Collection by tecnique
Written by Dr. Athanasios Christou
It is the medium in which the four post-Byzantine iconographs of the Gallery are painted. It is a medium where the colours in the form of powder are mixed with water and a binder such as egg yolk (egg tempera) or juice of unripe fig. This mixture allows an ameliorated blend with the surface which is usually wooden with a prime of plaster. The colour is applied in extremely thin layers so as it will not shrink from water evaporation as this would cause the paint to crack. Additionally, the mixture of colours on the surface is not possible because they dry too quickly.
Michael Damaskinos’s and Emmanouel Lambardos’s icons have been painted in tempera, a medium which during the 16th and 17th century dominates the painting of portable icons, especially due to the fact that oil painting is yet to be developed in Modern Greek Art.
It is the medium mainly to be found in icons and portable paintings. Although it is known since the Antiquity, it is widely spread in Europe only after the 15th century. Oil paintings are those where the colours in the form of powder are mixed with oil- linseed, walnut, poppy and so on- which acts as a binder. Because the colours do not dry quickly, oil painting allows the artist to use consecutive layers and most importantly to alter the picture surface until the desired objective is reached.
Most of the collection in the Municipal gallery of Corfu is composed of oil paintings, as most 19th century artists use oils as their medium. Spyridon and Pavlos Prosalentis Junior, Haralampos Pahis, Pericles Tsirighotis, Pericles Kollas, Georgios Samartzis and many other painters create their most significant works in this medium. This also happens over the 20th century, although, it must be noted, that oils have been replaced up to a certain degree by acrylics, which have similar advantages in their usage by the artist.
It is the medium, known since the pre-Christian years, which is used by important creators after the 16th century and particularly throughout the 19th. It is also mainly used by the impressionists. The painting is done on paper with colours diluted in water. The picture plane becomes more transparent and offers more freedom in the outlines as the colours are diffused . This is why water colours are mainly used in landscape paintings. With water colours, the plane cannot be altered and so it is necessary for the artist to possess a special knowledge of the colours once they are dry.
The interest in water colours was greatly cultivated by local painters and brought amazing results. Its establishment in the Ionian scene is very much owned to the English presence. For, it seems that through their contact with English art, Corfiot painters now have the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the potential of this medium. It also must be noted that English art has a long tradition with painters such as William Turner, John Constable and David Cox. The most significant consequence of this shift to the new medium and the latter’s establishment is the development of a type of painting which has already been imposed in Europe. It is none other than landscape painting. It is then that landscapes make their first appearance as an autonomous category on the Ionian Islands. The first attempts in Modern Greek art are produced in the early 19th century while landscapes are developed even more profoundly after the Union. By the end of the century, almost every Corfiot painter will have used it. Names that have stood out from that period are Aggelos Yallinas, Vikentios Bokatsiabis and Spyridon Skarvelis. Other significant 20th century figures are Aggelos Kontis, Stephanos, Sghouros and many others all using water colours exceptionally.
Etchings gave the solutions so that a wider audience would be able to acquire a work of art. For, a single picture has the potential to be produced in multiple copies without ever losing its sense of originality. Their thriving has mainly been related to the development of typography and the latter’s possibility to print the original design in multiple copies. Etching is originated in China as early as the 9th century A.D but in Europe the first attempts are performed during the Middle Ages. These are completed over the 14th and 15th century and are only established in later years.
Etchings in Corfu are developed from the beginning of the 19th century and in the 20th century, flourish with the trinity of the creators who -through their work- define not only local but also Modern Greek Art in general. The basic techniques used are two. That of embossing in which woodcut is included and that of intaglio in which mezzotint and aquatint are included.
Regarding woodcut, we face a technique used since the 14th century, similar to sculpture. The material is removed form the plate and what is left is the representation itself. The ink remains in the carved plate and it is projected on the paper when it is pressed down usually with a manual printing press. The technique emphasizes the black and white contrast, although colours are sometimes used, giving us coloured woodcut. Important Corfiot artists who used this technique in an excellent manner, are Aria Komianou and Giorgos Kefallinos.
Mezzotint first appears around the mid 15th century and follows the opposite course. Here the ink that is printed is not that which is left on the carved plate but that which is left inside the etchings. After the plate has been etched with the use of special tools , ink is applied and then wiped. The only ink left is that which is inside the etchings themselves and once paper has been pressed on it, the presentation is formed. Aquatint follows the same procedure as mezzotint but here the corrosion is carried out with acids. In this case the plate is covered with a material that cannot be altered by acid, resin, wax, etc and on that, the representation is drawn. Once the plate has been cleaned from the used materials, ink is applied and the result is printed on paper. Markos Zavitsianos, Lykourgos Koyevinas and Nikolaos Vedouras are three great artists of Corfiot etchings who involved themselves with mezzotint and aquatint. The latter was evena pioneer in coloured mezotint. Apart from these three pioneers, there were many other Modern Corfiot artist who produced works using this technique. We should finally praise the fact that even nowadays many Corfiot artists used mixed media to complete their desired works.