Alekos Kontopoulos, Vacation Home
The Vacation Home marks Alekos Kontopoulos’ transition from representational to abstract painting. The painter was one of the main representatives of abstraction in modern-Greek art. The painting combines clean geometric forms with free brush strokes. It depicts the external view of a house that is not discernible at first glance.
The painter’s transitional phase
In the Vacation Home, Alekos Kontopoulos transitions from figurative painting to abstraction.
The piece depicts, in an abstract manner, the external view of a house that is not discernible at first glance. Looking closer, the picture becomes clearer and the house becomes more apparent.
Geometric forms take centre stage
The main part of the composition consists of clean geometric forms. 2 different flat surfaces define the red roof. The surfaces are separated by a straight line.
On the foreground there is the front gate, defined by:
- A green rectangle at the bottom.
- Parallel vertical green lines, suggesting the gate bars.
The individual elements of the composition are rendered with freer, expressionist strokes. In this manner, Kontopoulos adds variety to the final painting.
His life in a nutshell
Alekos Kontopoulos (1904-1975) was born in Lamia. He studied Painting at the Athens School of Fine Arts from 1923 until 1929, under Georgios Iakovidis, Dimitris Geraniotis, Pavlos Mathiopoulos and Nikolaos Lytras. He continued his studies in Paris until 1932. There he studied under P. Le Doux and H. Morisset.
He visited Paris again in 1935 to attend classes at the École des Beaux Arts, the Académie Colarossi and the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. In 1939 he returned to Greece. He worked at the National Archaeological Museum from 1941 to 1969.
During the German Occupation of Greece, he was part of the Resistance and created a series of drawings and prints with relevant subjects.
During his stay in Paris, Kontopoulos came into contact with every modern art trend. At first, he was not influenced by them.
He travelled to Belgium to study Flemish painting. During the interwar years, he developed a representational/realistic painting style.
As of the 1950s he gradually turned to a more expressionistic painting style. This led him to purely abstract renderings, and he turned to aniconic and abstract painting.
A pioneer of abstract painting
Kontopoulos was one of the main representatives of abstraction in modern-Greek art. His studies in Paris played a decisive role in this ground-breaking style development. In Paris, the painter came into contact with all abstract trends.
He initially started from representational or figurative painting. However, as of the late 40s, he started working with abstraction and aniconic painting: shifting, that is, from the perceivable world and its representation on the painting surface.
In fact, he defended aniconic painting both through his pieces and writings. In 1949, together with some of his colleagues, he founded and headed the group “Oi Akraioi” (The Extremists). The purpose of the group was to make abstract forms more known in Greece.
A recognised artist
Kontopoulos presented his work in solo and group exhibitions in Greece and abroad.
Notably, he took part in the São Paulo Biennale in 1953, 1955 (he was honoured with a silver medal) and 1957, and also in the Alexandria Biennale (1959) and Venice Biennale (1960).
In 1976 a retrospective exhibition of his works was held at the National Gallery. In 1950 AICA Hellas recommended him for the Guggenheim award.
In 1973 he was awarded the 1st State Prize. Kontopoulos refused to accept it, in protest against the Junta regime.
The work of art in our publications
The Vacation Home by Alekos Kontopoulos is referenced in the following Alpha Bank publications:
- The Alpha Bank Collection. Paintings – Prints – Sculptures, edited by Irene Orati. The publication marks the 125th anniversary of Alpha Bank.
Buy the publication The Alpha Bank Collection. Paintings – Prints – Sculpture (only available in Greek) on the Alpha Bank e-shop.
- The Alpha Bank Collection. Greek Art from 1920 until Today, edited by Irene Orati. The publication accompanied the Art Collection’s exhibition at the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art in Thessaloniki.
Buy the publication The Alpha Bank Collection. Greek Art from 1920 until Today on the Alpha Bank e-shop.
In other literature
The Vacation Home by Alekos Kontopoulos is referenced in the book 20th Century Painting, by Chysanthos Christou (in Greek).