CULTURE

Scholarly monograph on Mitarakis

In the late 1930s, artist Yiannis Mitarakis had established a reputation as a respected landscape painter. Schooled in Paris and from a cosmopolitan, haute-bourgeois background, Mitarakis (1897-1963), or J. Mita – which is how he signed his works – was a painter of mostly landscapes and portraits as well as an artist who always strove to express the latest artistic currents of his time. Today, he is one of the lesser-known artists of his generation. A large, lavish monograph on his oeuvre which was recently published by the Benaki Museum (which currently also is hosting an exhibition on the artist’s work) provides a thorough, in-depth analysis of his work and serves to solidly place Mitarakis in the history of 20th century Greek art. Evgenios Matthiopoulos, author of the book and a professor of art history at the University of Crete, has compiled an exhaustive study that weaves the artist’s life with his work and analyzes with scholarly insight the artistic and historical context in which the work of Mitarakis appeared. Through the book one learns not just of the work of this particular artist but also of the artistic and intellectual life that prevailed in Paris in the 1920s and in Greece during the interwar and postwar period. Fully illustrated, the reader follows the stylistic changes in the paintings of the artist from his early, representational landscapes to the abstract landscapes (the Meteora and Santorini series) of the postwar years. Mitarakis was born in Alexandria to a wealthy family of cotton traders that came from the island of Chios (his mother was related to the Benakis family). He studied agriculture in Paris but soon turned to more intellectual and artistic pursuits. Contrary to the Greek artists who studied at the more conservative academies of Paris, he studied next to the cubist artists Andre Lhote and Le Fauconnier whose work was considered radical at the time. When the economic crisis of the late 1920s broke out, he moved with his artist wife and son to Greece, where he spent the rest of his life. The book includes a detailed chronology, extensive bibliography and a complete list of the artist’s solo and group shows. The inclusion of art reviews that were written on his work during the artist’s career provide vital evidence of how the artist was appraised by his contemporaries.