Collection of artworks by date
a. 17 th – 18th centuries
The Municipal Gallery of Corfu owns a few 17th- and 18th- century artworks, namely four religious paintings from the church of the 1st Corfu Municipal Cemetery which were transferred to the Gallery in order to be more effectively preserved. These works mark the gradual departure from the iconographic patterns of Byzantine art and the adoption of characteristics from Italian, especially Venetian, renaissance and baroque art. Created by Cretan painters Mihail Damaskinos and Emmanuel Lambardos, they influenced considerably the next generations of Corfiot artists who created the painted decorations for churches in Corfu town and in the countryside.
The “Decapitation of John the Baptist” by Damaskinos shows clearly the blending of Byzantine and Western elements in a newfound unity. While angels follow patterns from Byzantine art, the depiction of the figures bears the influence of Renaissance paintings, particularly those by Veronese. This is also true for the “Stoning of Agios Stephanos”, in which Italian influences are even more pronounced, with mannerist elements prevailing and an obvious relation of the artist with Giulio Romano’s paintings. The painting “Noli me tangere” by Lambardos consolidates the forms imposed by the Cretan School. However, it still bears the western and late gothic art influences of Cretan artists, particularly visible in the figure of Mary Magdalen.
b. 19th century
The Municipal Gallery collections comprise works by numerous Corfiot artists. The 19th century was without doubt the most important period of modern Corfiot painting with artists moving effortlessly among painting genres and assimilating elements from various stylistic directions.
Important works, dating from the beginning of the 19th century were produced by members of the Prosalentis family. Both Spyridon Prosalentis and Pavlos Prosalentis Jr produced works characterized, on the one hand, by the use of classicist drawing and, on the other, by a romantic outburst of colour. In the painting titled “Fighter of the 1821 War” by Spyridon Prosalentis, this combination resulted in the idealization of the figure and the highlighting of the heroic elements of the depiction. In the “Arab Musicians” by Pavlos Prosalentis Jr, the painter is not satisfied with mere physical resemblance but goes on to achieve a purely psychological interpretation of the musicians’ figures.
One of the most important historic paintings in the Gallery’s collection is the “Assasination of Capodistria” by Charalambos Pachis, in which a number of new elements in Corfiot painting were introduced for the first time. The painting successfully combines drawing precision and elements inspired by popular tradition, while the colour scheme is also suggestive of its tragic content. The “Fortune-teller” by another genre painter, Periklis Tsirigotis, is a really extraordinary work, in which realist features and a psychological interpretation prevail.
Devoted to landscape painting, Corfiot watercolourists Angelos Giallinas and Spyridon Skarvelis succeeded in rendering the singularities of the Corfiot natural landscape. Somewhere between country scene painting and a limited impressionist idiom, they are particularly interested in the role of light on the painting surface. Using a characteristic small stroke, they do not entirely deconstruct the forms but succeed in creating a fleeting and ever-changing impression and rendering singularly the light variations.
Last but not least among the important 19th-century Corfiot artists displayed in the Municipal Gallery, is Georgios Samartzis. With thematic interests extending to all painting genres, the artist remained attached, in his portraits, to an academic idiom, characterized by heavy colours and precise drawing. His genre paintings are dominated by a realist vocabulary and evocative colours. Lastly, in his landscapes he integrated mainly impressionistic elements, with an emphasis on the light, the swift stroke and the opulent colour scheme.
c. 20th century
Corfiot art produced important figures in the 20th century as well. The Municipal Gallery displays some of the most typical painting and engraving works. Artists including Markos Zavitsianos, Lukourgos Kogevinas, Nikolaos Ventouras, Aglaia Pappas, Nikos Zervos, Angelos Kondis, Filippos Makotsis and Stefanos Trivolis demonstrate, through their work, the consistent progress of art in Corfu.
The triumvirate of Corfiot artists, Markos Zavitsianos, Lykourgos Kogevinas and Nikolaos Ventouras, marks one of the most important periods, not only in Corfiot, but more generally, in modern Greek engraving. Markos Zavitsianos devoted himself to an art characterized, on the one hand, by a realism with an obvious aspect of social criticism and, on the other hand, by a desire to produce work addressed to a wider public. His preferred technique was that of copperplate enabling him to translate texts into images using his powerful drawing and detailed representation, characteristics he considered to be essential. Lykourgos Kogevinas, fascinated by the achievements of French landscape-painting which he came to know during his stay in Paris, focused on the depiction of monuments and landscapes of Greece. He used the technique of copperplate, which enabled him to fully display the drawing elements of his work and the narrative power of his images. Nikolaos Ventouras transformed his art into an internal experience and vision. Visual reality was always his starting-point, but he never confined himself to its simple depiction. He “experiences” the representation, searches for its inner harmony and recreates his own vision. He took common subjects, mostly ships, spots in the town of Corfu and landscapes of the countryside, and transformed them into highly poetic images.
In painting, Corfiot watercolourists continued the tradition of the previous century. Stefanos Trivolis remained attached to more traditional patterns, while Angelos Kontis boldly embraced an expressionistic language. Dedicated to landscape painting, Nikos Zervos assimilated elements from the French tradition in his art that mainly consisted of country-scene painting,. The first artist to adopt abstract forms of expression was Aglaia Pappas, who was also a portrait-painter. Pappas, whose starting point was realism, soon found her distinct idiom in producing works characterized by opulent colours, a robust composition and an internal rhythm.