Tag Archives: Athens

Persian princes and twelve cadillacs

Paddy sent this letter to Deborah Devonshire in October 1960, having completed a road trip through the Balkans. Read more of their letters in Dashing for the Post: The Letters of Patrick Leigh Fermor

Darling Debo,

Off we set in Joan’s Sunbeam Rapier, hood down, singing at the wheel, heading from Le Touquet to our old friend Lady Smart’s, spent three days there, then into a deserted dusty summer Paris, so bare that it might have been emptied by a Bedouin raid, and south to Fontainebleau, for a further three days of utmost luxury and pleasure at your old pal Charles de Noailles and Natalie’s house … Then off hot wheel eastwards to Chatillon-sur-Marne, to see the Vix Vase, a huge Greco-Etruscan amphora dug up seven years ago …

Then across the Rhine, through the Black Forest, one night on the shores of Lake Constance surrounded by Germans; south into the Austrian Tyrol, on into Italy at Bolzano, then clean through the Dolomites, hundreds of miles of sheer and dizzy spikes a-gush with streams out of which beautiful trout virtually leap straight on to frying pan, grill and saucepan; north of Venice into Yugoslavia at last; through Slovenia to Lubliana, through Croatia to Zagreb, then east along a billiard table autostrada towards Belgrade. Now, a travel tip for motoring in Yugoslavia: there are only about three petrol pumps the country, and scarcely any motors. We ran out hundreds of miles from one on this autostrada in the heat of the day and settled for hours under an acacia tree … until at last a caravan of twelve Cadillacs drew up and succoured us by siphoning petrol out of their tanks. They were a party of Persian princes with their sloe-eyed princesses on the way from Claridge’s to Teheran. They partook freely of our wine flask, asked us to stay in their palaces (the competition began to look ugly) and then slipped into gear for Iran.

We continued south into wildest Bosnia, where mountains began to rise and minarets to sprout in every village, each alive with Moslem invocations intoned thrice daily. The roads became dust tracks across plains or twisty ledges of rubble little wider than eyebrows along the rims of deep gorges at the bottom of which huge rivers curled and swooped through echoing and forested ravines, with here and there an old Turkish bridge spanning them as thinly and insubstantially as a rainbow. The food became odd and wonderful, stuffed with garlic and paprika and the sunlight and our breath got stronger with every mile. So on to Sarajevo, scene of the Archduke’s murder, and, through range after range of mountains to Dubrovnik on the Dalmatian coast, a terrific medieval walled city full of renaissance palaces and belfries and winding columns and cloisters, and oysters too—huge and wonderful ones. South of this is the old kingdom of Montenegro, now part of Yugoslavia, reached after a three-hour zigzag up a sheer and cloud-topped wall of mountain, looking down on to strange rock fjords caked with water lilies and with pyramid-shaped mountains that hover on mist like the ones in Japanese pictures, and plenty of gliding storks …

Into Greek Macedonia at last, and then by familiar roads to Athens … a colossal road is being built outside, with fifty pneumatic drills, giant steel claws for rubble, hydraulic pumps, steamrollers and blasphemy. One has to talk in bellows. I have now bought some pink wax ear plugs, which makes everything even eerier. I see massed drills a-shudder, rollers a-crunch, and ten tons of broken concrete crashing from suddenly gaping steel claws all only a few yards off, and all in dead silence; lorries hurtle by as soundlessly as minnows. Meanwhile, one’s heart sounds like a steam hammer, and one’s own steps like nail-clad footfalls in a cathedral.

Published in The Paris Review

The must-see art museums of Athens

23-hamish-bowles-guide-to-art-in-athens-greeceVogue’s Hamish Bowles visits the Must-See art museums of Athens.

This year I sandwiched a blissful break on a remote Greek island in between trips to Athens—a city that, although beleaguered by the country’s economic travails, remains a hotbed of creative activity and cultural excitement.

As ever, it is the pluperfect place in which to explore millennia of creative achievement. My first stop was the National Archaeological Museum of Athens and its embarrassment of treasures, along with the Acropolis Museum (with a surprising and stirring exhibition, “εmotions”). I also explored the fascinating Byzantine and Christian Museum for the first time—and found it to be still further testament to Greece’s many layerings of cultural influences.

Hidden away in the basement galleries, I might almost have missed the Techni Group exhibition, a tribute to the centenary of the group show of artists led by Nikolaos Lytras and his friends (among whom I particularly admired the work of Pavlos Mathiopoulos, Konstantinos Parthenis, and Lykourgos Kogevinas) that established modernism in Greece under the patronage of the visionary prime minister Eleftherios Venizelos. Thank goodness I managed to see it, because the work of the artists—evoking by turns the fashionable swagger portraits of Boldini and Sargent, the theatrical drama of Bakst, and the charm of the plein air painters of late-19th-century France—comes together as a powerful statement for a new national identity through art.

Onward to the Benaki Museum—one of my favorite museums not only in Athens but in the world. After my first visit a decade or so ago, I was so inspired by its beautifully displayed collections of vernacular Greek costumes (among many other treasures that span the millennia) that I raced to Paris to tell John Galliano about it. He sent a posse from his design team to research—and subsequently based one of his eponymous collections on the pieces (think: stiff wool dirndl skirts and rich embroideries). The museum has recently expanded its displays, so there are even more treasures to admire in its intimate rooms, and on this latest visit I was also lucky to catch the exhibition “Ghika, Craxton, Leigh Fermor: Charmed Lives in Greece,” which is centered around the friendship of the artists John Craxton and Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, whose spiky, highly colored works exemplify mid-century style, and the brilliant travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor, who met one another in the 1940s after the war and were drawn together not least by their love of Greece.

