Kefallinos Yannis (1894 - 1957)

He was born in 1894 in Alexandria (Egypt). He began studying mechanical engineering at the University of Ghent (Belgium, 1912), but soon he quit to enrol at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. Being a conscientious objector during World War I, he retired to Alexandria in 1914, where he connected with literature circles and published essays on art. He returned to Paris in 1919, to complete his studies (Ecole des Beaux Arts, with the printmaker Gabriel Bellot) and over the next ten years he settled in France. In the meantime, he befriended many Greek poets (Sikelianos, Cavafis, Varnalis, etc.). In the early ‘20s, he was already well-known for his prints and illustrations in France. The Greek public would learn about him from a detailed article by Kostas Varnalis, published in the journal ‘Society of Friends’ (Filiki Eteria) in 1925.
His early prints are distinguished by their realism and picturesqueness. Later, the representational features will give way to more abstract forms. At the same time, the symbolic and dramatic dimensions of the designs are emphasized. This process of making the work more abstract, and the bold lines through which the printmaker seeks the essence of his subjects, were innovative features for the specific era.
A landmark in his career was his election as head of the newly-established Printmaking dept. at the Athens School of Fine Arts, where he organized an exemplary Studio. When the War of 1940 broke out, the most famous patriotic posters were created there. In 1942, the Italian authorities arrested him, along with three of his students, for ‘defeatism and communist action’, because of their works on the Athens famine. From 1954 until his death, he was director of ASFT. He was passionately devoted to the dissemination of the printmaking art and the art of book illustration in Greece, and taught the most important Greek printmakers (and painters) of the postwar era.
Two albums stand out from his many important illustrations: The Peacock (To Pagoni, 1946) and Ten White Urns (Deka Lefkai Likythoi, 1956). He won the 1st prize of the Art Lovers Association twice (1939 and 1946). He also designed stamps for the Greek Post Office (1950-1954), some of which received international attention.
He participated in book fairs and in very few group exhibitions. Generally, he avoided to exhibit his works.
Shortly after his death (Athens, 1957), a retrospective exhibition of his works was organized at ASFA (1958). In 1991, the Cultural Foundation of the National Bank of Greece (MIET) published a 2-volume biography (including his essays and correspondence), and in 1993, it organized a retrospective exhibition of his work.