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Lesvos or Mytilene - Mytilene and the southeast of the island - the Art Collections in Vareia


The Art Collections in Vareiá

Beside the pyrgos in Vareia, a turning leads in towards the Theophilos and Teriade Museums. The largest collection (86 pictures) of Greece’s most endearing and prolific folk artist are displayed in the four rooms of the *Theophilos Museum (open daily 10–4: in summer twice daily 9–2.30, 5–8; closed Mon). The building is a small low stone cottage built in 1964, perhaps in imitation of Theophilos’s house in Mytilene (see p. 44-45). The works exhibited are mostly the product of his last years; topographical views, battle scenes, tableaux of Greek traditional life, mythological scenes, and (rarer) religious images—such as the seated woman with an infant, suggesting a Madonna & Child. All have charm and humour, and yet are painted without a deliberate desire to be humorous. Alongside them is displayed a selection of writings about the artist by Le Corbusier, Teriade (his most important patron), the poet Odysseas Elytis, and others. The predominately pastel tones used throughout give the whole of his oeuvre an unexpected unity. Most of the pictures are painted in a kind of improvised gouache on a rough-weave linen or calico support. Theophilos liked to use hard brushes and he bound his mineral pigments with linseed oil or milk, thickened sometimes with the powder of ground tiles or by the admixture of soaked pomegranate leaves. Every thing about the person, his method and his production, is highly idiosyncratic.

THEOFILOS HADJIMICHAIL (?1873–1934)
Considered slightly wayward by most of his con temporaries, Theophilos was a solitary, short, frail man who spoke with a stutter, suffered from alopecia and took a constant—almost obsessive—pleasure in dressing up as a warrior from the Greek War of In dependence. On other occasions he would dress as Alexander the Great. A part of his personality never grew up; this was a limitation, but it also constituted his greatest appeal as an artist. He was a gifted illustrator even though his skills of draughtsmanship and sense of spatial composition were considerably challenged. Theophilos always had trouble with fore shortening, especially with bent legs—as for example in his Dionysos, who sits improbably athwart a wine barrel. He was not a self-consciously naif painter like some of his European contemporaries; he was simply a talented painter in whom passion substituted for training. This led him sometimes to work for no recompense; often he would decorate a taverna wall, a door or a table-top simply in exchange for a meal. For much of his life he led a peripatetic existence, sometimes working as janitor, sometimes as a shepherd, mostly in the Mount Pelion area of Thessaly, al though he both grew up and spent the last seven years of life in his birthplace, Mytilene. His tiny house can be seen at no. 27 Dilou Street, just below the church and cemetery of Aghios Panteleimon. (The house is reached by taking Vournazon Street to Alisidas Square, and following Aghios Panteleimon St steeply uphill to the left (southwest). The second to last street on the left before the church of Aghios Panteleimon, is Dilou Street; Theophilos’s house is on the right at no. 27. The cemetery of the church itself contains many fine monuments to the citizens of Mytilene.)
  
Theophilos’s paintings are like tapestries; they in habit the same imaginative world. He favours tapestry-like subjects—pastoral scenes (Harvests near Molyvos and Mytilene), battle pageants (Constantine Palaeologus in 1453), figure groups (The Revels of Eudoxia), and mythical figures (Erotokritos and Aretousa)—all seen against an un-receding back ground, woven with curious details, plants and ani mals. Reproductions, especially postcard-size images, do his works no favours; one of the revelations of this tiny museum in Vareia is that the pieces are large, clear, and beautifully coloured. This enhances their immediacy and emphasises the effect of their pure colours.
   Theophilos is a brilliant visual narrator—selective, clear, and with a knack for creating memorable compositional tableaux of figures. The dreamy innocence of the man himself comes over clearly in his works, and many of those qualities that unite the naturally fissiparous Greeks—an often unrealistic patriotism, a love of holding forth with poetically-told heroic tales (where men often behave as gods and gods as men), and a love of spectacle—are to be found at the heart of Theophilos’s artistic personality. Perhaps it is because of this that he has had such instant and wide appeal in Greece.

