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The Ionian School of painting

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The Ionian islands have a strong tradition of excellence in the fine arts, particularly iconography. Having been occupied by the Venetians and later the British, the islands spent centuries more in touch with developments in western Europe than in the Ottoman empire.

Until the late seventeenth century, religious art in the Ionians, as elsewhere, was dominated by the stylistic purity and dignified austerity of the Cretan School. The founder of the Ionian School of painting is considered to be Panayiotis Dhoxaras, who was born in the Peloponnese in 1662 but, after studying in Venice and Rome, moved to Zákynthos and later lived and worked in Lefkádha and Corfu until his death in 1729. From his travels Dhoxaras absorbed the spirit of Italian Renaissance art, and brought a greater degree of naturalism into iconography by showing his subjects, usually saints, in more human poses amid everyday surroundings. He is also credited with introducing the technique of oil painting into Greece in place of the older method of mixing pigments with egg yolk.

Dhoxaras’s work was carried on by his son, Nikolaos (1710–1775), and over the next two centuries the tradition flourished through the skilled brushwork of a host of talented artists, such as Corfiot Yioryios Khrysoloras (1680–1762), Zakynthian Nikolaos Kandounis (1768–1834) and three generations of the Proselandis family, starting with Pavlos Proselandis (1784–1837).

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