The show, elegantly curated by Evita Arapoglou, Sir Michael Llewellyn-Smith, Ian Collins, and Ioanna Moraiti (and in collaboration with the Leventis Gallery and the Craxton Estate), brings together not only their work but also images of the remarkable houses that they created: Nikos and Barbara Hadjikyriakos-Ghika’s Baroque colonial finca on Corfu and Neoclassical mansion on Hydra; the ineffably stylish stone house that Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor built above the craggy coastline of Kardamyli in their beloved Mani region of mainland Greece; and Craxton’s modest fisherman’s house on the Venetian harbor of Chania in Crete. Video—along with still images of these enduringly inspiring places and interviews with friends of the late artists—brought their worlds of fecund imagination brilliantly to life and created a moving tribute.

Thence to the truly astonishing Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, the inspiring new home to the Greek National Opera and the National Library of Greece. Difficult as it is to imagine without the photographic evidence, the original site was apparently grim—a flat expanse of wasteland and concrete latterly used as parking for several of the stadiums built for the 2004 Athens Olympics and hemmed in by motorways that blocked the view of the Bay of Phalerum and the sea beyond. With a flourish of his pen and a giant bound of his imagination, master architect Renzo Piano envisaged the plot as a verdantly planted hill rising in a gentle slope the length of the site, and at its 33-meter peak it now soars far above the choking Athenian traffic below and offers heart-stopping views not only of the Aegean waters but a panorama of the city itself, along with its famed hills and the Parthenon. Beneath the slope, Piano placed the National Library of Greece and a sprawling, soaring cultural complex of performance and concert, dance, and operatic rehearsal spaces to house the Greek National Opera. (The ensemble that Piano has planned is meant to evoke the cultural meeting place of an ancient Greek agora.) The heart of the opera house is the 1,400-seat Stavros Niarchos Hall. The theater’s cherrywood and its scarlet fabrics evoke a classic 19th-century theater, but its state-of-the-art acoustics and Platinum LEED rating, along with Susumu Shingu’s mobile (which rises before performances much like the Swarovski Sputnik chandeliers at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Opera), place it firmly in the 21st century.

Social spaces and terraces on the upper floors, meanwhile, provide breathtaking panoramic views of the sprawling city itself and of the newly created park, the work of landscape architect Deborah Nevins, whose spectacular plantings of Mediterranean cypress, olive, almond, and pomegranate trees and stalwart maquis vegetation—including the sage, laurel, and rosemary that give the Greek islands and mainland landscapes their unique fragrance—have created a throbbing green heart in the city. I cannot wait to see a performance here.

Read the full article and look at the lovely images here.

Herberts & Herbertinas

Steven Runciman at Cambridge in 1925, photographed by Cecil Beaton

Steven Runciman at Cambridge in 1925, photographed by Cecil Beaton

Following up on the book review about Steven Runciman that we published in September, I have found this really enjoyable and in-depth article about Runciman and the new biography. Worth some of your time. It starts brilliantly “I met Steven Runciman several times towards the end of his long life. On one occasion he told me, as he told many people, that as a young man he had danced with a friend of his mother who, in her own youth, had danced with Prince Albert. He seemed slightly disconcerted when I insisted that he dance a few steps with me so that I could say I had danced with a man who danced with a girl who danced with the Prince Consort, but he did it and our little turn round the room made me feel in some psychic way closer to the court of Queen Victoria.”

By Rosemary Hill

First published in the London Review of Books

Of course Paddy gets a small mention

Maurice Cardiff, the army officer who ran the council temporarily before Runciman arrived, recalls him vividly dealing with his improbable staff as they all gamely muddled through. ‘He had two kinds of yesses, one short, even clipped, was a true affirmative; the other, long drawn out with a dip in the middle, signified “no”. The distinction was lost on Paddy, who on the strength of the longest of drawn out “yesses” would set out on a six-week tour of the islands or a trip round the Peloponnese.’ No doubt Runciman was not displeased to have Leigh Fermor, always something of a loose cannon, out of the office for a while.

Outlandish Knight: The Byzantine Life of Steven Runciman

birdman-runciman

Birdman – a portrait of Steven Runciman by Cecil Beaton (1920’s)


A new book which may be of interest to some. Runciman and Paddy worked together at the British Council in Athens after the second world war.

By the time he died, in 2000 at the age of 97, Sir Steven Runciman knew that he was a “‘relict of a past age’”, the “embodiment of a…nearly mythical era.” Minoo Dinshaw’s brilliantly entertaining biography of the great historian of Byzantium restores him to public view and provides a vivid picture of many aspects of 20th-century Europe that now seem almost as remote as the crusades and religious schisms he described in his books.

First published in The Economist, 9 September 2016

Runciman was not aristocratic by birth—his grandfather, a shipping magnate, had established the family fortune—but he was immensely grand and well connected. His parents were the first married couple to sit together in the House of Commons. And his father, who was part of Lord Asquith’s cabinet before the first world war, survived the declining fortunes of the Liberal party to lead the doomed mission to Czechoslovakia in 1938. He could claim in 1991 to have known every 20th-century prime minister except Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, who died when he was a toddler, and Bonar Law, “‘whom nobody knew’”. Introduced by his governess to French, Latin and Greek by the age of seven, he won scholarships to Eton—in an era of clever men like George Orwell, Cyril Connolly and Anthony Powell—and to Cambridge, where he lived in the “scornfully beautiful Great Court” of Trinity College. Through his friend Dadie Rylands (they were named the Tea Party Cats “for their velvety urbanity”) he met Lytton Strachey, John Maynard Keynes and other members of the Bloomsbury group.

