- General Information
- The Neo-Hellenic Painter Theophilos Hatzimichail
- The Theophilos Museum Exhibits
- Opening Times
The Theophilos Museum of Varia showcases the work of celebrated Neo-hellenic painter Theophilos Hatzimichail. Inaugurated by the Greek Nobel-prize winner Georgios Seferis, it attracts scores of visitors who come here to marvel at his paintings and discover more about the life and times of Theophilos.
No painter in the history of folkloric art has depicted the daily reality and religious traditions of Lesvos better than Theophilos, the artist whose work entered the limelight posthumously and whose life and work have been closely associated with Lesvos.
Theophilos Hatzimichail was born in 1870 in the Mytilenian suburb of Varia, where he spent his childhood. He was taught how to paint by his maternal grandfather, a religious iconographer and is said to have been so persistent an advocate of Greek tradition, he insisted on appearing in the traditional ‘fustanella’ (a traditional Greek kilt) only to inspire condescension in his fellow men.
Theophilos left his family home at the age of 18 and became a gate-keeper at the Greek Consulate of Smyrna before he moved to Volos, where he drew a variety of murals on the walls of a number of houses and stores. Upper Volos became Theophilos’ home for the greatest part of his life. While there, the painter was active in the organization and staging of theatrical performances and annually participated in the carnival of Volos, where he would appear dressed as Alexander the Great or in the guise of a Greek Revolution hero. Theophilos, it is believed, was the only person responsible for the design and manufacture of his elaborate carnival costumes.
Theophilos returned to Lesvos in 1927 and began painting murals in exchange for his modest daily sustenance. While in Mytilene, he was discovered by the publisher and art critic Stratis Elefteriadis-Teriade, who later funded the Theophilos Museum in Varia.
Elefteriadis supplied Theophilos with painting supplies and, by encouraging him to paint on canvass, succeeded in preserving a large portion of his work. Theophilos himself preferred painting on the walls, door panels and windows of shops and houses, meaning that a great part of his work has been irredeemably lost.
His association with Elefteriadis brought Theophilos to posthumous international acclaim. A year after his death by food-poisoning on March 24th 1934, an exhibition of his paintings took place in the Louvre and brought the creations of this significant Greek folk painter to the awareness of many an international art-critic and aesthete. Today, it would be nearly impossible to afford one his naively-painted works, which are valued at astronomical amounts and take pride of place in galleries in Europe and the States.
The exhibition includes 86 paintings by the great Neo-Hellenic artist.
Opening times are 08:30 am and 15:00 pm every weekday in the winter season or - in the summer months - on Tuesday through to Sunday, between 08:30 am and 15:00 pm. There is an entrance fee of 2 euros (1 euro concessions).
The Elefteriadis-Teriade Museum of Modern Art is located within the same building. Visitors to the Museum can observe the 29 books published by the renowned publisher and critic, complete with illustrations by Picasso, Leger and Matisse among other major 20th century artists.