Charmed lives in Greece: Ghika, Craxton, Leigh Fermor at the British Museum

Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika (1906–1994), Study for a poster. Tempera on cardboard, 1948. Benaki Museum – Ghika Gallery, Athens. © Benaki Museum 2018.

The British Musem has at last started to publicise this exhibition which focuses on the friendship of the artists Niko Ghika and John Craxton, and the writer Patrick Leigh Fermor. Their shared love of Greece was fundamental to their work, as they embraced its sights, sounds, colours and people.

Where? The British Museum, Room 5

When? 8 March – 15 July 2018

How Much? It is free!

Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika (1906–1994), John Craxton (1922–2009) and Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915–2011) were significant cultural figures of the 20th century. Leigh Fermor is perhaps the most widely known of the three – largely through his travel writings – and Ghika and Craxton are now recognised as two of the most remarkable artists of this period. The three first met at the end of the Second World War, becoming lifelong friends and spending much of their subsequent lives in Greece. The time they spent together and their close bonds would shape each other’s work for the rest of their lives.

The exhibition brings together their artworks, photographs, letters and personal possessions in the UK for the first time. Highlights include Ghika’s extraordinary painting Mystras and Craxton’s exuberant Still Life with Three Sailors. Also featured is Craxton’s original artwork for the book covers of Leigh Fermor’s travel classics A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water. Many artworks and objects on display are on loan from the Benaki Museum, to which Ghika donated his house and works, from the Craxton Estate, and from institutions and private collections in the UK and Greece.

The exhibition focuses on four key places – Hydra, Kardamyli, Crete and Corfu – where they lived and spent time together. Hydra is an island where Ghika’s family home became a gathering place for the three friends, and Leigh Fermor built a house with his wife Joan at Kardamyli. Craxton restored a house at Chania on Crete, and Corfu is where Ghika and his second wife Barbara transformed an old building into an idyllic home and garden.

Together, these places chart the story of this remarkable friendship, and how the people and landscapes of Greece were a great influence on their enduring works.

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2 thoughts on “Charmed lives in Greece: Ghika, Craxton, Leigh Fermor at the British Museum

  1. David Platzer

    I was hoping to review it for The British Art Journal, Unfortunately, the BM’s ‘Communications’ department sent me a catalogue in PDF which is too difficult to work on, rather than on paper. The BAJ’s editor tried to get in touch with the BM about it but got no answer. ‘The British Museum had lost its charm’, to quote the Gershwins.

    Reply
  2. MRS MARY E BEVAN

    Exhibition.
    I went to this exhibition this week, and was impressed by the volume of original artwork, and books and dedications by PLF.
    What was missing for me was any representation of the life and work of Joan, Paddy’s wife. As I understand she was a professional photographer and that there must be a collection of her work somewhere, I feel that to have included some of this within the Exhibition would have rounded it out better.
    I would recommend the exhibition to anyone interested in art in general, and also to take the time to look and listen to the video which gives background and includes the voices of those represented. It goes without saying that anyone following the Fermors will not want to miss the full content, especially PLF speaking in Greek.

    Reply

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