Greece Arts and Music


The Middle Ages

In the overall picture of Byzantine art, the center of fundamental importance was Thessaloniki, with continuity of works and a constant level of quality up to the 15th century. In the 4th-6th century. the type of the Hellenistic basilica was used (Eski Gium’ae S. Demetrio in Thessaloniki; basilicas in Athens, Nicopolis, Lesbos etc.). The church of the Dormition of the Virgin in Skripù in Boeotia (874) is an example of the transition from the basilica to the cruciform plan with a dome; this type, with a cross inscribed in a rectangle, spread in the 11th-12th century; frequent the octagonal constructions, of oriental influence (Sotèra Lykodìmu in Athens, mid 11th century; S. Luca in Phocis, 10th century; S. Teodoro in Mistrà, 15th century). To Mount Àthos the trichoric type appears, frequent in 15th-17th century convent churches. At the time of the Paleologians, the old schemes were reworked. In the 14th century. A new type of two-storey building appears in Mistrà, the ground with a basilica plan, the upper floor with cruciform galleries.

The Frankish conquest led to the creation of new artistic centers (Mistrà and Mùcli in the Peloponnese, Arta in Epirus), with relative independence from Byzantium. While the painting remains predominantly Byzantine, in architecture there were notable manifestations of Gothic art, especially in the islands, especially in churches and castles. Few examples of civil architecture (palaces of the despots in Mistrà, 13th-14th century). Noteworthy are the Venetian walls in Acrocorinth, Nauplia, Candia, Zante etc.

Sculpture, since the early Christian era, was closely connected to architecture; between 10th and 12th sec. it was enriched with Islamic motifs (reliefs of S. Luca in Phocis, of Dafni etc.). For painting, the mosaics of the 4th-5th century. (S. Giorgio and Eski Gium’aa Salonicco) preserve the Hellenistic tradition; local accents are found in the Byzantine mosaics of St. Demetrius in Salonicco (from the 5th century); the oldest mosaics in Cyprus belong to a different current. In the 11th century. the mosaics of Dafni represent an aristocratic school; those of Hòsios Lukàs a monastic art influenced by the East. Another important document of Byzantine painting are the miniatures, many (from the 9th century onwards) in the libraries of Athens and Mount Àthos. In the 14th century. the Cretan school is linked to the Constantinopolitan tradition, while the Macedonian school, widespread in Serbian churches, differs. After the fall of Byzantium, the Cretan school flourished in the monasteries of Àthos, Meteore and Kesariàni, until the 18th century. (Faneromèni monastery in Salamis). At the 17th and 18th century the majority of the icons preserved in Greece date back, but there are much older ones. Greek artists also worked outside the homeland and their icons were widespread in the Balkans and in Venice itself: we remember M. Damaskinòs, Greece Klòntzas, E. Lambàrdos, Greece Zanès known as Bunialìs, E. Tzanfurnàros.

Modern art

The Muslim influence is significant in the 17th and 18th centuries, while in the Ionian Islands the Venetian one is noted. Many houses take on a Turkish character, while the Byzantine tradition is preserved, albeit to a lesser extent, until the 19th century. The mosques of Athens, Chalcis, Crete etc. are purely Muslim. In the northern Greece there was a notable development of bourgeois architecture in the 18th century, with monumental facades and rich interiors. On the islands, the Venetian-type houses were replaced by cubic houses with a terrace roof in popular architecture.

After the conquest of independence, the National Academy of Fine Arts was founded in Athens in 1837. The artists are inspired by Italian art, but also by Germany (the Hansen come from Bavaria). Alongside academic tendencies, inspired by mythology, from around 1930 a neo-romantic movement refers to the Byzantine tradition (P. Kondòglus). Alongside painters of the ‘Greek’, such as N. Gìkas, I. Tsaràchis, various artists participate in international movements: C. Malèas, C. Parthènis, S. Papalukàs, post-impressionists; the expressionist Greece Buziànis; the surrealist N. Engonòpulos. The role of the Harmòs (1949) and Stathmi (1950) groups is relevant. Notable in the non-figurative field are the painters A. Kondòpulos, Greece Spyròpulos and the sculptors Greece Zongolòpulos, A. Apèrghis.