Despite frequent trips to London to socialise with the “bright young people” (and be photographed with his budgerigar by Cecil Beaton), Runciman won the first-class degree and prize fellowship that were to launch his academic career. Of the Cambridge spies recruited in the 1930s, Guy Burgess was a pupil and friend and Anthony Blunt a “supercilious” colleague. Employing political and diplomatic connections to the full, he travelled in style to Romania, Bulgaria and Asia. He established his reputation with histories of the emperor Romanus Lecapenus, the first Bulgarian empire and Byzantium. When he inherited wealth from his grandfather in 1938, he gave up his university fellowship.

Unfit for military service, Runciman spent the war in the Balkans and the Middle East: in Sofia as press attaché to the British Legation, Jerusalem, Cairo and Istanbul. There he narrowly escaped a bomb blast, spent three years as professor of Byzantine history and art, and became an honorary Dervish. Between 1945 and 1947 he led the British Council in Athens. Osbert Lancaster, a witty cartoonist, and Patrick Leigh Fermor, who would become a glamorous writer, were there. Greece was lurching towards civil war and Runciman gained an abiding love for the country, pleasure from upstaging the British ambassador and the position of Astrologer Royal.

On his return to Britain, Runciman split his time between London and the Hebrides, and wrote the books that were to make his name: the ground-breaking three-volume “History of the Crusades”; and a succession of works on Byzantine history that drew on a wide variety of sources, Muslim and Greek, most notably “The Sicilian Vespers” and “The Fall of Constantinople”. Francis Birrell, a Bloomsbury acquaintance, had greeted Runciman’s first book with the acknowledgment that fewer than “half a dozen people were really competent” to review it (and that he was not one of them). There were no such reservations about later volumes, which were lively, authoritative and well received.

Runciman was not to everyone’s taste. He loved to tease, possessed a “queenly persona”, snubbed people who failed to interest him and “had a tongue like a viper if he wanted to use it”. He was a gossip who adored royalty; he entertained the Queen Mother to lunch at the Athenaeum Club every year; four queens are said to have attended his 80th-birthday party.

Despite being able to compose an alphabet of lovers with every letter except Q (“I shall die Qless”), he was to claim that he had “never been in love”. He retained a wide circle of loyal friends and was a popular laird of the Isle of Eigg, not least because he would invite his musical friends to stay and perform at the village hall. (Yehudi Menuhin was “memorably described” by the ferryman as “a handy man for a ceilidh”). He gave his name and time to numerous public bodies and causes, at home and abroad. A final apotheosis, three months before he died, for his service as Grand Orator to the Patriarch of Constantinople, was a descent by helicopter on the Holy Mountain of Athos.

Mr Dinshaw’s choice of subject for his first book is an inspired one. He interweaves the strands of a long and variegated life with sympathy, elegance and awareness of the wider picture. In recognition of Runciman’s fascination with the supernatural, chapters are headed with quotations from Arthur Waite’s “The Key to the Tarot”. He refers frequently to novelists such as Evelyn Waugh and Olivia Manning, authors of trilogies about the war. And his turn of phrase is as arresting as Runciman’s own—one family friend is “unceremonious, crapulous”. Mr Dinshaw has done Runciman proud. To whom will he turn his attention next?

Buy Outlandish Knight: The Byzantine Life of Steven Runciman. Click the link.

Art of intellect and emotion: A Retrospective of Nikos Hadzikyriakos-Ghikas

Patrick Leigh Fermor by Nikos Ghika

A retrospective first published in Kathimerini 20 December 2006 about Paddy and Joan’s very good friend, the reknowned artist Nikos Ghikas.

By Alexandra Koroxenidis – Kathimerini English Edition

Retrospective exhibition on the work of Nikos Hadzikyriakos-Ghikas shows the unity in his work

If one was to name the one element that pervades the work of the distinguished Greek painter Nikos Hadzikyriakos-Ghikas (1906-1994) throughout its course, it would probably be light. Much has been written about the Cubist-inspired aspect of his work, yet the luminosity and the radiance of Mediterranean light is what will mostly strike the visitor to “Nikos Hadzikyriakos-Ghikas: The Apollonian – The Dionysian,” a large retrospective exhibition of the artist’s work which is curated by his friend art historian Dora Iliopoulou-Rogan and is being held at the Pireos annex of the Benaki Museum on the occasion of the centenary anniversary of the artist’s birth.

For an artist who perhaps more than anything else painted the Greek landscape – its essence and not its surface – this is perhaps to be expected. “Ghikas seeks light and the truth,” Henry Miller – one of the artist’s friends – wrote in his novel “The Colossus of Maroussi.” As an artist of the so-called “Thirties Generation,” Ghikas revealed the essence of “Greekness,” the archetypal notions that were believed to pervade the entire civilization of Greece. Harmony and light were two of them.

Light and its reflection are among the elements that, according to the exhibition’s curator, link the Apollonian and the Dionysiac aspects of the artist’s work, the tectonic, geometric paintings and the more expressionistic, free compositions of labyrinthine, swirling shapes.

“When they say that in my painting I have many different periods, I answer what Ingres said when he was told the same thing. ‘I have sir, many paintbrushes,’” Ghikas once said. Accordingly, instead of examining the work of Ghikas in terms of distinctive stylistic traits which lead from one to the next, Rogan examines the work of Ghikas as an undivided whole, as both Apollonian and Dionysiac, intellectual and emotional at the same time, as equally contained as it is extroverted.

