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Konstantinos Volanakis was born in Crete in 1837. He moved with his family at an early age to the island of Syros, where they established themselves in the bustling port of the island. There he finished his preliminary studies and in 1856 he moved to Trieste on the coast of Italy where he worked as an accountant at the sugar firm Aphentoulis.
His talent and passion for seascapes and observations of vessels became apparent to his employer when he found numerous sketches of boats, ships and the docks in his employee’s ledger books. Rather than fire him, his employer encouraged him to take up painting as a profession.
In the meantime, Volanakis’ family had moved to the port of Piraeus, Greece’s major shipping centre, located near Athens. The family became quite successful, which enabled Konstantinos to study in Munich. There he studied at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste with Karl Von Piloty and Wilhelm Kaulbach. Other Greek contemporaries at the academy included Nikiforos Lytras and Theodoros Vryzakis. His family supported him through his studies and, unlike for other Greek artists, never once imposed upon him the expectation that he should return to Greece to finish his studies at the Academy of Athens.
After a successful stay in Munich, Volanakis returned to Greece in 1884 and settled with his family in Piraeus.
With his choice of subject matter Volanakis not only captures the romanticism of the idealized fisherman’s life, but also its toils and harshness. His attention to detail is not only evident in the exactness of his rendering of ships and their rigging but also in his luminous and sensitive treatment of the horizon and atmospheric changes at dusk and dawn.