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When the World of Cyprus First heard the Bad News



Adamantios Diamantis (1900-1994)
When the World of Cyprus First heard the Bad News
Acrylic on plywood
AGLC 736 @ A.G Leventis Gallery

Following the tragic events of 1974, which were to shape Cyprus’ destiny, and up until the end of his life in 1994, Adamantios Diamantis produced very few – though influential – large compositions. Amongst them is the painting When the World of Cyprus First Heard the Bad News. In this oblong composition we recognise the exact same figures that make up his monumental work The World of Cyprus (see AGLG 457 A-K), but rendered at the precise moment when they were informed of the unexpected and awful news that the island had been invaded by a foreign army, a fact that would radically change the historical course of their country and their own lives. This world, so loved by the artist and which he painted in his birthplace, conveying its inner balance, a result of its allencompassing, harmonious bond with the earth and its traditions, would never be the same again.

Upon hearing the astonishing news, the people pictured in The World of Cyprus jump out of their seats in fear, forever abandoning their blissful tranquillity; even the animals are startled out of their peaceful sleep. In this painting, Diamantis tried to give another interpretation of his human characters. He attempted to see how each one of the figures in The World of Cyprus reacted to the shocking, painful news. Focusing on the human dimension, he illustrated the diversity and gradations of their psychological states. Their body language and facial expressions betray emotions of surprise, puzzlement, confusion, dismay, anxiety, pain and desperation. In some faces we discern the courage and determination to resist, but there are also cases of resignation, apathy and even fatalism. The artist unfolded a scale of contradictory emotions, thus conveying the intensity of the drama experienced by these people, who are suddenly faced with an unknown, menacing future.

The organisation of the oblong composition perfectly serves its psychological content. The order and calm emanating from the balanced, symmetrical structure of the monumental The World of Cyprus give way to a disorderly movement, the result of disparate forces, causing agitation, anxiety, tumult and tension. The painting speaks of the recent present, and thus Diamantis’ figures do not display the nebulous quality of the ones in The World of Cyprus, which the artist had pushed towards the background of the panels; here, they are clearly defined in the foreground. The watered-down colours he used in The World of Cyprus are more concentrated, giving a sense of volume and mass.

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About the artist

  He studied in London at the Saint Martin’s School of Art (1920-1921) and the Royal College of Art (1921-1923). Upon graduation, he split the First Prize for Drawing with his fellow student Henry Moore. He taught art at the Pancyprian Gymnasium (1926-1962) in Nicosia. He spearheaded the creation of the Cyprus Folk Art Museum and was its first director (1950-1994). He developed his own style through the study and unrestricted use of different artistic idioms. He especially studied classical values and delved into the work of El Greco, Cézanne and other Modernist artists. At the same time, he kept alive the artistic tradition of his homeland, by inseminating his works with the forms of ancient and Byzantine art. He drew his subjects from the landscape and the human element of Cyprus, which he did not try to describe but to interpret. His painting focuses on the formal, the universal and the monumental. Between 1967 and 1972 he painted the monumental work The World of Cyprus (1.75 x 17.5 m) and from 1963 to 1977 a series of eight works under the general title Agonies. He showed his work in solo exhibitions in Nicosia (1957, 1975, 1977, 1989), Athens (1962, 1976, 1989) and London (1964, 1979), as well as in group exhibitions in Cyprus and abroad. He received the Award of the Academy of Athens (1976) and the Excellence Award in Letters, Arts and Sciences of the Republic of Cyprus (1993).  

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