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The World of Cyprus



Adamantios Diamantis (1900-1994)
The World of Cyprus
Acrylic on Irish linen
AGLC 457A-K @ A.G Leventis Gallery

Diamantis’ monumental and arguably most famous work, The World of Cyprus, was created between 1967 and 1972. The piece is made up of 67 different figures, 61 of which were based on the artist’s plein air drawings that he had made earlier, between 1931 and 1959. These drawings were selected from the hundreds he completed during the many years he wandered throughout the island and its villages capturing, with love, enthusiasm and faith in their worth, the elements that he believed made up the character of the people and the place.

Although Diamantis used recognisable figures as his starting point, he ultimately chose to disregard individual characteristics, instead creating human types, symbolic figures through which to convey the traditional world of Cyprus.

In this piece, composed of 11 panels, the composition unfolds symmetrically: the artist began painting from the centre and then moved outwards towards the sides. He used a pyramidal composition for the subjects, which developsalong the width and depth of the painting. The figures are freely drawn in curved lines and arranged in ovoid or cyclic groupings.

Diamantis placed emphasis on line in this composition, using colour to highlight the overall effect of the drawing. For his choice of palette, he reconciled his aesthetic approach with the austere colours of traditional Cypriot clothing: black and white. Diamantis chose an earthy brown for the third colour, to instil the work with the needed warmth and because this colour symbolises the deep connection between the Cypriot villager and the land.

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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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