France’s artistic and literary ‘gifts’ to the Greek resistance during WWII

An exhibition of works by leading 20th century artists donated to Roger and Tatiana Milliex as a gesture of recognition of Greek resistance during World War II, lies at the core of Greece’s participation in the European Cultural Season initiative, a series of activities launched by France during its current EU presidency. The show, which will be inaugurated at the Memorial Leclerc-Jean Moulin Museum in Paris on October 1, brings to mind an old, deeply moving story. In 1945, Roger Milliex (1913-2006), author, former director of the French Institute in Athens and passionate philhellene, and his wife, fellow writer Tatiana Gritsi-Milliex (1920-2005), extended an invitation to the French intelligentsia to make an honorary donation to the Greek people in recognition of their resistance during the German occupation. The outcome was impressive: 30 paintings, six engravings, four sculptures and two engraving editions are now part of the National Gallery’s permanent collections of Western European art. On the literary front, donations reached 110 manuscripts and typed texts by French intellectuals and members of the French resistance – these are now part of the Hellenic Literary and Historical Archives (ELIA). The entire donation was showcased for the first time at the National Gallery in 1980. Among the artists who responded to the Milliex invitation were Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard, Andre Masson and Francis Picabia. Equally impressive is the list in the literary department: Paul Claudel, Georges Bernanos, Le Corbusier and Jean-Paul Sartre, among others. The Paris exhibition is being organized by the Hellenic Foundation for Culture, the National Art Gallery and the Memorial Leclerc-Jean Moulin Museum. The European Cultural Season is yet another initiative of the French presidency aimed at portraying France as a nation of ideas, initiative and determination. While no one knows the final outcome of this initiative, so far it has been very warmly received by a number of member-states, including relative newcomers Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria and Romania.