The Heptanese School of painting (Greek: Επτανησιακή Σχολή, lit. 'The School of the Seven Islands', also known as the Ionian Islands School) succeeded the Cretan School as the leading school of Greek post-Byzantine painting after Crete fell to the Ottomans in 1669. Like the Cretan school it combined Byzantine traditions with an increasing Western European artistic influence, and also saw the first significant depiction of secular subjects. The school was based in the Ionian Islands, which were not part of Ottoman Greece, from the middle of the 17th century until the middle of the 19th century.
The Ionian Islands or Heptanese from the 17th to the 19th century were under successive Venetian, French and English occupation. The relative freedom that the Heptanesian people enjoyed compared with the Ottoman-ruled mainland Greece, and the vicinity and the cultural relationships with neighbouring Italy, resulted in the creation of the first modern art movement in Greece. Another reason for the regional blossoming of arts is the migration of artists from the rest of the Greek world, and especially Crete, to the Heptanese to escape Ottoman rule. From the Fall of Constantinople in the mid-15th century until its conquest by the Ottomans in the 17th century, Crete, also ruled by Venice, had been the main cultural centre of Greece, giving rise to the Cretan School. The main representatives of the fusion of Heptanese and Cretan Schools are Michael Damaskinos, Spyridon Ventouras, Dimitrios Moschos and George Moschos, Manolis Tzanes and Konstantinos Tzanes and Stefanos Tsangarolas.
Art in the Heptanese shifted towards Western styles by the end of the 17th century with the gradual abandonment of strict Byzantine conventions and technique. Artists were now increasingly influenced by the Italian Baroque and Flemish painters rather than from their Byzantine heritage. Paintings began to have a three dimensional perspective and the compositions became more flexible using Western realism, departing from the traditional representations that embodied Byzantine spirituality. Such changes were also reflected on the technique of oil painting on canvas which replaced the Byzantine technique of egg tempera on panel. Subjects included secular portraits of the bourgeoisie, which became more common than religious scenes. Bourgeois portraiture had an emblematic character which emphasised the class, profession and position of the individual in society. Frequently, however, these works also constitute penetrating psychological studies. The mature phase of the School of the Ionian Islands echoes the social developments as well as the changes that had occurred in the visual arts. Portraits began to lose their emblematic character. The early rigid poses were then succeeded by more relaxed attitudes (Kallyvokas, Iatras, Avlichos). Other subjects from the School of the Ionian Islands includes genre scenes, landscapes and still lifes.
The first examples of the new western influenced art can be seen at the roofs of churches which were known as ourania or sofita. A pioneer in this change was Panagiotis Doxaras (1662–1729), a Maniot who was taught Byzantine iconography from the Cretan Leo Moschos. Later Doxaras would travel to Venice to study painting and he would abandon Byzantine iconography to dedicate himself to western art. Having as a quide the works of Paolo Veronese he would later paint the roof of the church of Saint Spyridon in Corfu. In 1726 he wrote the famous although controversial and much debated theoretical text On painting (Περί ζωγραφίας) in which he addressed the need for Greek art to depart from the Byzantine art towards western European art. His article even today is the subject of much discussion in Greece.
Nikolaos Doxaras (1700/1706–1775), son of Panagiotis Doxaras continues the artistic legacy of his father. In 1753–1754 he painted the roof of Saint Faneromeni in Zate that was destroyed by an earthquake in 1953. Only a part of it has been saved and is exhibited today at the Zante Museum. Other contemporary artists of Doxaras were the Zante painter Ieronymos Stratis Plakotos and the Corfiot Stefanos Pazigetis.
The Zante priests and painters Nikolaos Koutouzis (1741–1813) and his pupil Nikolaos Kantounis (1767–1834) continued to paint according to western European standards and were particularly known for their realistic portraiture that emphasises the emotional background of the subject. Dionysios Kalivokas (1806–1887) and Dionysios Tsokos (1820–1862) are considered the last perhaps painters of the Heptanese School.
Later Heptanese artists
The sculptor and painter Pavlos Prosalentis is the first neoclassical sculptor of modern Greece. Ioannis Kalosgouros, a sculptor, architect and painter produced the marble bust of Countess Helen Mocenigo, a portrait of Nikolaos Mantzaros and a portrait of Ioannis Romanos. Ioannis Chronis was another exponent of the prevailing neoclassical architectural trend. Some of his most important works are the Capodistria Mansion, the Ionian Bank, the former Ionian Parliament, the churches of St. Sophia and All Saints and the little church of Mandrakina. Dionysios Vegias was born in Cephalonia in 1819, considered to be one of the first to practice the art of engraving in Greece. Charalambos Pachis founded in 1870 a private school of painting in Corfu and is considered as the most important landscape painter of the Heptanese School along with Angelos Giallinas that specialised in watercolours. Another well-known painter is Georgios Samartzis, who was almost restricted to portraiture. Spyridon Skarrellis is best known for his watercolours and Markos Zavitsianos excelled in portrait painting and is considered an outstanding exponent of pictorial art in Greece.
End of the Heptanese School period
Later Heptanese painters such as Nikolaos Xydias Typaldos (1826/1828–1909), Spyridon Prosalentis (1830–1895), Charalambos Pachis (1844–1891), and many others seem to distance themselves from the Heptanese school principles and are influenced by more modern Western European artistic movements. The liberation of Greece has transferred the Greek cultural centre from the Heptanese to Athens. Particularly important for that was the foundation in 1837 of the Athens Polytechnic that preceded the Athens School of Fine Arts. In the new school many artists were invited to teach such as the Italian Raffaello Ceccoli, the French Bonirote, the German Ludwig Thiersch and the Greeks Stephanos and Vikentios Lantsas. Among the first students of the school was Theodoros Vryzakis.
"Archangel Michael" by Panagiotis Doxaras
Virgin with Child by Charalambos Pachis
Portrait of a man by Nikolaos Xydias Typaldos
Chemist Nikopoulos by Nikolaos Kantounis
Portrait of an erudite by Nikolaos Koutouzis
Carnival in Kerkyra by Charalambos Pachis
Dance in Corfu by Dionysios Vegias
Dame by Dionysios Tsokos
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- Δοξαράς, Παναγιώτης: Περί ζωγραφίας, εκδ. Σπ. Π. Λάμπρου, εν Αθήναις, 1871; Αθήνα (Εκάτη 1996)
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