Greek painting in the second half of the nineteenth century was not different from elsewhere in Europe. Genre painting, portraying everyday tasks in urban centers and the countryside, was prevalent particularly in agricultural and pastoral scenes, festivals, and scenes of mourning. Of special interest were architectural features, local costumes, and objects of everyday life. Portraiture was the second most popular thematic subject, with a shift in focus from freedom fighters to merchants and the middle class and an interest in the psychological profile of the person portrayed.
Reaction against the Munich tendency for realism, a dark palette and broad brushstroke came not only from Greek artists who had graduated from other schools in Europe but also from former students of the Munich Academy who had been deeply stirred by the innovations of the Parisian avant-garde in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.
In the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Paris began to supplant Munich as an art center. The City of Light introduced new ways of painting, freeing the work of art from the confines of visible reality and, thus, from the slavish imitations that Munich was accused of propagating. Paris also supported artists in their subjectiveness and welcomed freedom of expression. In Greece changes came about with the introduction of impressionism. This rejuvenating movement, which was not readily accepted, gained ground and managed to endure. This does not mean that the impressionist movement was fully understood or that it reached its full potential, for there were a number of inherent obstacles to its reception.
Excerpts from the Origins of Modern Greek Painting
Born in northern Europe, impressionism was a medium for plein air painting conceived for the light atmosphere of the North. The subjects depicted, shrouded by the broken brushstroke of the impressionist style, lost their sharp outline and pureness of color. On the other hand, the Mediterranean light is bright and strong. This quality is faithfully transposed by Greek artists in paintings with sharply diffused surfaces, bold shapes, a lack of detail, and a flattening of the chromatic surface. This style and technique is distinctly different from the Impressionists’ with the dilution of shapes, fragmentation of the chromatic tone, and array of pure colors. The uniqueness of the Greek landscape called for an adaptation that came closer to the post-impressionist currents, such as the Nabis, fauvism and expressionism.