Theophilos Museum

Location: Varia   

The Museum of Theophilos in Lesvos, Greece: The museum of Theophilos Hatzimichail, a recognized folk painter, is located in Akrotiri, a suburb of Varia, 4 km from Mytilene. Constructed thanks to the effort and funding of the art critic Stratis Eleftheriades, or Teriade, this museum is divided in 5 halls and houses 86 works of Theophilos, who was recognized as a great painter only after his death.

Theophilos was born between 1867 and 1870 in Varia Lesvos, that was back then under Ottoman occupation. His grand-father was an hagiographer. As Theophilos was always wearing the traditional Greek fustanella, a custom out of fashion at his time, he caused the mocking of other people. At the age of 18, he moved to the Greek consulate of Smyrna (modern Izmir) to work as a gate-keeper.

In 1897 he moved to Volos where he was drawing houses and shops of the region. Many of his wall paintings survive till today. Along with painting, he was also organizing theatrical acts for national ceremonies and was making costumes for the local carnival.

In 1927, he returned to Lesvos, where he continued to paint the walls of coffee places and shops around the island for a small amount of money or food. Many of these paintings survive till today, if they have not been damaged by time or repairs. He died in March 1934, probably from food poisoning.

Soon after his death, his work was discovered by the renowned art critic and publisher Stratis Eleftheriades, originating from Lesvos but living in Paris. One year later, the works of Theophilos were exhibited in the Museum of Louvre as samples of a genuine folk painter from Greece. His themes were a combination of ancient Greek mythology, Greek history of all periods and folk life of his time.

In 1964, Eleftheriades funded the creation of the Theophilos Museum in Varia. In July 2013, the museum was renovated and refurbished in order to better promote the work of the major folk painter of Neo-Hellenic art. Although the museum owns 151 paintings, only 35 are today exhibited as the rest are still restored by the Greek Ministry of Culture.

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