This entire collection was assembled and donated to the city in 1964 by a distinguished art critic, patron and publisher from Mytilene, Stratis Eleftheriades (1897–1983), who guaranteed Theophilos’s fame and the financial security of his last years on Lesbos through his personal generosity and perspicacity as a collector. He left his native island in 1915 to study law in Paris. As he began to be known and to work in the city’s vibrant art world, he adopted the simpler literary name, ‘Teriade’. It is to this remarkable figure that the second museum here (at the end of the driveway) is dedicated.
   The Teriade Collection (open daily 9–4: in summer twice daily 9–2, 5–8; closed Mon. Note the building will be closed for repairs and extension throughout 2012, and may be 2013. For information, telephone 22510 23372 ) is a concentrated display, in 16 rooms of drawings, lithographs, etchings, aquatints and woodcuts—amongst them many annotated artist’s proofs—by Chagall, Rouault, Fernand Leger, Le Corbusier, Villon, Miro, Picasso, Matisse, Bonnard, Giacometti, and other masters of the early 20th century. The comparisons afforded between one artist’s method and another’s are profoundly revealing. All the works on display were published by Teriade in the art and literary journal, Verve, which he founded in Paris in 1937. From this quarterly publication emerged the idea of producing a series of (literally) *Grands Livres, which are exhibited in the centre of each room, and were devoted solely to original works commissioned from the artists by Teriade.
   Although this is primarily a specialist collection, the variety of work and the extraordinary quality and beauty of the production cannot fail to impress. There is also a small collection of modern Greek paintings—further works by Theophilos, and six paintings of Giannis Tsarouchis (1910–89)—a quieter and more reflective voice in Greek art, much influenced by the clear, deep, light contrasts of Spanish art.


Lesvos Island is part of the Northern Aegean Island Group, Greece.
The Art Collections in Vareia.


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Lesvos Island, Greece.


By air:
Domestic flights from Athens, four times daily with Olympic Air and two or three times daily with Aegean Airlines, serve Mytilene through out the year.
There are daily Olympic Air connections with Thessaloniki, and 6 days a week with Aegean Airlines, including a twice weekly local, Eastern Aegean route with Olympic, from Thessaloniki to Rhodes , via Lemnos and Chios and (once a week only) Samos . The airport is 5km from the centre of Mytilene.
By boat: The principal route from Piraeus to Mytilene is served by Hellenic Seaways, via Chios, with a daily 12.30 departure from Piraeus, arriving at Mytilene 21.00, and returning to Piraeus again overnight.
GA Ferries run 3 times weekly along the route from/to Chios and Samos to the south, and Lemnos and Kavala to the north.
There is a weekly Saos Ferries service from the port of Sígri (north west Lesbos) on the route be- tween Kavala, Lemnos, Aghios Evstratios (to north), and (to south) Psará and Lavrion (for Athens). Crossings to Turkey (Ayvalık/Dikili) run 4 to 5 times weekly during the summer season (May–early-Oct) only.

Lesvos Travel Guide

beaches

Lesvos Island, Greece.

 

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Lesvos Travel Guide

eating

Lesvos Island, Greece.

