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Famous Artists of Greece: Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas

Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas (sometimes referred to as “Nikos Ghika” or “Nikos Ghikas”) is one of the most famous artists of the past century in Greece. His works have their own museum in Athens, and his legacy will forever be a part of the collective Greek consciousness. Ghikas was born in 1906 to a father in the Royal Navy, and the family was well-known on Hydra – a Greek island famous for its ability to produce artists and writers.  From his beginnings here, Nikos Ghikas developed into an internationally-known artist after studying in the best schools in Europe. 

The Ghika Gallery | © Benaki Museum

The Ghikas Home in Hydra

Ghikas grew up in the 18th-century mansion that was built by his great great great grandfather and overlooked the town of Hydra. This island is known for its historic mansions, some of which are still there today. The town of Hydra, with its picturesque port and quaint alleys, was the perfect subject for many of Ghikas’s paintings. 

Hydra Harbor

Ghikas’s Home as a Creative Outlet

Ghikas’s house itself was a place where many writers came to do creative work. For example, the American writer Henry Miller and the British writer Lawrence Durrell visited Ghikas in his house in 1939. The most well-known work of Miller – The Colossus of Marousi, came from this trip. Ghikas also invited other famous writers and artists to his home, like Patrick Leigh Fermor (Paddy) and John Craxton. 

 

The mansion was used most by writers in the years after World War 2. Some of the famous visitors included ballet dancer Margot Fonteyn, choreographer Frederick Ashton, critic Cyril Connolly, and the poets Stephen Spender and Giorgos Seferis.

Ghikas Artwork

Ghikas’s Rise to Fame

Nikos Ghikas stayed on the island of Hydra every summer, and this increased his creativity. In 1922, Ghikas went to Paris to study at the Sorbonne and met many famous modern artists. He then sought to make modern art famous in Greece. Palamas, Elytis, Theotokas, Embirikos and Seferis are just a few of the artists who used to come to his home on Hydra to work and to discuss ancient Greece and Byzantium. 

 

Many exhibitions have been held with Ghikas’s works in Athens, Paris, London, Geneva, Berlin, and New York. You can find his works in private collections all over Greece, and of course in many museums internationally. 

The Ghika Gallery

Ghikas’s home in Athens is notable because it was later turned into a museum that still operates today. Ghikas moved permanently to this home on 3 Kriezotou street in the 1950s. Many architecture and artistic groups were interested in the multi-level home and it was featured in architectural magazines abroad. On the sixth floor was Ghikas’s workshop and library. The fifth floor was his residence, where he lived for 40 years. 

 

Ghikas died in 1994 and his home was donated to the Benaki Museum. The spaces are still preserved just like Ghikas left them. Most of his works are now on the third floor, where you can find Ghikas’s paintings, drawings, sculptures, and photographs as part of The Ghika Gallery. There is even some furniture from his previous house in Hydra.

The Ghika Gallery | © Benaki Museum

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