Among the innovators of the 1960s, the painter M. Kòntos with ‘micrographies’ and portable works and the sculptor V. Skylàkos with the first assemblages. Exponents of conceptual art are the sculptors Theòdoros (T. Papadimìtriu) and D. Alithinòs; of minimalism, Greece Butèas; of the kinetic art GP Xagoràris. Using the performance M. Tzobanàkis, L. Papakonstantìnu and the couple Zubùlis-Grècu; the video art A. Skùrtis, L. Lykoùdi and M. Strapatsàki; the researches of K. Varòtsos and N. Baìkas are inserted in postmodern language; N. Charalàmbidis, P. Hàndris, L. Maràvas and N. Tranòs elaborate installations. Active abroad, in particular Chrỳssa, Tàkis, M. Prassìno, J. Kounèllis.

Since the 1970s the artistic life in Greece has been open to an atmosphere of international exchange; from the 1980s avant-garde artists who emigrated abroad, such as V. Caniàris, Nìkos and others, returned to their homeland; Kounèllis’ installations exhibited in 1994 aboard the Ionion ship, anchored in Piraeus, constitute an artistic event of great resonance. The use of new technologies is important (A. Psychùlis, C. Tsòclis, C. Varòtsos, N. Navrìdis, E. Tsantìla). The renewed figurative interest, already represented by artists such as P. Tètsis, D. Mytaràs, A. Fassianòs, is proposed in a recomposition between conceptual tradition and attention to materials and manual skills, as well as in sculpture and installation (J. Butèas, I. Làppas, N. Tziòtis, A. Michailìdis), where artists such as Greece Zongolòpulos and Tàkis also maintained a reference role.

In architecture, after the strong traditionalism of D. Pikiònis, A. Kostantinìdis and T. Valèntis join the rationalist movement; since the 1970s N. Valsamàkis has been committed to the recovery of classicism, I. Rìzos is attentive to the post-modern, I. Vikèlas is an interpreter of international trends; in addition to Greece Candìlis who works abroad, there are also A. Doxiàdis, D. and S. Antonakàkis, T. and D. Bìris, M. Souvatzìdis. From the end of the 20th century. renewal is importantproduced by international exchanges; the influence exerted by E. Zèngelis, founder with R. Koolhaas of the Dutch studio OMA, is significant. Among the young architects are: C. Diaconìdis, N. Charìtos, T. Papaioànnu, A. Kùrkulas, M. Kokkìnu, D. Isaìas, A. Spanomarìdis, D. Tsakalàkis, I. Zacharidìs, N. Ktenàs, A. Zamfìkos, K. Tsigarìda, P. Nicolakòpulos.


In ancient Greece music had great importance. The same term music, which indicated the union between music, poetry and dance, derives from the Greek word musikè, that is ‘art of the Muses’, the mythical protectors of the arts. The fusion of music, gesture and word gave birth to the theatrical-musical genres of tragedy and comedy. Oral transmission caused the loss of the Greek musical heritage and only a few fragments with musical notation have survived: a fragment of Euripides’ Orestes (pages from the 1st century BC), two Delphic hymns (2nd century BC)), a scolium from an epitaph of Tralle (1st century AD), three hymns of Mesomedes (1st century AD), plus some short fragments from various eras. In addition to lyric music with the accompaniment of aulòs, a sort of reed flute, simple or double, of kìthara and lyre, there was also instrumental music: auletic (for aulòi and winds in general) and citaristic (for kìthara, lira and similar).

The theory and musical acoustics, separated from practice, were the object of reflection by mathematicians and philosophers, such as Pythagoras, who lived between the 6th and 5th centuries BC. C., and the school of these. They believed that the physical and acoustic study of music – which mirrored the order and harmony of the cosmos – brought us closer to understanding the Universe. Music, of divine origin, was recognized as having a fundamental educational function: Plato and Aristotle argued that different types of music could change the character of young people.

After the fall of Constantinople and its passage under the Turkish dominion, cultured Greek music experienced a period of decline, mitigated by a fervent activity in the field of popular music. A national school took shape at the beginning of the 20th century, with the first theatrical works of M. Kalomìris, who was also one of the founders of a concert company in Athens. In 1931 the Union of Greek composers was formed in Athens, with the aim of spreading the music at home and abroad and in 1939 the National Opera Theater was inaugurated.

Greece music