The port area of Mytilene has many small (mostly new) tavernas, dedicated to providing interesting, fresh and varied Levantine–Aegean dishes with localredients, good local breads, and offer a pleasant atmosphere.
Two which are particularly to be recommended, are: *Matzourána (30 Komninaki St.), one block in from the east side of the harbour;
and *Machalás (27 Mitrelia St.), two blocks in from the north side of the harbour.
A more "folkloric" setting and some good local dishes are provided by Zoubouli, on the corner of Sarandoporou and Venedakis Streets, behind the north- east corner of the port.
For traditional vegetable and fish mezedes, prepared with care and imagination, nothing can beat the Taverna "Rebetis" on the waterfront, overlooking the north harbour from its southeast corner.
11km north of Mytilene, shortly after Pyrgi Thermis, beside the church of St George, is the Taverna Aghios Giorgios—good for fresh fish, and popular with locals on Sundays especially.
On the road to Polichnítos, below the village of Asomatos and 3km after the junction at Kerameia, is the Taverna "Karini" in the deep shade of plane-trees and vines beside a stream; the food is ordinary, but the setting delightful.
At picturesque Skala Sykaminiás on the north coast, the tavernas in the port have mostly become, through popularity, over-priced or poor in quality; but 1km to the west along the track by the shore from the harbour, is To Kyma, still unspoiled and with good fish dishes.
Taverna "Vapheios", in the village of that name 6km to the east of Molyvos, has good local specialties and sunset views to match.
Right in the heart of Molyvos, the tiny and basic *Obelisteria "Methymna" (further up the street past the Demarcheion) deserves special recommendation for the care with which the owner chooses his excel lent meats and produce, serving the client with the tastiest salads and grilled meats to be found on the island, simply seasoned with fresh herbs, and provided at very modest prices. Space is limited, especially in winter.

Lesvos Travel Guide

further reading

Lesvos Island, Greece.

Longus (2nd century ad), The Pastoral Story of Daphnis & Chloe, an ancient romance novel set on Lesbos (translated in Reardon’s Ancient Greek Novels, 1989).
Richard Brooks, Birding on the Greek Island of Lesvos—revised 2002, is an invaluable guide to the island’s unusually rich birdlife.

Lesvos Travel Guide

lodging

Lesvos Island, Greece.

Notwithstanding the décor which is a little over the top (an endemic problem in the two or three converted man sions which offer accommodation in Mytilene), the hotel Pyrgos of Mytilene (T. 22510 27977, 25069, fax 47319, www.pyrgoshotel.gr. Upper price range.) on the hill to the south of the harbour, is the city’s smartest hotel—welcoming, comfortable, providing a good breakfast with freshly baked items, and open all year round. The road-side rooms can be noisy, however.
An inexpensive alternative is the Hotel Orpheas (T.22510 28523, fax 21930), in a converted mansion mid-way between the two Archaeological Museums.
Not far outside Mytilene (11 km to the north), at Pyrgi Thermis, is the delightful Hotel Votsala- (T. 22510 71231, fax 71179; www.votsalahotel. com. Apr-Oct. Medium price). Welcoming, informal, and pointedly un-touristy and unpretentious, this simple and beautiful hotel on the shore, run by a Mytilenean architect and his wife, is perhaps the most civilised and enjoyable solution on the island.
Molyvos has a wider variety of places to chose from: on the shore below the town, is the Olive Press Hotel (medium price), arranged around the courtyard of a converted olive mill (T. 22530 71205, fax 71646).
In the heart of Molyvos is the delightful and simple Nassos Guesthouse (inexpensive; T. 22530 71432, www.nassosguesthouse.com);
and nearby, for real simplicity in an old Ottoman-style house, Pension Chrisi (T. 22530 72193). Not far away, between Petra and Anaxos, is the Clara Hotel & Bungalows (T. 22530 41532, fax 41535, www.clarahotel.gr); the complex, which has comprehensive facilities and is set in its own gardens, has fine views of Molyvos and Petra, but is a little distance from both and is not on the beach.
In Plomari, the nicest lodgings are provided by the Hotel Leda (T. 22520 32507; open May–Sept only) in a fine traditional mansion with views out to sea: it is in the centre of town, up a flight of steps from the main square.
The only accommodation which is part of one of the thermal spring spas are the rooms offered at Thermes Polichnitou (T. 22520 41201).

Lesvos Travel Guide

museums

Lesvos Island, Greece.

Archaeological Museum

Lesvos Travel Guide

practical info

Lesvos Island, Greece.

811 00 09, 812 00 & 813 00 Lesbos:
area 1630sq km
perimeter 370km
population 108,000
max. altitude 968m.
Port Authority (Mytilene): T. 22510 40827, 47888.
Travel and information: Pan Tours 22510 46595, www.pantours.gr, Dimakis Travel 22510 27865, www.dimakistours.gr

Lesvos Travel Guide

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