This is a new approach to the work of Ghikas which the exhibition’s curator presents in a voluminous book (of the same title as the exhibition) published by Livanis. A well-designed publication (the book helps counterbalance the effect of a dense yet slightly disorderly exhibition), it is a thorough, fully illustrated book that includes earlier published texts on Ghikas’s work, essays by Kimon Friar, Henry Miller, Christian Zervos and Patrick Leigh Fermor among them. It also unfolds the work of Ghikas across different media: Painting is the focus, yet sculpture, photography and the artist’s work for theater and costume design help show what Rogan has called Huomo universalis, an artist whose work was too broad in scope to fit into a single category and an intellectual – he was also professor of freehand drawing at the National Technical University – who wrote about the art and culture of different civilizations.

Ghikas was as equally deft in line as he was in color. In the exhibition, an entire section presents just a fragment of the hundreds of drawings that Ghikas made. Among them a series of sensual nudes. There are also studies that Ghikas made for set and costume design and drawings that are the artist’s visual memoirs of his travels around the world.

Ghikas was one of the few truly cosmopolitan Greek artists, a man who not only traveled the world but who was part of an international artistic milieu from early on. The only son of Alexandros Hadzikyriakos, an officer in the Greek Royal Navy, he was educated in Paris (this included his final school years) where, at the age of 21, he had his first solo exhibition prefaced by the well-known critic Maurice Raynal. Ghikas’s involvement in the artistic and intellectual elite of Paris in the interwar period (he was friends with Henri Laurens, Fernard Leger, Georges Braque and Henri Matisse and became associated with Le Corbusier, Hans Arp and many others), helped to bring many intellectuals into contact with Greek art and culture. It was largely thanks to Ghikas that the 4th International Congress on Modern Architecture (CIAM IV) was held in Athens instead of Moscow in 1933.

In the mid-1930s Ghikas moved to Greece. Together with Dimitris Pikionis, Socratis Karantinos, Spyros Papaloukas and Stratis Doukas, he published the seminal review “To Trito Mati,” a journal on art and culture that resembled the French “Cahiers d’Art.”

During that period, Ghikas worked intensively in Hydra, the island of his family home (which was later destroyed in a fire), and became inspired by its landscape, light and architecture. In later years, Corfu, where Ghikas and his second wife Barbara Warner had a summer home, also inspired the artist.

None of those landscapes are identifiable. They are semi-abstract renditions that capture a mood and atmosphere, structure and light rather than any realistic description. In many paintings, the Greek landscape is combined with subjects taken from mythology.

Among Ghikas’s broad range of interests, poetry was one of the most pronounced. In the late 1930s, he began the illustration of Nikos Kazantzakis’s “Odyssey.” Twenty years later, in 1958, these illustrations were included in the US edition of “The Odyssey” which was translated by Ghikas’s friend Kimon Friar. Ghikas also illustrated C.P. Cavafy’s poems and Nikos Gatsos’s “Amorgos.”

The work of Ghikas is filled with the tranquility and harmony of the Mediterranean, the resonance of Greek art and history. Ghikas appreciated everything that was Greek but was also deeply curious and sensitive to other, non-Western cultures. He had the open-mindedness of a cosmopolitan, refined man and was one of the few Greek artists to have been recognized internationally.

In 1987, the same year that he was elected honorary member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, Ghikas donated his work and home on Kriezotou Street in Kolonaki to the Benaki Museum. Held as an expression of appreciation on the part of the Benaki to Ghikas, the retrospective exhibition is also a tribute to one of the most esteemed modern Greek artists.

“Nikos Hadzikyriakos-Ghikas: The Apollonian – The Dionysian,” at the Pireos annex of the Benaki Museum (138 Pireos & Andronikou, 210.345.3111) through January 15.

Nikos Hadzikyriakos-Ghikas Wikipedia page

Fermor Honoured by Gennadeion Trustees

Sir Patrick sings mantinades with Cretan musician

In 2004, Paddy was honoured for his life and work and links with Greece by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens. A report of the evening appeared in the summer 2004 edition of the Gennadius newsletter.

War hero and renowned writer Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor was honored in June at the Gennadeion Trustees’ Second Annual Awards Dinner. Knighted this past February, Sir Patrick published his latest book, Words of Mercury, earlier in the winter. Regarded by many as one of the finest writers of the twentieth century, in Greece Sir Patrick is famed as the war hero who parachuted into Nazi-occupied Crete in World War II, capturing its German commander. After the war, Sir Patrick eventually settled in Greece near Kardamyli, where he has lived ever since. His love for Greece has infused much of his writing.

The evening began with cocktails in the new lobby of Cotsen Hall, followed by tributes presented in Cotsen Hall itself in an unofficial baptism of the new facility. Among the speakers were former Prime Minister of Greece Tzannis Tzannetakis, Alan L. Boegehold, Dimitris Daskalopoulos, Haris Kalligas, and, in response, Sir Patrick himself. The award was presented by Edmund Keely, the 2003 winner. After the tributes, guests sat down to dinner in the terrace in front of Cotsen Hall, transfigured by tents, lights, and flowers. Halfway through the evening, a pair of Cretan musicians serenaded Sir Patrick and guests with mantinades.

Among the 150 guests were former Prime Minister George Rallis and Mrs. Rallis; Lady Madden, wife of the British Ambassador to Greece; Mrs. Kelly Bourdara, Vice-Mayor of Athens; Mr. and Mrs. George David; Mr. and Mrs. Nicholas Egon; Mr. Sture Linnear; Mrs. Theodoti-Artemis Mandilas; Mr. and Mrs. Dimitri Marinopoulos, Mr. Panagis Vourloumis, and both the Mayor and the former Mayor of Kalamata, where Sir Patrick is an honorary citizen.

Co-organizers for the evening were Mrs. Margaret Samourkas and Mrs. Lana Mandilas. Thanks to underwriting from The Samourkas Foundation, the evening raised $29,000 for the Library’s gardens.

A copy of the newsletter with more pictures can be found on the American School of Classical Studies at Athens website, or downloaded from the blog archive here.

