Kanakakis Lefteris (1934 - 1985)

He was born in 1934 in Rethymno (Crete). He studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts (1954-1960) with Yannis Moralis and Spyros Papaloukas. His first solo exhibition was held at the Municipal Library of Rethymnon (1960) and went to Paris for a year, on a Mika Skouze scholarship. A little later he went back to Paris, on a greek state scholarship (I.K.Y.), and continued his studies at the Ecole des Beaux Arts with Maurice Brianchon (1963 -1966). Unlike many of his peer painters, he was not influenced by the abstract forms of Parisian art but studied the figurative painting of older and contemporary artists, reinforcing his own view on artistic expression through a recognizable image.
Upon his return to Greece, he taught in the preparatory department of the Athens School of Fine Arts (1968-1978) and wrote his study The technique of oil painting, for student use (published by ASFA in 1981). He was also a founding member of the Greek Centre for Visual Arts (1974).
His painting, as presented at his first solo exhibition in Athens (Astor gallery, 1969) was initially dominated by strict compositions with familiar objects in interior spaces, focusing on the depiction of light. The thorough observation of the depicted objects and their extreme simplicity indicated the artist’s intention to explore his subject in depth and the potential of his painting.
His themes became more complex in the following years and the objects had a clearer symbolic character, with limpid but subtle references to Greek political reality (trumpets, flags, medals etc.). The rich processing of the paints (he always worked with oils) made the silent atmosphere of his works even more noticeable.
Around 1980, the human figure, which was absent from his previous paintings, invades his work. His last period is dominated by portraits and female nudes, in calm monumental compositions, the most challenging subject for a painter who has achieved maturity.
His work has been exhibited in solo and group exhibitions in Greece and abroad. In 1983 he was awarded the 7th Kazantzakis Award by the Municipality of Heraklion, Crete while his retrospective exhibition was held at the Basilica of Saint Marcus (Heraklion). One year after his premature death (Athens, 1985), his work was presented at the Athens National Art Gallery (1986).
A permanent collection of representative works is housed at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Crete - Municipal Gallery Lefteris Kanakakis in Rethymno.