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 Ioannis Poulakas  (1863 - 1942)

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Lived/Active: Greece      Known for: painting and theatre stage design

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This biography from the Archives of AskART:
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Ioannis Poulakas (1863-1942): Painter and Theatrical Stage Designer

The Greek painter and scenographer Ioannis Poulakas born on January 1st, 1863, in St George of Nileia in the periphery of Volos Greece and died at the age of 79 in Athens on February 21, 1942. Although son of a modest means’ family, as a highly promising pupil he received, through the Church circles, a scholarship and transferred to Constantinople at age of fourteen where he finished high school and studied Drawing, Scenography and Music

In this metropolitan center of Eastern Europe, he stayed seven years from 1878 to 1885, indulging in Byzantine art and hagiography, as well as European artistic movements of the time. There, he was professionally dealing primarily with sceneography and secondarily with painting. In this option, besides his studies, he must have been driven mainly for livelihood reasons. It was certain that the theatre offered more professional opportunities than the painting, mainly the last two years of his residence in Constantinople, where his scholarship has expired as he had completed his studies since 1883.

In 1885 he hastily returned from Constantinople to Volos to joint the army. He immediately transferred to Athens, as a musician, to serve in the band of the Artillery. There, in 1887, he met and soon after married  Angeliki Haidas (1871-1962) and the following year his first son, George Poulakas (1888-1918) was born.

To secure livelihood for his family, he decided to remain in the Army for two more years until 1890 as a volunteer. This choice combined with settlement in his wife’s family home, on Adrianou Str. in Plaka of Athens, allowed extending his studies, attending the courses of Painting by Nikiforos Lytras and Perspective Drawing by Vicenzo Lanza in the School of Arts of Athens, graduating with honors in 1891.

In the following period he settled in Athens from 1885 to 1901, and two other sons were born, Konstantinos Poulakas (1891-1924) and Michael Poulakas later Poulakis (1894-1965). In Athens he made friendly contacts, with colleagues and men of theatre, literature and arts in particular the author Dimitrios Kampouroglous (1852-1942), painters and professors of the School of Fine Arts, Stefano Lanza (1861-1933), son of his teacher Vincenzo, Ioannis Koutsis (1860-1953) and his classmate at the School of Arts, Vassileios Hatzis (1870-1915), the sculptor Nicholas Georgantis (1883-1947) and the painter Constantine Parthenis (1878 - 1967).

He also had close friendship with Konstantinos Volanakis (1839-1907), whose house in Piraeus, he regularly visited together with his wife. There is not evidence to confirm the teacher-student relationship, between Volanakis and Poulakas as often wrongly supposed in bibliography. Poulakas, besides painting and hagiography, working intensively as a scenographer in various theatres and since 1895, regularly in the theatrical performances of newly constructed Municipal Theater of Piraeus.

In 1901 leaving Athens and transferred in Volos, near his hometown,  he was appointed professor of Sketching and Calligraphy.  Poulakas launched his studio, on a passage of Kartalis Street near the port of Volos and exhibited his work in showcase of a central store on Dimitriados Avenue and soon after started to give private painting lessons.

During this time their last two children were born to him and, Maria Poulakas - Vrettos (1903-1997) and Merope Poulakas - Loizou (1906-1993). He is worked ceaselessly painting seascape, landscape, portrait, scenography, hagiography and teaching. He painted numerous seascapes, various views of the seaside and harbor of Volos and dash out both in Thessaly and Sterea Hellas hinterland as well as the islands. In this period belong his landscapes of Pelion, Karditsa, Itea and Galaxidi and seascapes of the islands of Crete, Skopelos, Chios, Corfu and others.

In 1920 he introduced his oil painting The Battle of Volos 1827 or Grey Sea Battle, work bought, 18 years later, from Poulakas by the Municipality of Volos and now belongs to the Municipal Art Gallery. This period of his life overshadowed the loss of his firstborn son George in 1918, a soldier in one of the battles of World War I.

In this period, important painters had their first lessons from Poulakas, such as: the painter and photographer, Konstantinos Zimeris (1886-1982), and the painter Aristomenes Angelopoulos (1900-1990). The influence of Poulakas in the artistic life of Volos was remarkable. The twenty three years taught painting in Volos led to the following notable artistic developments, as declared by his students. Among others Volos had a close friendship and cooperation with the painter and photographer Stephanos Stournaras (1867-1928), his fellow student at the School of Arts in Athens.

In 1924 he went immediately to Athens, in order to be close to his tuberculosis suffering second son, Konstantinos, who shortly after died. The loss affected him decisively, as it was his second son who died within a few years.  He abandoned Volos.

In Athens, he taught Sketching and Painting in various public schools and cultural centers and as visiting instructor at the School of Fine Arts. In 1930 he taught in the Commercial School of Hermoupolis in Syros Island beginning 1932. The years between 1924 and his death, he painted sites of Athens besides his representative seascapes, and several landscapes. He set up his studio first on Zacharitsa Street in Veikou’s area, later on Glafcou Street in the area of 1st Cemetery of Athens, and finally on Shehou Street in Kalliroi’s area, where he died of pulmonary edema in the terrible winter of February, 1942.

Submitted by the son of the artist, Michael T. Poulakis, Architect


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