Nikolaos Gyzis was born in the village of Sklavohori, in Tinos island on the 1st of March 1842, and died in Munich, on the 4th of January 1901. He is considered to be one of the most important Greek painters of the 19th century, of the so-called “Munich School”. Throughout his studies, he accomplished great things and won many prizes in block print, painting, and etching.
He grew up in a family of six children. His father, Onoufrios was a carpenter, and his mother, Margarita, a housewife. His family decided to move to Athens in 1850, and that is when the young Nikolaos decides to study at the Athens School of Fine Arts, first as an auditor, and then as a full time student (1854-1864).
In the last years of his studies he meets the rich art lover Nikolaos Nazos, who played a great role in Gyzi’s scholarship from the Institution “Naos tis Evagelistrias tis Tinou”, with which he managed to continue his studies in the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich.
Gyzis moved to Munich in June 1865, where he met his friend and colleague, Nikiforos Lytras. Nikiforos helped him adjust quickly in the german atmosphere of the time. Hermann Anschütz and Alexander Wagner were his first mentors in Munich. In June 1968 he was accepted to study in the Karl von Piloty laboratory. He completed his studies in Munich in 1871, and the April of the next year Gyzis returned to Athens, in order to transform his family home (Themistokleous street) into an atelier. Along with Nikiforos Lytras, he traveled in 1873 to Asia Minor.
Disappointed from the conditions in Greece, Gyzis decides to leave Athens in May 1874 and to return back to Munich, where he would spend the rest of his life. In 1876 he traveled to Paris along with his friend, Nikiforos Lytras. One year after that, he got married to Artemis Nazou, and together they had four daughters (Penelope, Margarita-Penelope, Margarita, and Iphigeneia), and a son, Onoufrios-Telemachos.
In 1880 Gyzis was named an honorary member of the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and in 1888 he was elected a professor in that same institution. In 1881 his mother died and after a year his father died also. In 1895 he visited Greece for the last time, because he never forgot the country that gave birth to him. Suffering from leukemia, he died in Munich in 1901. It has been said that his last words were: “Well, let us hope for the best and let us be cheerful!” The corpse was buried at the North Cemetery of Munich.
Nikolaos Gyzis is considered to be one of the most important representatives of the academic Realism of the late 19th century, the conservative cultural movement known as “Munich School”. He participated and won numerous prizes in many greek and european exhibitions, from 1870 to 1900. In fact, after he died in 1901, there was an exhibition in his memory in the 8th International Art Exhibition in Glaspalast.
Studying in the Academy of Munich, Gyzis embraced the teachings of his German mentors, creating artwork of rare skillfulness, balancing between historical realism and the ethological view of art. A lot said that his artwork is more “german” than the work of actual Germans, and for this, he was praised by the art critics of the time.
Some of his work, such as “The engagement” (“Ta arravoniasmata”, 1875) and “Secret School” (“Kryfo Sholio”, 1885) are based upon mythical legends of the time of the Ottoman empire, to which the historic facts are still disputed, nevertheless, their artistic value remains undeniable.