Painter (1832 – 1904)
One of the greatest Greek painters in modern history and the main representative of the School of Munich. Nicephorus Lytras was born in Tynos as the son of a sculptor. At the age of 18 he went to study art in Athens under the supervision of Ludwig Thiersch, who acknowledged young Lytras’ talent and took him as an assistant hagiographer in the church of St. Nicodemus of Russia.
During the following years, Lytras earned a scholarship to study art in the University of Munich. There he met the influential Karl von Piloty and his compatriot painter Nikolaos Gyzis. His primary influences were Greek history and mythology. His works Execution of Patriarch Gregory V of Constantinople, The Blowing up of Nasuh Ali Pasha’s Flagship by Kanaris, Antigone in front of dead Polynikes, Medea and Penelope provide a prime example of his authentic personality which remained intact all those years throughout his life. In fact, Piloty’s admiration for Lytras’ paintings was so great that he called Lytras a direct descendent of Apelles. Upon returning to Greece he joined the faculty of Fine Arts in the University of Athens, which he served for 38 consecutive years. Almost all of the Greek painters of the first decades of the 20th century were students of Lytras.
Aside from historical and mythological themes, Lytras’ most prominent theme in his paintings is the simplicity and beauty of modern every-day life. The painter depicted the little things that surrounded people’s every-day lives mixed with the Greek element. These small events are what form the human existence and which Lytras immortalized with profound depth and uniqueness. The figures appear silent but full of expression and feelings painted in their faces. Such paintings include The Kiss, Return from the Bazar, The Greek Sale, A Moment of Rest, The Milkman, The Egg of Easter, The Waiting, Carols, The Naughty Grandchild, the Cookery, Motherhood and Gril by the River. Notable portraits painted by Lytras are King Otto, Queen Amalia, Chris the Nigger, Th. Deliyannis, Kalligas, George Stavrou, Serpieres, Rizaris, Michael Bodas and himself. Many of his paintings were highly acclaimed and awarded with the highest honours.
As a painter, Nicephorus Lytras cannot be strictly categorized under one movement nor can his students. His art is of no need for long pseudophilosophic wordiness or intricate explanations. As Plato said: “Art is the mirror of the soul”, and for this reason, Lytras’ paintings speak to one’s soul, filling them with happiness.
- “Lytras, Nikiforos”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens, 1946. Print.
- ΝΙΚΗΦΟΡΟΣ ΛΥΤΡΑΣ. Texni-zoi.blogspot.gr. Web. September 2, 2016.
- Νικηφόρος Λύτρας: Ο «γενάρχης» της νεοελληνικής ζωγραφικής. Tvxs.gr. Web. September 2, 2016.