Piet de Jong’s view of historic excavations

British artist and architect Piet de Jong (1887-1967), one of the most influential archaeological illustrators of the 20th century, is the subject of a tribute at the Pireos Street annex of the Benaki Museum, opening tonight and running to January 7. The exhibition brings together some 150 watercolors and ink drawings of detailed representations of finds from the excavations at the Ancient Agora by the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. The finely executed sketches provide rare insight into the lives of ancient Athenians, revealing the wealth of culture and history in the area from the Neolithic to the Byzantine periods. They show landscapes, people and objects recovered during many seasons of fieldwork at one of the longest continuously running archaeological projects in Greece. The Yorkshire architect of Dutch descent worked his first dig in 1920 for Alan Wace at Mycenae. In 1922 he went on to work for Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos, and throughout the next 45 years he produced plans, reconstruction drawings and superb illustrations of finds, vases and frescoes for all the major publications of British and American excavations in Greece. The exhibition will also feature watercolors from other sites where de Jong worked, including King Minos’s Palace at Knossos and the Nestor’s Palace at Pylos as well as Corinth, Mycenae, Eleusis and elsewhere. The show will also spotlight some his stunning caricatures of the great archaeologists of his day. Yiannis Papadopoulos, professor of classical studies and archaeology at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California in Los Angeles, brought together the material. The professor has compiled a photographic book on de Jong and will also be giving a lecture on the illustrator’s work at the museum on December 19. The exhibition will also be accompanied by a number of historical photographs, representative archaeological finds from the Agora excavations and de Jong’s correspondence. The items are on loan from the Ashmolean Museum at the University of Oxford, the University of Cincinnati, the ephorates of Iraklion and Olympia, the Corinth excavations, the American School of Classical Studies and the Agora Museum. Benaki New Wing, 138 Pireos, tel 210.345.3111.

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