‘Egon in Greece’ at the Benaki

Helbi’s People has often covered the artistic activities of Nicholas and Matti Egon, including the Runciman lectures in February, which the aristocratic Egon, of Czech origin, founded in honor of his friend, the eminent Byzantinist Sir Steven Runciman, guaranteeing their continuation in the future. Their houses in Athens, London and Katakali, Corinth, are the meeting places of ambassadors, academics, artists and writers. Now a new exhibition at the Benaki, «Nicholas Egon in Greece,» is a chance to become acquainted with the work of Egon as a landscape painter. The selection of 47 paintings for the exhibition depicts the Greek landscape linked with history, bathed in light and in the embrace of nature. With his characteristic generosity, the artist has let it be known that «should anyone wish to buy a painting,» he will sell on condition the proceeds go to the Benaki Museum. It is a rare chance for Greek art lovers to acquire a painting of three proud columns depicted against the sky of Corinth, a riot of wildflowers in spring, the sea with waves breaking on the rocks or a golden sunset The exhibition catalog, written by Fani Maria Tsingakou, curator of 19th century painting at the Benaki, includes the story of Egon’s eventful life and his development as a landscape artist and portraitist in the courts of Greece, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan and among members of the British aristocracy. The lavishly illustrated volume in English and Greek cites personalities from Greece and abroad who have known Egon and his work. Benaki Museum Director Angelos Delivorrias writes of how Egon’s work portrays «a springtime of everlasting youth and flawless grace,» while Niki Goulandris comments, «Egon’s landscapes place him among the forerunners in this interpretation of this new, contemporary concept: namely the ecological function of Nature.» The artist himself says: «When I paint the Greek landscape, I try to respond directly to my visual and preserving experience, retaining the feeling of this extraordinary heritage, which awes me.» For the past 20 years he has done watercolors, because it suits his temperament. «It’s more spontaneous, it captures your immediate reaction to the subject.» Since spring 1978, when he married Matti Xyla from Chios, Greece has become his second home. During the couple’s travels through Greece by car, the painter filled his sketchbooks. One surviving sketch is a portrait of Sofia, now queen of Spain, then aged 11 at the royal estate in Tatoi. The exhibition opens on April 24, at 8 p.m. (Benaki Museum, 1 Koumbari Street, tel 210.367.1000).

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