The Leventis Gallery is an art gallery in Nicosia, Cyprus. Opened in 2014, it houses a collection of over 800 paintings from Cypriot, Greek and European artists.
The Greek collection
The A. G. Leventis Foundation has a very significant collection of works by 19th- and 20th-century Greek artists. Τhe early core of the Collection was formed of the artworks – oil paintings, watercolours, drawings and prints – acquired by Anastasios G. Leventis in 1973 from Evangelos Averoff-Tossizza. The first Collection catalogue was published in 1989, featuring 190 works. Following the acquisitions of the 1990s and 2000s, the Greek Collection today numbers upwards of 260 works, spanning from the aftermath of the Greek War of Independence in 1821 to around 1970.
In the first gallery of the Greek Collection in the A. G. Leventis Gallery – ‘From the 19th Century to the 20th’ – the display features works which represent the variety of artistic movements and stylistic approaches in the history of Modern Greek painting, including exemplary paintings by the artists who shaped the face of Greek art in the 19th century. On show are characteristic portraits of members of society in independent Greece, representative works by artists of the School of Munich, innovative compositions by Pericles Pantazis, landscapes and seascapes, and works by artists that illustrate the passage to the 20th century.
The second gallery of the Greek Collection is dedicated to ‘The 20th Century’. By admiring the works of great masters – Konstantinos Parthenis, Konstantinos Maleas, Spyros Papaloukas – and the eminent younger artists who left their mark on 20th-century Greek painting – Yannis Tsarouchis, Nikos Hatzikyriakos-Ghika and Yannis Moralis – visitors will gain an overview of Greek art of the period, from Modernist explorations, to academic expressions, the achievements of the Generation of the ’30s and post-war painting, up to Abstract art.
The Paris collection
Anastasios G. Leventis gathered what is today the Foundation's Collection of European Art, known as 'the Paris Collection', in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s. In his Paris home, he brought together works from a broad spectrum of the history of art which reflect his personal fascination with different artistic schools and styles, from the Old Masters and academic art to Impressionism and the early days of Modernism, amidst period furniture and a wealth of objects from the decorative arts.
The Collection's outstanding paintings, watercolours, prints and drawings date from the 17th century to the 20th and offer a glimpse of the high points of Western painting, including religious art of the Counter-Reformation, scrupulously painted Dutch still lifes, light-spirited Rococo pastorals, 18th-century Venetian views, works by the precursors and the great masters of the Impressionist movement, and boldly coloured Pointillist and Fauve canvases. A focus on Old Master painting is illustrated through works by leading exponents of the Spanish, French, Italian and British Schools, represented respectively by artists of the calibre of El Greco, Murillo, Arellano, Boucher, Fragonard, Oudry, Canaletto, Guardi and Gainsborough. These are followed by masterworks of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art, introduced through the work of forerunners such as Corot and Boudin and exemplified through the bold brushwork of Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro, Signac, Dufy, Bonnard and Chagall.
Largely unseen and unpublished until 2012 - when over 70 selected works were presented in a joint exhibition of the Foundation's three Collections at the National Gallery in Athens - the Collection has been extensively researched and studied, with the contribution of leading museum curators and academics from around the world. Through what has been a fascinating journey of (re)discovery, its significant works thus emerge as major additions to existing scholarship. Here, in the new, purpose-built A. G. Leventis Gallery, the Collection is now exhibited as a public treasure, open to researchers and the public alike.
Within the Gallery, the interactive, state-of-the-art display celebrates the collector's eclectic outlook by featuring Louis XV and Louis XVI furniture, Chinese porcelain, delicate Meissen and Sévres wares, and a wealth of other objets d'art that form an integral part of the Collection - from biscuit figurines to period clocks, miniatures and small-scale sculptures. Paying homage to the once private nature of the Collection, the presentation also reflects something of its original setting: the elegant wood-panelled room, from the collector's apartment, has been transported and re-erected in the Gallery space, enriching the viewing experience and evoking the ambiance of the residence that overlooked the Parisian skyline: the tree-lined boulevards and the Eiffel Tower
The Cyprus collection
The A. G. Leventis Foundation began to collect Cypriot art only quite recently. The Foundation's Board of Trustees decided that this Collection would primarily focus on the works of the first generation of Cypriot artists, as well as some pieces by artists of the second generation who explored similar themes as their predecessors. The Collection includes representative pieces by Cypriot artists born between 1884 and 1930. Gallery-goers will thus experience the beginnings of modern Cypriot art and can follow the course of its development.
These pioneers of contemporary Cypriot art worked under adverse conditions. However, despite the problems they faced, not only in the creation of their work, but also in its reception by the public, they laid the foundation upon which Cypriot art could develop and flourish. Most of these artists were also fortunate enough to experience the birth of the Republic of Cyprus, as well as the subsequent establishment of numerous institutions that supported the development of a local art.
The pieces are often of a narrative and figurative character, as the artists found their inspiration in the everyday life of the people, the landscape and the history of Cyprus. They were influenced by their education abroad, which they undertook at various fine art academies; there, they were exposed to Post-Impressionism and to other contemporaneous Modernist movements. Some early Cypriot artists also experimented with the ancient, Byzantine and folk art of Cyprus, the existing traditions found on the island at the time. Until the mid-20th century, Cyprus had been subject to foreign rule and thus had not been exposed to the artistic Renaissance as experienced in Western Europe.
The Collection includes many iconic pieces, and at its heart is the monumental piece by Adamantios Diamantis, The World of Cyprus. This work was in Greece from 1976 and was finally returned to Cyprus, thanks to the tireless efforts of the A. G. Leventis Foundation. The large-scale composition (1.75 x 17.5 m) is based on 75 drawings depicting the people and landscapes of the island, which the artist drew between 1931 and 1959; it portrays the traditional world of the island and its people, a world which the painter described as 'bearing the long heritage of Cyprus'. Along with the other works in the Collection, it captures the spirit of a past time and place, enriching our knowledge and understanding of Cyprus and the Cypriot people.
The display of the Cyprus Collection concludes with an abstract composition by Christoforos Savva, a work that heralds the dawn of a new era in modern Cypriot art.