Evgenios Spatharis was the most prominent shadow artist in Greece, well known for his puppet theatre stories revolving around the folkloric hunchbacked character Karagiozis, who came to represent the virtues and vices of the average Greek.
Evgenios was born in Kifissia in 1924, son of Sotiris Spatharis, himself a famous puppeteer. The young man began his performance career in Maroussi in 1942 at the age of twenty years old. From 1945 to 1950, he toured throughout Greece appearing in theatres and cinemas.
In 1962, Evgenios was a prize-winner of the World Shadow and Puppet Theatre Festival in Rome.
When the first Greek Television Channel began its broadcasts in 1966, it aired the Karagiozis show with Evgenios, which continued until 1992.
Throughout 1971 and 1972, Evgenios toured and gave performances in Poland, London, Germany, Denmark, Geneva and Paris.
In 1980, a World Festival of the Shadow Theatre was organised in Paris in his honour.
Evgenios in 1999 took part in the International Festival of Lemessos (Cyprus) and wrote the script “Doing for Shadows” which was staged in Athens with a very big success.
In 2001, in cooperation with the well-known Cretan singers, Loudovicos of Anoghia and Psarantonis, Evgenios performed the popular Cretan poem “Erotokritos”.
The following year, Evgenios travelled to Cyprus for the big exhibition of his shadow figures organised by the “Cultural Company of Lemessos”. The staged show was also a theatrical play dedicated to his life and his work, under the title “Spatharis the Greek”, and he was honoured by the Ministry Of Culture and the President of Democracy of Cyprus.
In the spring of 2004, Evgenios was invited in France to teach young puppeteers about Karagiozis’ art and technique.
Evgenios Spatharis’ Karagiozis illustrations have appeared in comic book-form (1960 and 1970), while 1979 saw the publication of the book “Karagiozis by Spatharis Family”.
Besides being the most famous performer of Karagiozis, Evgenios was also an accomplished painter, who collaborated with many of the most important Greek artists, like Manos Hadjidakis, Dionysis Savvopoulos, Rallou Manou, Stavros Xarchakos, Melina Mercouri and others.
Evgenios has appeared in many cinema films and tv commercials and participated in recordings of songs by well known Greek composers S. Xarchakos, S. Fotiadis.
With the help of his wife, Evgenios created the first International Museum of Shadow Theatre in Maroussi, Athens. Since 1995, the Museum of Shadow Theatre “Spathario” has been operating in Maroussi, which features Evgenios creations donated by his family to the Municipality. The Museum is open to children and everyone interested.
In 2007 the Greek Culture Ministry awarded Evgenios the title of ‘Grand Master’, in recognition of his great contribution to his art.
On the 9th May 2009, Evgenios passed away at the age of 85 after falling down stairs and suffering a severe head injury.
*Source: Karagiozis Museum