A great artist from 1960s Greece

Artist Dimitris Mytaras. Credit: Chalkida Art Workshop/Facebook

Dimitris Mytaras, who died on this day in 2017, was one of the most important painters and set designers of the generation of Greek artists of the 1960s.

Born June 18, 1934 in Chalcis, he was the son of a barber; his mother died a few days after his birth. He started painting in high school using a wall in his house as his first canvas, he recalled in an interview.

Mytaras began his studies at the School of Fine Arts in 1953, concentrating on painting. He graduated in 1957 with two great artists, Spyros Papaloukas and Yannis Moralisas teachers.

In 1957, he exhibited his works for the first time in Athens during the 5th Panhellenic Art Exhibition at the Zappeion Megaron. His first personal exhibition took place at the Zygos gallery in 1960.

His classmate at school was the woman who would become his wife, Chariklia Triantafyllou, whom he married in 1961. According to the law at the time, she took his surname.

The same year, thanks to a scholarship from the Fondation des Bourses d’Etat, the couple continued their studies in scenography and interior architecture at the Ecole Supérieure des Arts Décoratifs in Paris until 1964.

Back from Paris

On his return from Paris, Dimitris Mytaras taught interior architecture at the Athenian Institute of Technology (Doxiadis School), which he reorganized with his wife.

At the same time, he designed sets and costumes for a series of major theatrical productions. He has collaborated with the State Theater of Northern Greece, the National Theater and the Art Theater of Karolos Koun.

“He was not a theater man,” his wife explained in a later interview, “but through the theater he escaped the loneliness of the workshop.”

In 1969 Mytaras began teaching at the School of Fine Arts. In 1975 he was granted tenure and from 1982 to 1985 he served as rector of the school.

In 1978, alongside his work as an educator and with the help of the municipal authority, he founded the Chalkida Art Workshop in his hometown, appointing his wife as the director of all educational and cultural activities.

Dimitris Mytaras
Relief of Dimitris Mytaras from the ancient sculpture “Dexileos” with ceramics from Voula Gounela. The work is presented in the Dafni metro station in Athens. Credit: Chalkida Art Workshop/Facebook

His work

The work of Dimitris Mytaras, both in painting and in scenography, is vast. He has participated in numerous individual and collective exhibitions in Greece and abroad.

His works of art have traveled to Alexandria, Paris, Sao Paulo, Frankfurt, Bologna, Florence, Venice, Genoa, Belgrade, New York, Stockholm, Tokyo and other cities.

The artist has also worked in illustration and various other visual applications. He decorated many public and private buildings, including hotels and banks, with murals.

One of his works, “Dexileos”, is presented at the Dafni station of the Athens metro. His work also extended to theoretical texts and studies of art in books and press articles, as well as poetry.

He has received two awards and five honors for the many works of art he has created throughout his career. In 1985, the municipality of Chalkida awarded him the gold medal of the city.

Art critics praise Mytaras

In 2001, the then President of the Republic, Konstantinos Stefanopoulos, appointed him Brigadier General of the Order of the Phoenix.

In 2008 he was elected a full member of the Academy of Athens, but two years later became inactive due to health issues including optic neuropathy.

Mytaras died of health complications on February 16, 2017 in Athens, aged 82.

Art critic Manos Stefanidis said: “Dimitris Mytaras is one of the most important exponents of the 1960s generation…most of his work focuses on the relationship between old and new and the juxtaposition of graphic design with traditional forms.”

Marina Lambraki, from Plaka, another art critic, said: “If you remove Mytaras from the art history of Greece, you will realize how poor that would be.”

James C. Tibbs