“Charmed lives in Greece”, an exhibition at the British Museum from the 8thof  March to the 15th of July 2018 brings together paintings, photos, letters and objects of three friends: the painters Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas and John Craxton, and World War II hero and travel writer Sir Patrick “Paddy” Leigh Fermor.

Leigh Fermor is perhaps the most widely known of the three, through his travel writings and the legendary abduction and evacuation to Cairo of Crete’s German commander General Heinrich Kreipe in 1944 with the support of local resistance fighters.

The three met at the end of the Second World War and became lifelong friends, spending much of their lives in Greece. The people and landscapes of Hydra, Kardamyli, Crete and Corfu where the three lived and spent time together, inspired and shaped each other’s work.

It was Ghikas’ family home at Hydra where Fermor lived from 1954 to 1955 and wrote most of his book “Mani”. In a letter to Ghikas, he acknowledged that “without Hydra, this book would have never been written, and for this reason there could not be enough gratitude”. Leigh Fermor built a house with his wife, Joan at Kardamyli, Mani, in the southern Peloponnese that became a haven for writers and artists and where he lived most of his life.

John Craxton firstvisited Greece in 1946 for the first time and returned several times from the 1950s on eventually settling in Chania, Crete. In Greece he discovered how “to be a real person – real people, real elements, real windows – real sun above all. In a life of reality my imagination really works. I feel like an émigré in London – squashed flat”.  One of the leading artists of the 1940s Neo-Romantic movement and a lover of Greek music and Byzantine art Craxton was for many years the honorary British consul on the island.

The exhibition, supported by the Leventis Foundation in collaboration with
the Benaki Museum and the Craxton Estate,explores Greece’s enduring influence as a source of artistic inspiration on the three men is open until the 15thof July 2018 at the British Museum.

The close friendship of the three men is beautifully presented in a short video by the British Museum at: youtube.com/watch?time_continue=289&v=U2n4FjXaYH0

Mark Oz          Sydney 9 April 2018

Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas (1906–1994), Study for a poster. Tempera on cardboard, 1948. Benaki Museum – Ghika Gallery, Athens. © Benaki Museum 2018.

Nikos and Barbara Warner-Hadjikyriakos-Ghika with John Craxton, Patrick Leigh Fermor and Joan Fermor, in 1958. Photograph: Beny Roloff, Benaki Museum – Ghika Gallery, Athens.© Benaki Museum.

John Craxton illustration for the cover of Patrick Leigh Fermor’s book “Mani”.


GCT Team

This article was researched and written by a GCT team member.

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