Greece and some ancient and modern art

Another journey back in time, triggered by a recent session at the AGNSW Ancient Greece: the invention of the classical orders sent me digging back into art books, classicism and Picasso, and notebooks of travel around Greece. Returning to books and travel notes to reimagine the experience and art discoveries, retracing the journey through web links to places, still providing inspiration decades down the track. The faded photographs of the experience (below) are hardly ‘picture postcards’ but do help conjure up memories of time and place. Some travel notes and quotes (from old guide books needless to say everything has changed since, including spelling of place names).

Greece bookended ten weeks travelling around Europe, my first trip overseas, four days at the start (March) and fifteen days at the end (May), packed in as much as possible. Descent into Athens across the unbelievably blue Mediterranean, islands scattered in the blue haze. General pandemonium on the bus into Athens at the first sight of the Acropolis. As the sun set behind the Acropolis, strolling around the night markets where nearly everyone had relations or knew someone from Sydney or Melbourne. Visit to the Museum, sculpture so lifelike it was easy to imagine the subjects still walking around the Plaka. An afternoon clamouring all over the Acropolis. Train to Patras along the edge of the magnificent blue sea, orange and lemon orchards, green, yellow, blue, red poppies everywhere, donkeys loaded with oranges meandering through the orchards. Evening in Patras, ‘gateway for sailing to and from Italy’. Train to Olympia, mud brick houses along the way, rain and muted colours, flowers everywhere white, yellow, blue, red, travelling back at sunset, goats, donkeys, geese, sheep being herded into pens for the night, back in time to catch the ship to Brindisi, Italy, night on deck under a full bright moon.

Returned in mid-May on a ship from Brindisi bound for Corfu in pouring rain and what felt like gale force wind. A wild night, the ship pitching violently, everyone sea sick, the place a wreck. We made it up to the top deck and stayed in the fresh air singing ‘the long and winding road’, it kept the sea sickness on hold. Disembarking in Corfu a relief for everyone. Corfu, in the Ionian Islands, ‘gateway to the Adriatic. According to Homer, the last staging point on the journey home to Ithaca of Ulysses’. Bussed over to the other side of the island to the village of Pelekas. Fully recovered, found the best restaurant with the usual grand finale, everyone smashing all the plates to show appreciation. Riding around the island on mopeds, swimming along the way, hills covered in red poppies, old stone mills. After a couple of days, caught a ship back to Patras and then a train, we thought was going to Athens but found out thirty minutes into the journey we were heading in the wrong direction. The guard stopped the train and flagged down a train going the other way, excellent service. Alighted at Corinth and met by the proverbial little old lady at the station who found our accommodation and a well received tip. Complex history (to say the least), the place knocked down and rebuilt so many times in the end ‘it is essentially a Roman city’. Spectacular rugged scenery, train to Mycenae, to the Lions Gate (built 1250 BC1), and the domed temple of Agamemnon. That night’s sleep enhanced by the sounds of donkey, goat, rooster, fighting cats, turkeys, and trucks. Bus to Epidavros, ‘sanctuary dedicated to the healer god Asklepios. Ancient theatre designed by Polyklitos with amazing acoustics and able to seat 14,000 spectators’. Train back to Athens to offload gear and then train to Pireaus, in 1920s style wooden railway carriage, to catch a boat to Santorini, which took sixteen hours instead of twelve. Arriving so late, after midnight, an argument broke out between the captain and the wharf manager, a small tug boat pulled alongside and we were loaded aboard and ferried across the sea under a clear sky and bright moon, magic. Arriving at the old port there was no transport, the four legged vehicles locked up for the night, so we had to walk up the long and winding road, but the view was incredible. Sleepless waiting for sunrise, at first light the view even more stunning, the long climb was more than worth it. In the ‘Agean Islands south of Athens, thought to be the site of the lost city of Atlantis, a volcanic island rising sheer out the deep surrounding sea. Former home of the Phoenicians, Dorians, Romans, and Byzantines, with relics also of Minoan civilization’. Caught bus to the black beach Perissa and stayed there for a few days. Perissa: rugged beauty, blue sea and sun, room opposite the beach, but then the next day a gale blowing dust, no rain, shredded washing. Only way out, flight to Athens, one hour, then train to Livadeia, snow covered mountains in the distance. Bus to Delphi, ‘the ancient sanctuary, centre of the world’ narrow winding mountain roads, walk to the temple of Apollo, the stadium, the theatre ‘3rd century BC able to seat 5,000 spectators’. On the way to Thiva, the bus dropped us at a cross road and we had to walk 3k into a small town along the dusty road as the sun set behind the mountains. Bus to Eretria, then the Greek Rivera, but at that time of year empty and silent. After a week of travelling, lack of activity was hard to take, so caught a bus back to Athens. Sat by the fence on the Acropolis near the theatre with a play in progress, dinner on a rooftop with a floor show, cafes and folk singers. Walking through the little winding streets around the Plaka, away from the shops and tourists, old houses, cats, wisteria, with views over the chaos. On our last day sitting up on the Acropolis, under a tree, the Parthenon in view and then final glimpse from the bus on the way to the airport. End of our odyssey and from then on hooked on art and travel.

