Theofilos Hadjimichail

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Painter Theofilos dressed in a traditional fustanella costume - a late 19th Century photo.
His painting titled: Karaiskakis In Pursuit Of Kioutahes

Theofilos (c. 1860 - 1934), artistic pseudonym of Theofilos Hadjimichail, Greek painter. Born on the island of Lesbos, Theofilos showed a talent for painting from an early age. In 1883 he left for Smyrna where he enlisted as a volunteer in the Greek-Turkish war. There, he is said to have been employed as a doorkeeper by the Greek consulate.

Self-taught he eventually settled in Pelion were he worked on decorating shops, homes and cafes with his paintings and murals.

His subjects included scenes from recent as well as ancient and medieval Greek history (Alexander the Great was a favourite subject, as were the protagonists of the Greek War of Liberation), mythology, literature and scenes of rural life. Though relatively unsophisticated in composition and perspective, his paintings are lively, colourful and energetic.

Theofilos' work became intenationaly recognized when the Parisian art critic Stratis Eleftheriadis known as Teriade met Theoflios and promoted his work on the international art market. As Eleftheriadis-Teriade pointed out: "The Byzantine tradition of wall painting was reborn in his work, in a natural way. The simplicity, the sence of the rough surface, the feel for colour on a whitewashed Greek wall, the magical sensitivity to every colour combination, the ornaments of fresh, spontaneous imagination, and finally the ingenuousness, this creative ingenuousness, which makes primitive art equal or even better than the most sophisticated artistic expression - all these make up the unique person of Theofilos, whose light blue eyes reflected treasures of colours noble and hard to find, elevating him to parity with all the modern 'primitives' and today's most innovative painters, whose inventive audacity he possesed to a point that amazes us. When Theofilios paints Greek heroes from the War of Independence, their traditional fustanella kilts become flowers in the fields." (quoted in H. Kambouridis & G. Levounis, Modern Greek Art - The 20th Century, Athens, 1999, p. 42).

The true value of Theofilos' works was recognised by Greek artists and intellectuals of the 1930s and 1940s, and he became something of a cult figure. In 1962, a museum dedicated to his work was built in Mytilene thanks to a generous donation by Teriade, which houses a total of 86 examples of his work in all media.