Telemachos Kanthos Biography
Already during his studies, the artist worked for the graphic company ELCA in Athens and Corfu and was about to take his final exams in 1939 when the onset of World War II forced him to return to Cyprus. Until 1942 Kanthos had to restrain his activities in his native village Alona mostly drawing, painting aquarelles and occasionally illustrating books. Lack of materials as well as poor finances allowed no oil paintings during that period of his life. In the following two years he took up an engagement to teach art at the Gymnasium of Famagusta and devoted much time for the newly established theatrical company of Cyprus as a stage and costume designer.
In 1949 Kanthos spent five Months in Europe, mainly visiting museums and galleries in London and Paris. On this journey he spent some time drawing at Heatherley’s School of Art in London. He visited Italy on his way back to Cyprus, where he had been appointed to teach art at the Pancyprian Gymnasium. Kanthos revisited European centres of art often later in his life and between 1981 and 1993 he spent some time painting and drawing in Vienna, where his daughters pursued musical careers. Major exhibitions of his works took place in Cyprus (Famagusta 1934, Nicosia, 1940, 1959, 1973, 1979, 1985, 1989), Athens (1972, 1982), Vienna (1991) and London, (1996, Posthumous). The artist represented Cyprus in many international Exhibitions.
From early on Kanthos’ main interest lay in the people and the landscape of Cyprus. As well as painting pure landscapes, many of his subjects are taken from rural and village life. The dramatic situation after the war in 1974 inspired some of his monumental works. Harmonization of surfaces and colours and the schematization of forms and backgrounds always went beyond exterior detail to provide a sense of place and inner meaning. His recurring hallmark is a vibrancy and purity of colour. Believing that an artist is free to move back and forward as he wishes, Kanthos consciously selected impressionism as his starting point. As he stated later, expressionistic painting was an experience he did not wish to miss.
After 1960 Kanthos’ work acquired a new immediacy and expressive power. Schematized forms and broad surfaces are characteristic of his understanding of local atmosphere and his ability to express the feeling that underlies external appearance.
His engravings provide a marked contrast to his paintings. Vigorous and dramatic, and often with considerable expressive force, they tend to be frugally composed and contain powerful symbolic content. Kanthos’ later engravings are particularly striking for their expression of intensity of inner mood and emotion and were awarded a prize at the XV biennale of Alexandria in 1984. The Academy of Athens honoured Kanthos in 1979.