Related article:

Artemis Cooper “Patrick Leigh Fermor in Greece.” – webcast online at the Gennadius May 2012

Patrick Leigh Fermor in Greece – a talk by Artemis Cooper

Paddy’s biographer and good friend, Artemis Cooper, will talk about his life in Greece at the Gannadius Library in Athens at 7.00 pm on 24 May 2012. 

Full details of the event can be found here.

Biographer Artemis Cooper, who is preparing a biography of Patrick Leigh Fermor, will trace his life, experiences, and legacy in Greece from his early travels to the end of his life, on 10 June 2011. She will talk about what drew Patrick Leigh Fermor to Greece in the first place; his ‘participation’ in the Venizelist rebellion of 1935; his early travels in Thrace and Macedonia, and first encounters with the Sarakatsani; his experiences in the war on the Albanian front and Crete, as well as the post-war explorations of Greece that produced Mani and Roumeli. She will also touch on the Cyprus years; his friendship with George Seferis, George Katsimbalis, and Nicos Hadjikyriacos Ghika; how he and his wife came to settle in Kardamyli, and built their house with the architect Nicos Hadjimichalis; how the Greek translation of Mani was undertaken by Tzannis Tzannatakis, while he was in exile in Kythera under the Junta of the Colonels. She will also reflect on his position in the village of Kardamyli and how he is seen in Greece today.

PS – I have been told that there will be a webcast available after the event. I will post the details when I have them.

New Benaki wing to change cultural landscape

The upcoming opening of a one-of-a-kind museum has been billed as unexpectedly good news, a ray of light with regard to local cultural affairs hard hit by the ongoing crisis. The sixth annex of the Benaki Museum and former residence of prominent modern Greek artist Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, is scheduled to open its doors to the public in early April. Located at 3 Kriezotou Street in Athens, close to Syntagma Square, it will showcase the Ghika Gallery as well as the Interwar and 1930s Museum. The building was donated to the Benaki Museum by the artist himself.

by Spyros Yannaras

First published in ekathimerini.com

The new Benaki wing, developed thanks to the persistent efforts of the museum’s director Angelos Delivorrias, offers a panorama of leading examples of modern Greek culture, beginning in the 1920s and continuing up to the 1970s.

The museum will be inaugurated on Monday, April 2, while the following day will be dedicated to the numerous donors who have contributed to its development with a guided tour of the premises.

Meanwhile, news of the opening has been greeted with relief, given that only recently the Benaki Museum had launched an appeal with local visual arts fans to contribute to its financing by suggesting a new program for sponsorships and attracting new members.

On the Kriezotou building’s top floor, visitors can take a look at Hadjikyriakos-Ghika’s fully restored atelier, complete with his library and brushes. The artist’s unaltered living quarters, including the living room, dining room and his office, are situated on the fourth floor, where his triptych piece, “Kifissia,” is also on display. Furniture and personal items have also been restored, creating the feeling of a lived-in space. The third floor is divided into two areas: The first section includes the artist’s art gallery and the last section of the Interwar Museum, which also takes up the first and second floors. The final touches on the second and third floor are set to take a work-in-progress form in the presence of the audience.

The ground floor, which is also divided into sections, is home to the Litsa Papaspirou Hall, a restored interwar residence showcasing 17th-and 18th-century furniture as well as works by various European artists.

The Ghika Gallery is expected to change the city’s cultural landscape.

Related articles:

Obituary Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas (Nikos Ghika)

British Philhellene author, Patrick Leigh Fermor, donates Kardamyli home to Benaki

Obituary Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas (Nikos Ghika)

From the left: Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas, John Craxton, Barbara Hutchinson-Ghika, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Lydia Aous, 1958

by John Craxton

First published in The Independent Wednesday, 7 September 1994

Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas (Nikos Ghika), artist: born Athens 26 February 1906; Hon RA 1986; married 1961 Barbara Warner (nee Hutchinson; died 1989); died Athens 3 September 1994.

It was in 1945 that Peter Watson, the owner and art editor of Horizon magazine, asked me to look at some photographs of paintings by a Greek artist which had just arrived through the post. I remember well our enthusiasm for their freshness, clarity and strength. Their subject was inspired by houses in Hydra, the geometry of which was full of Mediterranean light. The style was a revitalised Cubism. It was at once decided to reproduce the paintings in Horizon.

That autumn I met the painter himself – Nikos Ghika – on his first visit to London. I found an immediate rapport with him, talking to this seemingly most English of Greeks, elegantly dressed, serious, charming, approachable. Like so many of my fellow artists then I had a deep desire to go south to the Mediterranean. Greece was very much on my mind. To find a sympathetic artist who would welcome me in his native country gave me added impetus. I mention this first meeting with Ghika, for it is quite typical of how European painters are often cross-pollinated by chance encounters.

Next year, in May 1946, it was my good luck to find myself in Athens. There began a friendship with Ghika which lasted till his stoic death 48 years later.

Ghika was always aware of the importance of influences, both unexpected and those discovered by intent. These happen all the time in the arts, in music especially. In 1922 Ghika determined at the early age of 16 that he would go to Paris to continue his studies as a painter. He was already a mature student, raised in a cultivated European Athenian society, and was gifted with languages. A year later he was exhibiting in the Salon des Independants. His first one-man show was held in 1927 and presented by Maurice Raynal. These years were a wonderfully fertile period for a young painter. Ghika enjoyed a close friendship with most of the leading painters and poets of the time, especially Jean Arp and Jean Helion, with whom he had a joint exhibition in 1934. On this occasion, Ghika showed paintings and some stunning bas-reliefs which reveal how rapidly his artistry had developed.

