Genre painting began to gain ground as a main strand of modern Greek art from the last quarter of the 19th century onwards. During this period, art increasingly reflected the ideological quests and perspectives regarding the structure and development of society in the fledgling modern Greek nation.
Genre painting similarly attempted to reconcile established values of the past with current needs. Thus, mores and customs, traditional occupations, family scenes and rural work make up the main themes. In terms of style, the artists of that period opt for naturalism, yet without abandoning an idealistic content or the safety of idyllic description.
At the end of 19th century, appears a gradual attempt in modern Greek art to develop urban genre painting, featuring scenes and habits of the newly emerged Greek bourgeoisie.
Moving to the 20th century, several artists even attempted the venture into more realistic, and often psychographic, approaches. Some of these works seek to be more “descriptive”, while others centre on voicing a social message.
In parallel, a series of portraits in the Collection gives prominence to the artists’ ongoing intention to capture the moment, by trying to reveal the mindframe and individuality of the subject, rather than using it as a collective symbol. Moreover, still lifes present skilful drawing studies of the depicted objects. Whether naturalistic or symbolic, these works provide insights into the daily routines of particular lifestyles.
The art of printmaking also provided fertile ground for genre compositions and everyday life themes, whether in a narrative or a socially conscious approach. In particular, from the interwar period onwards, art becomes increasingly dominated by social and political overtones. In printmaking, these quests are formulated with direct stylistic references to Expressionism or Socialist Realism.