature and history. Married to the Chios-born Matti Xyla, Egon continues his passionate relationship with Greece through reading and painting.

“Nicholas Egon in Greece,” at the Benaki Museum, 1 Koumbari Street, Kolonaki, Athens, tel 210 3671000. The exhibition runs to May 20.

Related Links > http://www.benaki.gr/index-en.htm

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