Places
Athens
Patras
Olympia
Corfu
Corinth
Mycenae
Epidavros
Pireaus
Santorini
Livadeia
Delphi
Thiva
Eretria

Memories of Time and Place

800329 Athens Acropolis theatre
Athens, Acropolis theatre 29/3/1980

800329 Athens the Parthenon
Athens, the Parthenon 29/3/1980

800329 Athens the Plaka
Athens, the Plaka 29/3/1980

800331 Olympia
Olympia 31/3/1980

800517 Pelekas, Corfu
Pelekas, Corfu 17/5/1980

800518 Pelekas, Corfu
Pelekas, Corfu 18/5/1980

800520 Korinthos
Corinth 20/5/1980

 

800521 Epidavros 2
Epidavros 21/5/1980

800521 Epidavros
Epidavros 21/5/1980

800524 Santorini (postcard copy)
Long and winding road, Santorini, 23/5/1980 (postcard copy)

800524 Santorini
Santorini 24/5/1980

800524 Perissa 2
Perissa, Santorini 24/5/1980

800524 Perissa Beach Santorini
Late afternoon, local trash and treasure collector, Perissa, Santorini 24/5/1980

800524 Perissa
Perissa Beach, Santorini, 24/5/1980

800525 Delphi 2
Delphi 25/5/1980

800525 Delphi
Delphi 25/5/1980

800525 Delphi The Theatre
Delphi, The Theatre 25/5/1980

800530 leaving Athens
Leaving Athens 30/5/1980

Art References – a sample

Greek Cycladic vase in the form of a bear2500-2200 BC
Cycladic vase in the form of a bear 2500-2200 BC1

Greek Cycladic marble idol 2000 BC
Cycladic marble idol 2000 BC1

Greek Cretan Faience statuette of Snake Goddess Palce of Knossos c 1600BC
Faience statuette of Snake Goddess Palace of Knossos c 1600 BC1

Greek Mycenaean Ivory group two goddesses and divine child from acropolis of Mycenae 14 century BC
Ivory group two goddesses and divine child from Acropolis of Mycenae 14 century BC1

Greek Archaic period Ivory two girls about 630
Ivory two girls about 630 BC Archaic Period2

Greek Archaic Period Kouros from Attica about 600-590
Kouros from Attica about 600-590 BC Archaic Period2

Greek Archaic Period Kore from the Acropolis about 500
Kore from the Acropolis about 500 BC, Archaic Period2

Greek Archaic Kore (the Peplos kore) from the Acropolis about 530 archa0006
Kore (the Peplos kore) from the Acropolis about 530 BC, Archaic Period2

Greek Archaic Period East frieze of the Siphnian treasuryAre,Aphrodite,Artemis
East frieze of the Siphnian treasury Ares, Aphrodite, Artemis, Archaic Period2

Greek Classical Period Heracles, Atlas, Athena - Olympia Temple of Zeus0002
Heracles, Atlas, Athena – Olympia Temple of Zeus, Classical Period3

Greek Classical Period Charioteer from Delphi about 478
Charioteer from Delphi about 478 BC, Classical Period3

Greek A Goddess of Victory from the balustrade around the Temple of Victory, Athens, erected 408 BCE
A Goddess of Victory from the balustrade around the Temple of Victory, Athens, erected 408 BC

Greek Classical Period Gravestone of Hegeso from Athens about 400
Gravestone of Hegeso from Athens about 400 BC, Classical Period3

All the above sent me back to the books, Classicism in modern art and Picasso. A selection.

Picasso, Seated Woman, 1920 Musee Picasso Paris
Seated Woman, 1920

Picasso (Pablo ) Three Women at the Spring, 1921
Three Women at the Spring, 1921

Picasso (Pablo) Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race), 1922
Two Women Running on the Beach (The Race), 1922

Picasso (Pablo) The Pan Pipes, 1923
The Pan Pipes, 1923

Picasso Femme nue assise devant un rideau. [Nude woman sitting in front of a curtain.], Vollard Suite, 1931
Femme nue assise devant un rideau. [Nude woman sitting in front of a curtain.], Vollard Suite, 1931

Picasso Jeune sculpteur au travail. [Young sculptor at work.] Vollard Suite, 1933
Jeune sculpteur au travail. [Young sculptor at work.] Vollard Suite, 1933

 Picasso Flûtiste et jeune fille au tambourin. [Flute-player and young girl with tambourine.], 1934
Flûtiste et jeune fille au tambourin. [Flute-player and young girl with tambourine.], 1934

Other references

1 Minoan and Mycenaean Art, Reynold Higgins, revised edition 1981

2Greek Sculpture – The Archaic Period, John Boardman, 1978

3Greek Sculpture – The Classical Period, John Boardman, 1985

The Picasso Museum of Barcelona, Rosa Maria Subirana Torrent, 1975

Picasso, Hans L.C. Jaffé, 1980

Picasso, National Gallery of Victoria, 28 July – 23 September 1984, Catalogue

Picasso The Last Decades, Art Gallery of NSW, 9 November 2002 – 16 February 2003, Catalogue

Picasso, Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso, Paris, Art Gallery of NSW 12 November 2011 – 25 March 2012, Catalogue

Pablo Picasso, Artists of the 20th Century, Kultur DVD

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