The current exhibition with paintings by Gyzis made me wonder whether he is the greatest Greek painter of the recent era, and then answer to myself «well, yes». Of course there are other important ones, beloved ones, like Lytras, Jakobides and Parthenis as well as Kontoglou and Papaloukas and Spyropoulos and Tsarouchis. There are so many good Greek artists who have always surprised and fascinated us with their work. My small country keeps producing excellent painters and poets, so we are never in need of intellectual food.
But why is Gyzis so special? What is this power in his works which makes me say today that he is the greatest Greek painter even though there are others like Volanakis or Altamura whose seascapes are sold all over the world at giddy auction prices? There is something about the works of Gyzis, something in the human expression of his portraits, which makes us recognize our friends or relatives, or maybe ourselves in them. In their despair, their sorrow or in a small, everyday joy. And those of us who have visited a thousand times the National Gallery in Athens, happen to know some of his works well; they are part of our greek identity, of our history. “The destruction of Psara”, “Wishbone”, “The children’s engagement” and so many others, characterized by a certain element which belongs always to high art whether this is literature, cinema or painting. This is the element which moves us deeply without being melodramatic or exaggerated.
The so called School of Munich produced many great painters as well as did the island of Tinos. Of course taste is something subjective according to the latin saying. So, in my humble opinion the greatest Greek sculptor was Chalepas and the greatest Greek painter was Gyzis.
Ten years after the big Gyzis exhibition at the Athens National Gallery, another exhibition comes to highlight his work. And rightly so. Every generation should be familiar with his paintings.