Tourist information guide on Athens Greece

The National Art Gallery in Athens


National Art Gallery
Alexandros Soutzos Museum

The National Art Gallery – Alexandros Soutzos Museum, is the most important institution in Greece devoted to the subject of the history of Greek art. The masterpieces decorating the halls of the gallery give a complete picture of the aesthetic paths and history of art in modern Greece.

When the National Gallery was founded in 1900, it comprised 258 works from the collections of the University of Athens and the Technical University of Athens. The first curator was the painter Georgios Iakovadis. One year later, the collection of Alexandros Soutzos (107 paintings) were donated to the National Gallery.

Soutzos, a lawyer and art-lover, had spent his fortune creating a large art collection and the founding of a museum of painting. The National Gallery was jointed together with Alexandros Soutzos’ gift in 1954. The original collections were enriched by donations and last will gifts of artists and Greek art-lovers as well as by purchasers of important works. The donation of the Evripidis Koutlidis collection was of great importance and completed the presentation of the history of modern Greek painting (19th-20th century).

The gallery’s collection, which now comprises of more than 9.500 paintings, sculptures and engravings, found its permanent home in 1976 when the present building was opened. Construction began in 1964 under the architects Fatouros, Milonas and Moutsopoulos. It is a low building with two wings and it follows modern architectural styles for public buildings.

Short exhibitions of cultural interest are held in the first wing. In the halls of the second and largest wing, most of the permanent collection of paintings is on display. The outstanding collection of sculptures from the 19th and the 20th century will be accommodated in the Museum of Sculpture in Goudi.

The Virgin in Paradise – Jan Brueghel II (1601-1678)Priority is given to modern Greek painting and the approach of art lovers to the works of the most important Greek artists. Particular emphasis has been given to the 19th and the first half of the 20th century, while, due to the lack of space, later generations of artists are preserved with only a few representative works. The small, though remarkable, collection of 14th-20th century European paintings is not permanently exhibited, depending on the space needed by temporary exhibitions.

The permanent collection of Greek paintings extends to the first and the second floor of the main wing. On the first floor, visitors can see works from the 19th century and on the second floor, 20th century works. The paintings are exhibited in chronological order and in thematic units. Partitions divide the space into different sub-units. This way, visitors gain a clear view of the development of Greek painting and can admire the best examples of fine art over the course of two centuries.

The tour starts in the main hall on the first floor, on the right of the entrance. Here are the oldest works of the collection, including those of Domenikos Theotokopoulos, known in European art as El Greco. The history of modern Greek art began with the advent of painters from the Ionian islands who are represented with several important paintings presented in a separate unit.

Exquisite portraits, landscapes and historical scenes show the first years of the Greek State (1832-63). The most important artist of the time is Theodoros Vrizakis who illustrated the heroic moments of the 1821 War of Independence while the three portraits by Nikolaos Kounelakis, showing the family of the artist, are typical of the potential of the art of portraits.

Some of the most popular works were created by the academic painters who studied in Munich in the 19th century. These are presented in the unit “The Bourgeoisie and its Artists”. Main representatives of the so-called Munch School, which dominated art in the second half of the 19th century, are Nikiforos Litras, Konstantine Volanakis, Nikolaos Gizis and Georgios Iakovidis.

The Engagement of the Children - Nikolaos Gyzis (1842-1901) “The Engagement of the Children” by Gizis, the most influential and prestigious Greek painter of his time, stands out for its maturity while his “Arts and its Spirits”, “Springs Symphony” and “There Comes the Bridegroom”, are splendid samples of the artist’s personal style with symbolist implications. The portrait of “Lyssandros Kaftantzolgou” by the great teacher Nikiforos Litras, is admirable for its psychological analysis of the sitter. Works from the late 19th century, on display in the rest of the hall, introduce visitors to the different atmosphere of chromatic sensitivity inspired by Impressionism. “The Port of Copenhagen” by Ioannis Altamouras stands out for its pioneering spirit and lyricism.

20th century painters are presented on the second floor. Innovation, experimentation, special painting techniques and originality are characteristic of these works, which all express the Greek spirit through art. Famous artists in the unit “Towards a Greek Modernism” are Konstantinos Parthenis and Konstantinos Maleas who are considered the “Fathers of Greek Painting”. The “Apotheosis of Athanassios Diodakis” by Konstantinos Parthenis and “Kameni Islands of Santorini” by Konstantinos Parthenis and Maleas reveal the genius and uniqueness of their creators.

The Four Seaons – Giannis Tsarouchis The mid-war is represented by artists of the so-called Generation of the 30s. Important figures such as Spiros Papaloukas, Giannis Tsarouchis, Diamantis Diamantopoulos, Giannis Moralis and Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas perfectly harmonized with contemporary European styles but also expressed Greece in art, thus widening all the opportunities offered by the past, history, tradition, folk art and modernism.

The works of Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas, the main painter to adopt cubism and the works of Giorgos Bouzianis with the unique expressionistic language, perfectly express the modernistic tendencies of these artists. Among the works created after the Second World War and belonging to the last unit of the exhibitions, the most important is the “Epitaphs” by Giannis Moralis, one of the most accomplished Greek artists of the 20th century. The small hall on the second floor has periodical exhibitions of selected modern paintings from the gallery’s collection thus completing the history of Greek painting.

Giannis Tsarouchis (1919-1989)

Giannis Tsarouchis (1919-1989) was a unique artist and intellectual. He was raised in Athens from a middle-class background. Very early on in his life he started to appreciate simple working-class people for their authentic Greek character. His ideas were mostly influenced by his teacher, Fotis Kontoglou, who also introduced him to Byzantine art.

Giannis Tsarouchis (1919-1989) Tsarouchis gradually developed an eclectic style in his paintings. He used sharp observation and managed to depict scenes from everyday life in a monumental way. He loved Athens with its small streets and the authentic people who lived there. He also was a passionate photographer, capturing the faces of ordinary people and scenes or anything that would draw his attention around Athens.

He has photographed entire areas with neoclassical houses that were later demolished, thus preserving a memory of a lost world. He transferred those images into his paintings and theatrical sets. All houses, coffee shops and scenes from everyday life have an almost metaphysical dimension in his work.

Among his most important characteristic paintings are two of the “Neon” coffee shop in Omonia Square where he used to spend time himself. His house in Maroussi has become a museum dedicated to his life and art.

Opening hours Opening hours and admission
Locaton map 50, Vassileos Konstantinou Avenue
Nearest metro station
Evangelismos Top



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