Back in Athens later in 1934 he began to plan the publication of The Third Eye, a Greek-language monthly review of arts and letters, in which Ghika and his friends published the works of avant- garde painters and sculptors, such as Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, and of writers not previously translated into Greek, among whom were Matila Ghyka, Alfred Jarry (Ubu-Roi) and James Joyce (Ulysses). Ghika himself was represented by his essays on ‘Elements of a Language of Plastic Art’, ‘Introduction to Harmonic Tracings’, and ‘Introduction to the Law of Numbers in Art and Technique’. The seeds of the modern movement had reached Greece, but were broadcast on very rocky terrain.

Once returned to his homeland, Ghika discovered that his rejuvenated philosophy of Cubism already had deep roots in medieval Greek painting: reversed perspectives, dismissal of the horizon line, economical use of colour and colour used emotionally rather than descriptively. These aesthetics are to be found in Byzantine art, for example in the mosaic of the city of Nazareth; in the church of Karye Tzami in Constantinople. What was dismissed in the 19th century as primitive, was now accepted as an escape from the tyranny of photographic representation. Painters were now free to find joy in transformation instead of being restricted by imitation. This was the freedom that Ghika reintroduced to his native country.

From his earliest years Ghika was an outstanding example of what a serious artist must be in order to survive. He was born with a naturally searching mind, the essential equipment of a creative artist. Furthermore, he was intelligent, human, and knowledgeable, inquisitive, learned, and daring. He possessed, too, a towering dignity and an aristocratic presence. Fortunately, he could also be mockingly witty, satirical, and full of fun. How else could he have translated so sympathetically Edward Lear’s ‘Yonghy-Bonghy- Bo’ into Greek?

Night ceremony

Ghika was in his element designing for the ballet and the theatre. He was an architect of originality, an illustrator of books, a superb etcher. He created some of the most lovely and inventive sculpture, much of it inspired by ancient themes. He animated whatever materials came into his beautiful hands. Deep down he was a classicist at heart; form and content always in happy union. There is no mistaking his style; he made no paintings that lacked underlying form and all of them respected the scale and dimensions of his canvases.

Into his sometimes hidden geometries he poured his poetry of light and darkness, infusing colour into his forms with unmatched confidence, inventiveness, and authority. Always hand in hand with imagination, he let the spirit of poetry invade the labyrinthine city and moonlit walls. Here were landscapes radiant and full of joy as well as of enigma and mystery, so rare these days when so much art is paper- thin.

Ghika was a lesson to all young artists for he drew endlessly, helped by an astonishing visual memory. I have never seen a drawing by him that was not searchingly elegant or clearly structural and informative. A recent book of his caricatures is my constant delight. His last years, despite the gnawing loss of his wife Barbara whom he mourned privately, and his failing eyesight, were borne with true stoicism. Fortunately, an Indian summer of recognition in his own land was a solace to him. This final period saw the publication of many superbly produced books on him and by him, among them Ghika: Drawings, by Evita Arapoglou (1992), and Ghika, by Jean-Francois Bonhomme (1993).

It is to the credit of the English that the first retrospective exhibition of his painting was held at the British Council in Athens in 1946, that he had six one-man exhibitions in London from 1953 onwards, and a major retrospective at the Whitechapel in 1968. He was elected an Honorary Royal Academician in 1986.

Like all great artists, Nico Ghika was an inspirer. He would rebuke all who claimed painting to be easy. Those whose way of painting seems to declare ‘I can do that, too’, would do well to gaze on Ghika’s art and recognise his individuality.

Related article:

Paddy’s Illustrator – John Craxton Telegraph Obituary

British Philhellene author, Patrick Leigh Fermor, donates Kardamyli home to Benaki

Late author, Patrick Leigh Fermor, has chosen Benaki Museum to donate his home in Kardamily. The donation was made through Giannis Tzanetakis, while the author was still alive and his home became the property of Benaki Museum after the death of the great British Philhellene on June 10th 2011.

Last Saturday, in honor of Patrick Leigh Fermor, Benaki Museum held an event at the late author’s home in Kalamitsi, Kardamyli, gathering acquaintances and friends from Greece and the UK, among them, UK Ambassador, Dr. David Landsman, Director of the British Council, Richard Walker, the executors of his will and his biographer.

Patrick Leigh Fermor lived for many years in Mani, in his home that he personally built, based on Nikos Chatdjimichalis designs.

His relationship with Benaki Museum dated years back; he kept contact with Antonis Benakis and Irini Kalliga later, while he maintained close friendly relations with the Institute’s director, Angelos Delivorias. Several years ago, it was decided by the donor and the museum, that his home would be used for the purpose of hosting researchers, poets and writers, visiting Greece to work for a few months. At the same time, for specified time periods, Benaki Museum will have the option to rent the author’s home, to obtain funds for maintenance and hosting. In the coming months, once recording procedures for the library and archives are complete, and all necessary maintenance activities are performed, the Administrative Committee of Benaki Museum will be announcing how the building will operate.

Source: ANA – MPA

Independent Obituary – Maurice Cardiff

Maurice Cardiff worked in the SOE and headed-up the British Council in Athens after the War which is where he first met Paddy. It was the start of a life-long friendship. In 1997 he published   “Friends Abroad: Memories of Patrick Leigh-Fermor, Lawrence Durrell, Peggy Gugenheim, Freya Stark and Others” which is an first class read.

