Konstantinos Volanakis (1837-1907)

Audio tour

Nine works by Konstantinos Volanakis make up the group exhibited in this hall, dedicated to the top Greek marine theme painter and flawless master of the sea environment. All nine hold a prominent position in the Collection of the Bank of Greece.

Konstantinos Volanakis was born in Crete and graduated from the Academy of Munich. He devoted himself to the meticulous study of seawaters and, focusing on thematic motifs such as marine sceneries, illustrations of historic moments, and representations of naval battles that took place at the time of the Greek War for Independence, he has demonstrated the particular and multifaceted potential of the marine painting genre.

This hall features paintings from all his thematic categories.

Inspired by the Greek Revolution of 1821 the artist painted in 1895 The Landing of Karaiskakis at Faliro. The specific piece refers to the events of 22-23 April 1827 and the arrival of Greek freedom fighters under the leadership of Karaiskakis at the Faliro Delta, near Athens, determined to break the siege of the Acropolis. The ancient monument can be seen in the background, revealing the reason for the presence of the armed troops on the shore. The whole composition conveys feelings of anxiousness and anticipation for the imminent attempt. There seems to be excitement, awkwardness and restlessness near the shore, with the crowd of the fighters swarming the place. Small details complete the narration, such as the lined-up fleet of battleships flying the Greek flag, whose presence symbolises the country’s naval might.

Another historic turning point for the modern Greek state that has attracted the painter’s interest was that of The Inauguration of the Corinth Canal, which he rendered with realism and vividness. A major public project of the Trikoupis governments, as well as an engineering achievement, the cutting of the Corinth Canal represents a milestone that changed the country’s overall standing, bringing it one step closer to its industrialisation and progress. The white puffs of smoke from the cannon salutes, the decked-out ships with their flags waving high, and the panoramic view of the scene, all serve as pointers to the celebration of this extremely important special occasion, imparting the joyful spirit that permeates the composition.

Two more works that convey a festive atmosphere are the Flag-decked ships (painted in 1889-1893) and The festival on Tinos (painted in 1890-1895). They both refer to pleasant events: the first alludes to some sort of upcoming celebration, or the official welcoming of an important personality; the second transports us to the festival for the Assumption of Mary held each year on the island of Tinos. The jovial ambience is achieved both through the chromatic tones that the painter selects for rendering the horizon, and through the flag-decked ships, coupled with the cheerful mood they relay.

Sensitivity is what characterises the delivery of the seascape scenes in the artworks Two fishing boats, Seascape, Faliro seashore, and The harbour of Piraeus. All of them highly refined compositions that testify as much to the painter’s technical skills in drawing as to his perfect ability to manipulate colour in such a way as to endow his works with atmosphere. Human presence, whenever featured, harmonically blends in with the surroundings, always on a small scale.

Finally, far more than a few times the artist has chosen to depict night scenes. In the piece titled Nocturne (painted in 1895-1900), the contrast between the thick darkness and the warm sources of light intensify the scene’s sense of drama and inspire awe with regard to the natural environment and the greatness of the sea. Here as well, human presence is harmonically set in the composition, in actual proportion to the seascape.