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Theophilos Chatzimichail

Theophilos Chatzimichail was born in Varia, Mytilene, around 1870 and he was the first of eight children of the family, four boys and as many girls.
Puzzled with his family environment, he goes, around eighteen years old, to Smyrni, where according to him, he works as gatekeeper - "Kavasis" – at the Greek Consulate.

From Smyrni he was forced to leave, after an episode with some Turks, to Greece and specifically to Athens, where he tries to be classified in the Greek army during the War of 1897. Once he is not admitted, he goes to Volos, and according to witnesses, he classified as a volunteer and he will be found in battles of Velestino and Domokos. After the end of war, he will remain in Magnesia for about thirty years and he will create his first and perhaps the most important period of his paintings.

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The second period was the period after his return to Mytilene and the third after his contact with the Lesvian critic Stratis Eleftheriadis - Teriade, while, for the period of his stay in Smyrni, we haven’t evidence for the existence of his painting activity.

In the region of Magnesia, the first dated work that was found, was a self-portrait of small dimensions (0.28 x 0.40), which had the title "Theophilos painter and former chieftain and gatekeeper in Smyrni, 1899".
Rich is the work left by the painter in the area, where, in the city of Volos, he will paint at various cafes, taverns and inns, in order to earn money for his survival and also in the surrounding villages of Volos, such as Milies, where he painted the church of Agia Marina, in Portaria in Karavos café, which has been demolished, in Makrinitsa’s café, in Agios Vlassis the house of Gekas, in Anakasia the house of Kontos, in Kontogianni’s mill, the olive mill of Varalis, in Saint Onoufrios the Mill of Kontos, in Alli Meria the bakery of Velentzas, Gkountelia’s home, the church, etc.

In the city of Volos, the bulk of his work and perhaps the most interesting, started around 1925 with the settlement of refugees from Asia Minor in the region.
The refugees built their shacks in various open spaces in the city as in Rigas Feraios Square, in Eleytherias Square and towards the end of Iolkos street, in which the painter painted colorful signs with flowers and birds, various representations on the facades of the shops etc, which, a few years later, in 1930, were destroyed by a fire.
His subjects derive themes from the everyday life and mainly from cards and lithographs of his time, with mythological and Historical representations.

Today, from this large painting production of Theophilos in Magnesia region, a very small portion is still saved, since most of his works were destroyed by the earthquake of '55, and also by the ignorance of their owners and others were evacuated from the area.
Apart from his painting activity, Theophilos had a strong contribution to the society events of that era, by organizing various popular theatrical performances during the national holidays and the period of Carnival, in which kept the leading role, sometimes dressed as Alexander the Great with his Macedonian phalanx to be formed by school students and sometimes as Hero of Greek Revolution, with equipment and costumes that were made by himself and he amused the audience.

The creative process of Theophilos in Magnesia will be completed in 1927, when finally he will return to his hometown, Mytilene. It is said that the reason for his departure from Volos was an incident at a coffee shop, where someone willing to entertain others, threw him off the ladder he was jacked up to paint the façade.

In Mytilene, he will meet the Lesvian critic Stratis Eleftheriadis - Teriade, to whom he largely owes the recognizing of the value of his work and its display in the international arena. This recognition comes, unfortunately, after his death.
In 1934, the Ministry of Culture in order to protect his work, described it as "in need of special state protection”.

Source: Magnesia Municipality


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