First published in The Independent May 20, 2006

by  Artemis Cooper

Maurice Cardiff combined long service with the British Council with a parallel career as a writer. As “John Lincoln” he was the author of books including One Man’s Mexico (1967 – modestly subtitled “A Record of Travels and Encounters”), which was described by Graham Greene as “the best book on Mexico this century”. Cardiff worked for the British Council from 1946 to 1973, during which time he was posted to Greece, Italy,Cyprus, Mexico, Belgium, Thailand and France. For a compulsive traveller, endowed with infinite curiosity and acute observation, it was the perfect job. As Cultural Attach to the British Council he enjoyed the advantages of both diplomatic and academic life, without the formal restrictions of either.The youngest son of an army officer, he had been brought up in Herefordshire and educated at Eton, then Worcester College, Oxford. He fell in love with a young actress called Leonora Freeman, and since his parents disapproved of the match they eloped to Gretna Green and were married in April 1939. He was 23. They spent their honeymoon in Greece, where he began to learn Greek. When war broke out, he joined his two elder brothers in the Scots Guards.

Cardiff’s knowledge of Greek brought him to the attention of SOE (the Special Operations Executive). He was attached to the Political Warfare Executive in Cairo in 1943, and he spent the last months of the Second World War working with the Communist resistance in the Aegean Islands.

When the Greek army retook control, Cardiff was told to report to Athens, where Colonel Kenneth Johnston wanted to see him. He had known Johnston while training in Cairo, but was not prepared for what followed. As Johnston emptied his desk, he briefed Cardiff on the aims and management of the British Council. At the end of an hour Johnston got into a car and drove away. Cardiff was left in sole charge of the British Council’s branch in Athens.

The “British Committee for Relations with Other Countries” had been established in 1934. Two years later it was renamed the British Council and in 1938 it set up its first overseas operations in Egypt and Portugal. Its purpose was asserted in its Royal Charter of 1940 as promoting a wider knowledge of Our United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the English language abroad and developing closer cultural relations between [the UK] and other countries for the purpose of benefiting the British Commonwealth of Nations.

Cardiff’s first task was to find a building to house the council’s activities, and make it ready for the staff who arrived a few months later. Among them was the young Patrick Leigh Fermor: still unknown as a writer, but idolised as a war hero throughout Greece. They remained friends for the rest of their lives, and Cardiff’s memories of Fermor appear in his last book, Friends Abroad (1997).

All his working life, Cardiff spent as little time as possible with the ex-pat community that orbited round embassies and country clubs, preferring to forge links among the writers and journalists, musicians, artists and teachers of whatever country he was in. He took great satisfaction in promoting young talent, and helping them organise courses of study, concerts or exhibitions in England. His favourite postings were the farthest-flung, those that gave him a degree of freedom. He was not so happy in Brussels or Paris, where the social round was relentless – in Brussels he even became a vegetarian for a while, to spare his overworked digestion.

It was also his job to welcome and entertain British artists passing through – though they weren’t always British. On one occasion, Cardiff discovered that Louis Armstrong was coming to Italy, and nothing had been laid on to welcome or celebrate his arrival. He immediately arranged a party of Italy’s finest musicians, all eager to meet the great man – who even sang a few songs towards the end of the evening.

When not in his office or entertaining Cardiff travelled as widely as he could, as often as possible. He never kept diaries as such, but into a succession of notebooks and poems he poured the full range of his interests, his curiosity and his observations. The notes became books. Heaven for Horses (1957) was a novel about post-war Italy’ he described his wartime experience in the Aegean in Achilles and the Tortoise(1958).

All the books he wrote in the course of his professional career were published under the pseudonym of John Lincoln. Only the later Friends Abroad, subtitled “Memories of Lawrence Durrell, Freya Stark, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Peggy Guggenheim and others”, appeared under his own name. There he recalls how the art collector Peggy Guggenheim – although fabulously rich – appreciated the scrupulous equality that he brought to their friendship. Cardiff insisted on paying his way, and often had her to stay (though he did have qualms about her sharing their bathroom in Cyprus with his three small boys).

Perhaps his most successful portrait is of Lawrence Durrell. He was a genial man, and excellent company’ but Cardiff saw a destructive streak in the way he treated his wife Eve’ over time it alienated Durrell from most of his friends and family, and eventually destroyed him.

In retirement, Cardiff and his wife settled in Oxfordshire. They continued to travel, but not to their old posts – they preferred new ground, which included Tibet, India and Ceylon. Cardiff had had a keen interest in Buddhism since his friend Osbert Moore rejected the world and retired to a Buddhist monastery -a strange, uneasy story that makes up the last chapter of Friends Abroad. Leonora died in 1997, and, six years later, Cardiff had to suffer the death from leukaemia of his middle son, David, a media historian, who shared his father’s love of poetry. In Maurice Cardiff’s last months he moved to London, to Highgate, where, despite increasing illness, he remained independent and self-reliant till the end.

Why is the favourite search “patrick leigh fermor obituary”?

Just a quick comment. The blog has some useful tools to measure site hits and the search engine terms that visitors use to find their way to the blog. Of all the many terms used, the top one by a mile is “patrick leigh fermor obituary”!

What does this signify? Do people not know that Paddy is alive and well and was recently seen at the British Embassy in Athens around 21 April at an event to remember the life of the illustrator of most of his books, John Craxton?

Paddy is alive and well. Read the article below!

Related article:

Remembering John Craxton

Writer and WWII hero honoured with Order of the Phoenix

Report of the presentation of the Greek Order of the Phoenix to Paddy

First published Ekathimerini online 3 March 2007

By Helbi

Patrick Leigh Fermor (right) with Colonel Mark Blatherwick, the British defense attache in Athens

The week that passed brought both joy and sorrow to those close to two British heroes who fought for Greece during World War II and whose love for the country never dimmed. The writer Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor, author of famous books such as “Mani” and “Roumeli,” “A Time of Gifts” and “Between Woods and Water,” even settled in Greece, near the Mani village of Kardamyli. This week President Karolos Papoulias bestowed upon him the Order of the Phoenix in the New Year honors for 2007. Ambassador Tassos Kriekoukis, director of protocol for the Foreign Ministry, spoke of “Sir Patrick’s love of writing and traveling but also for Greece, for whose freedom he fought at the side of Greek and British commandos. Who can forget his part in the kidnapping (in wartime Crete) of (German) General Kreipe?” Colonel Mark Blatherwick, the British Defense Attache in Athens, accompanied Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor to the event.

