Τρίτη, 26 Απριλίου 2011
Sketches taken at Corfu
by Dr. Stavros Arvanitopoulos, Curator of Athens City Museum - Vouros-Eutaxias Foundation, at the occasion of the exhibition: "Corfu and the Ionian islands 18th-19th centuries"
Among the Collections of the Museum, is included a sketchbook containing in total 57 pencil, sepia ink and watercolour drawings made by the same artist. Most of them (52) are hand-numbered in pencil; however, they were not bound in the same order. Almost all of them bear inscriptions, hand-written by the artist, referring to their subject: individual buildings or small groups of edifices of the town of Corfu and the surrounding area, landscapes, hamlets and interesting buildings of the rest of the island.
Only two sketches are dated (both in 1850); moreover, there are two notes on the first sheet that reveal the identity of the owner of the sketchbook. It is none other than Sir John J. Reid, which had been for two decades (1837-1857) a member and then the President of the Supreme Court of Justice of the United States of the Ionian Islands under British Protection. The sketchbook was donated to J. Reid in 1876, long after his return to Scotland, his homeland.
The selection of subjects and particularly the romantic point of view of the anonymous artist are typical of the numerous British subjects that lived for a short or a longer period in Corfu and on the other islands of the small state during the Protection (1815-1864). The landscape, unscathed by the monstrous expansion of the various edifices and the "development" of the second half of the 20th century, is presented as peaceful and idyllic, while the buildings, exquisite specimens of the impressively long architectural history of Corfu, are depicted fully incorporated in it, in a still harmonious co-existence of human and nature.
Apart from the church of Saint Spiridon in the centre of the town, the palace of Saint Michael and Saint George at the northern end of Spianada, the Old Fort and the islets of Vlaherna and Pondikonissi –all of them quite common subjects of the travellers' and the painters' work of that era–, the artist renders a panoramic view of Kastrades (Garitsa) during the period of its evolvement; the opposite view of the town as seen from Analipsis, where the then recently demolished parts of the fortification to the South of the New Fort may be seen; or buildings that do not exist anymore, such as Major J. Fraser's house or a residence near the racetrack. Moreover, monuments that are well-documented –such as the church of Sts Jason and Sosipatros in Palaeopolis–, nevertheless depicted in completely changed surroundings.
MIDDLE PART OF CORFU
The depiction of the landscape of this part of Corfu is magnificent, whether it suggests a predominant feature of the drawing (Ropas meadow, Alepou) or the setting for human creations, either of the past or contemporary with the artist (the convent of Pantokrator on Pondikonissi, the quarantine on Lazaretto, the Venetian shipyard at Gouvia, the hamlet at Potamos). Of particular interest is the portraying of the tower at Potamos, destroyed during the 1943 bombardment and subsequently replaced by the still standing bell tower of Eleoussa. Two out of the three bridges that caught the attention of the artist (the ones at Triklinos and at Asyrmatos Potamou) still exist, although their idyllic surroundings have changed dramatically. The third one, at Alykes, did not survive.
NORTHERN PART OF CORFU
During his visits to the northern part of Corfu, the artist cannot resist the temptation to draw the quite frequently depicted convent of Palaeokastritsa, as well as Cassiopi and its byzantine castle of the 12th c. He also includes the distinctive building with the semi-circular turrets that belonged to Q(u)artano family, situated at Kouloura bay at the NE point of the island, and the adjacent chapel of St. Nicholas, of which there are four drawings in all, the largest number of depictions of the same group of buildings in the entire sketchbook.
UNIDENTIFIED LANDSCAPES AND MONUMENTS OF CORFU
A small number of sketches depict landscapes, buildings or hamlets, the identification of which is impossible, in spite of the fact that they are usually followed by a short inscription added to by the artist. Moreover, there is hardly ever a faultless transcription of the Greek place-names, a fact that occasionally leads to confusion: for example, the hamlet referred to as Vallepitades could be identified either with Varipatades in the middle part of the island of or with Alimatades in northern Corfu.