A talented artist is born with that blessing and any education he or she might receive will not necessarily improve the ability to paint and create art. Vasilis Zenetzis received lessons at the Cretan School of Colourists but it was talent and hard work that distinguished him and brought him worldwide recognition. Zenetzis was a prodigious talent. At just seventeen years of age he was recognised and honoured with his first show at the Dominicos Theodokopoulos Galleries in Heraklion, Crete. Later, whilst in the army, he won competitions to paint the sets of plays staged by
his army unit. He held further exhibitions in his early years, but it was not until he arrived in Athens in the early 1970s and developed an Impressionist-Divisionist style that he began to achieve a wider recognition.
This style of art was inspired by Van Gogh whose work he viewed on a visit to Amsterdam. It was a style he took up with passion and vigour using it to capture the beauty and colours of his beloved homeland Greece, from its islands and landscapes to its ancient monuments in Athens and beyond. He continued with and perfected this distinctive style of painting, immortalised in the works of this period, right until his death in 2016. Zenetzis’ art has attracted many followers among ordinary people as well as art experts. Sotheby’s, who started selling his work in 1996, stated, “we love
the artist’s work.” Zenetzis himself always said he was an artist of the people. To quote Piet Mondrian, “The position of the artist is humble, he is essentially a channel” and indeed the work of Zenetzis is a channel for all Greeks wherever they are in the world.
Zenetzis’ love for his homeland and its magnificent past drew him to start painting Athens and its ancient monuments, in addition to his wonderful island landscapes, as early as the 1990s. However, it was the Athens Olympics of 2004 that inspired him and provided a once in a lifetime opportunity to fulfil his lifelong ambition to leave behind a substantial body of art related to the Acropolis and other ancient monuments of Athens. It was during this period that he produced ‘en plein air’ and on location a series of seven paintings now known as ‘The Magnificent Seven’. Every day throughout the summer Olympics he would sit and work on these paintings surrounded by thousands of admiring tourists. His art of this period is considered by many experts the pinnacle of his artistic achievement.
I met Vasilis in late 1988 and immediately liked both the man and the artist. Straightaway I commissioned him to paint for me. By August 1989 he had produced twenty-nine paintings which I exhibited with great success for the first time in London. He continued to paint for ‘Constantart’ and ‘greeksinart’ for the next twenty years or so. Paintings of Athens and its environs, Piraeus, Vouliagmeni, Sounion as well as the island of Cyprus were painted exclusively for our galleries and form a unique part of our collection. They are some of the finest examples of Zenetzis’ distinctive Impressionist-Divisionist style.
My association with the artist was a very long one of respect and passion for two things, the love of art and the love of Greece and Hellenism as two Greeks visualised it; one with the heart and mind of a Greek Cypriot and the other with the heart, mind and talented hands of a brilliant Cretan with roots in Asia Minor. Perhaps the fact that we were both refugees at heart united us in a quest to serve Hellenism, exalt Hellenism and create a unique artistic heritage for Hellenism at home and the Diaspora.
Zenetzis’ death at the age of eighty-one has left a major gap in the world of Greek art but his legacy will live on.
You can download the complete monograph here.