Literary legend learning to type at 92

An old interview for our archive. First published in The Guardian Friday 2 March 2007 18.12 GMT

By Helena Smith in Athens

Patrick Leigh Fermor in 2005 - Photograph: Eamonn McCabe

In a rare public appearance, the revered travel writer Patrick Leigh Fermor has revealed that he is only now – aged 92 – learning to type, in order to finish the trilogy that has been at the centre of his writing life for more than 30 years.

Leigh Fermor usually avoids the spotlight these days, to concentrate on his work, but this week made an exception as Greece, his adopted home, awarded him its highest honour, Commander of the Order of the Phoenix

Leigh Fermor, widely acknowledged as Britain’s greatest living travel writer, was unexpectedly told of the award in a letter from the office of Greece’s president last month. “I have no idea why they are doing this but I am deeply honoured and moved,” he told the Guardian after receiving the medal at a lavish ceremony in Athens.

“I think they’ve enjoyed reading my books and heard I was an eager participant, who got in the thick of things during the war,” said the author, who is also known for pulling off one of the greatest coups in Nazi-occupied Europe, orchestrating the capture of General Kreipe, the military commander on Crete – a feat immortalised by the book and film Ill Met by Moonlight.

Friends say Leigh Fermor, who has chronicled Greece for more than 60 years, is these days acutely aware of the passage of time and put aside precious writing time to make the trip from his home in the Mani on the southern Peloponnese. When he was handed the prestigious Travel Writers’ Guild award in 2004, he dispatched his biographer Artemis Cooper to pick up the gong.

Since the second half of the 80s, he has being toiling to complete the third volume of a trilogy depicting his extraordinary journey on foot from Rotterdam to Istanbul at the age of 18.

His painstaking perfectionism means his output has not been prolific. He wrote the first volume of the trilogy, A Time of Gifts – widely considered his greatest work – nearly four decades after the odyssey in 1977. The second, Between the Woods and the Water, was released in 1986. Ever since, fans have been desperate to read the third.

Like many of his generation, the acclaimed soldier-scholar has always written in longhand – delivering his masterpieces to his publisher in great flourishes of scrawl. It’s a process that has been widely blamed for the long gestation periods.

But help is at hand. Paddy, as he is known to his friends, has finally decided that with his handwriting degenerating into unreadability, it is time to type. This year he invested in a 1951 Olivetti (“I wouldn’t get a computer,”) and is currently working his way around the machine’s keyboard, according to friends.

“I’m going to finish that book,” he said. “I’m going home and I’m going to work really hard.”

Remembering John Craxton

An event in memory of the late English artist was held last week at the British Embassy in Athens, and Paddy was there.

The early works of John Craxton evoked an ‘arcadian’ feel but later became more schematic. Cubism and other 20th-century movements had an influence on his work.

First published in Ekathimerini online on 21 April 2010

By A Koroxenidis

When the late English painter John Craxton (1922-2009) first visited Greece in the mid-1940s he discovered what he called “human identities,” a world that suited him and was to soon become his home.

In the 60s Craxton settled in Hania, Crete, in a house facing the old harbor. He led a simple bohemian life, appreciated the local lifestyle and explored the country’s cultural history, especially the Byzantine churches on the island. For many years, he also served as as Britain’s consular correspondent in Hania.

John Craxton

His friends and the people close to him, who gathered last week at the British Embassy in an event dedicated to Craxton’s memory, remember him as a talented artist, an intellectual, a generous, straightforward and well-mannered person who had humor, sophistication and an optimist view of life. A learned artist, Craxton was part of an intellectual international milieu.

Following an opening by British Ambassador to Athens Dr David Landsman, novelist and playwright Paris Takopoulos, who met Craxton in London in the late 1940s, referred to the artist’s knowledge of Greek modern culture and also spoke of the great value that Craxton placed on friendship. He also noted that Craxton was an excellent critic of art.

John Craxton work from Greece

Maria Vassilaki, associate professor of Byzantine art at the University of Thessaly, was another longtime friend of Craxton. [Maria was co-curtaor of the Byzantium 330-1453 Exhibition – see myByzantine blog]

Vassilaki spoke of his [Craxton’s] deep knowlege of Byzantine art and of their long conversations on Byzantine art and culture, on which they had planned to publish a book. Craxton had abandoned the idea but Vassilaki has edited the book and plans to publish it with Crete University Press.

Journalist (formerly at Kathimerini) and writer Maria Karavia mused upon her memories of Craxton and his friendship with the painter Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas, with whom he stayed whenever he visited Athens. Her warm memories include Craxton’s tender and colorful use of the Greek language.

The British author Sir Patrick “Paddy” Leigh Fermor was also among the speakers. Craxton and Leigh Fermor had worked together on a number of projects, with the former illustrating the covers of many of the latter’s books.

Born to musician parents, Craxton was raised in an artistic and intellectual family. He studied art in Paris and, as a young artist, produced paintings of an “arcadian” feel. His first visits to Greece inspired him in the designs for a 1951 production of the ballet “Daphnis et Chloe” by the Royal Ballet.

A major retrospective on his work was held at the Whitechapel Art Gallery in 1967. In 1993, Craxton was elected Royal Academician by the Royal Academy of Arts, London.