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KONSTANTINOS GRAMMATOPOULOS

PAINTER - ENGRAVER - PRINTMAKER

Konstantinos Grammatopoulos was born in Athens, in September, 1916. His parents had moved there a few years before from Constantinople. He had four younger siblings, two brothers (Tassos, George) and two sisters (Helen, Victoria). His father, Panagiotis Grammatopoulos, an artist furnituremaker, came from Ryssio (Aretsou), a Greek coastal town on the eastern side of the Propontis, about 40 km from Constantinople.

In 1934, he graduated from the 7th High School of Pagkration of Athens and was accepted at the Superior School of Fine Arts of Athens, where he studied painting in the workshop of Prof. Umberto Argyros, and engraving in the workshop of Prof. John Kefallinos (1934-1940). At graduation he was awarded the highest university distinction - "The Chrysovergeion Prize".

In 1940, still a university student, he created some of the most famous patriotic posters for the Greek-Italian War. These posters are well-known: "The Heroines of 1940", "Come and Get Them" along with others. He also designed various printed matter of propaganda for the partisan resistance during the Second World War. For this activity, he was arrested and tortured during the German occupation.

In 1944, he started his professional career by creating a series of portraits of many famous Greek litterateurs for the magazine “Nea Estia” (well known are the portraits of K. Palamas, A. Terzakis, E. Venezis, M. Malakasis, A. Sikelianos and others) and the illustrating of numerous literary and educational books. Until 1954, he dealt mainly with book illustration, a significant activity throughout his life. He illustrated more than 100 books. He also illustrated many well-known "Classics Illustrated" magazines (“Kolokotronis”, “Theseus and Minotaur”, “Perseus and Eurydice” and others).

Widely known are the two primers for the first primary school class which he illustrated in 1949 and 1955. At the International Education Exhibition and Symposium in Laeken, Belgium in 1949, he was awarded the First Prize for his primer of 1949. Illustrating the primers created a new code of communication for all Greeks during the difficult years of the postwar period. The intention of these books was to "touch" the children; that is the reason the memory of these images brings out, even today, such strong emotions to all Greeks. The primer of 1955 was used for the teaching of the Greek language for more than twenty consecutive years.

In 1953 Konstantinos Grammatopoulos married Alkmene Nicolaidou, an artist/painter.

In 1954, he was awarded a scholarship by the National Scholarship Foundation and continued his studies for four years in Paris. He studied painting, etching, engraving and graphic arts at Ecole Superieure des Beaux Arts, Ecole Estienne and Ecole Metieurs d’Art. The "Parisian " experience clearly influenced his painting. Subjects of his art remained Greek, but the style was enriched with elements of modern art.

In 1959, Konstantinos Grammatopoulos was elected professor at the School of Fine Arts of Athens, assuming the Chair of Engraving, succeeding his teacher John Kefallinos. Besides teaching engraving, he also founded the workshop of the Art of Book at the School of Fine Arts. He served as professor until 1985 and for several years was the dean of the School (1973-1975, 1978-1980). His colleagues at the School were major figures in modern Greek art (J. Moralis, G. Mavroidis, J. Pappas, N. Nikolaou, D. Kalamaras, Th. Apartis, D. Mytaras, P. Tetsis, D. Kokkinidis). His didactic contributions were very important. In his twenty-six year tenure as a professor in the School of Fine Arts, he initiated hundreds of younger Greek artists into the secrets of painting and printmaking. Many distinguished contemporary Greek artists were his students.

In 1959, his son Panagiotis was born. He was raised in an artistic family environment, and eventually became an architect.

The time of the election of Konstantinos Grammatopoulos as Professor of the School of Fine Arts coincided with the beginning of a new era in his creative work. He created woodcuts in unusually large dimensions, incorporating a completely new and personal style and interpretation. He derived his inspiration mainly from the Aegean Sea and Greek Mythology. This period of work lasted until the early 1980’s.

In 1968, Konstantinos Grammatopoulos represented Greece in the 34th Venice Biennale. The universally acknowledged success and global exposure of his work in this international exhibition was overshadowed by the international outcry against the dictatorial regime of Athens, thus denying him the first prize of the exhibition.

In 1972, he was awarded the Gold Medal in Florence Engraving Biennale.

In 1974, he created the current National Emblem of Greek Democracy.

The last creative period of his life, until the early 1990’s, was devoted to painting and color lithography, in which he introduced new and imaginative techniques and artistic expressions.

Konstantinos Grammatopoulos was one of the last great Greek artists of the "generation of the '30s". He passed away in October, 2003, at the age of 87, after a long illness, which kept him away from any creative activity the last ten years of his life.