New pursuits and folk culture: Theophilos and Makriyannis

Towards the end of the inter-war period the framework defined by the new artistic pursuits, and by the concern for defining Greek identity, resulted in an interest in 'popular' or 'primitive' art, and the simple, 'popular' language. The writers of the inter-war period discovered a Greek naif of their time, the painter Theophilos. Theophilos Chatzimichail (1870-1934) was born in Mytilene. Very early on he left for Smyrna, and then moved to Volos, where he started painting in coffee shops and bakeries, finally returning to his homeland. Dressed in traditional Greek costume, he combined in his painting figures and incidents from ancient history, the struggle for independence, and everyday life. In many cases interest in the personality of Theophilos was linked to a particular predilection for the work of General Makriyannis, demonstrated by publications and repeated editions which reached a peak towards the middle of the next decade. At the same time, and in the same period, interest in the figures of Karagiozis and shadow theatre intensified, as did the taste for popular traditional architecture and popular art in general. It is significant that these examples, with the 'primitivism' of their artistic expression, should chime with the aims of the avant-garde not only in Europe but all over the world.