Colors of Greece: The Art and Archaeology of Georg von Peschke
The folklife, landscapes, and vernacular architecture of Greece, particularly the island of Skyros, define the art of Georg Vinko von Peschke (1900–1959). His paintings are suffused by Greek light and capture the spirit of traditional Greek life. Although Peschke came to Greece only as an adult, in his artistic heyday in the 1920s and 1930s he was embraced in that country both by critics and by his fellow artists as a truly Greek painter. He was also an illustrator and architect whose considerable talent enhanced the publication of American excavations in Greece. This first retrospective of his work, nearly eighty years after his paintings were last publicly exhibited, restores his place in the annals of art history.
Georg von Peschke was born into an aristocratic family in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in modern-day Croatia. In the 1920s he ventured to Greece, where he became part of an international circle of artists, musicians, and intellectuals, first in Thessaloniki, and then in Athens. It was through this group that he met and married Faltaina Kalimeri, who was from Skyros, and he eventually became a Greek citizen. Peschke was a member of the League of Greek Artists. He exhibited on his own and with other artists in Greece, and in 1935 curated an exhibition of contemporary Greek painters in Vienna, in which his work also featured.
Peschke also found employment as an archaeological illustrator for American projects in Greece. He and his family became close friends with many archaeologists, including Bryn Mawr faculty and students like Rhys Carpenter, Dorothy Burr Thompson, and Agnes Newhall Stillwell. Peschke’s work in Carpenter’s publication of Acrocorinth and the photographs by Dorothy Burr Thompson from a trip to Skyros with the Peschkes in 1931—all on view in this exhibition—attest to these personal and professional connections.
Peschke’s career reached its peak in the 1930s. While he continued to paint through the 1940s and 1950s, his complex identity as a naturalized Greek during the political polarization of the Nazi occupation and the Greek Civil War led to a loss of favor. Following his premature death in 1959, his artistic success and importance were almost forgotten.
The legacy of Georg von Peschke, however, survives in the paintings and prints from American collections displayed here, and in the drawings that were published in archaeological monographs and journals. Many of the paintings in this exhibition are from the collections of his daughters Nausika Martin and Marianna Monaco, both of whom moved to the United States. Other works come from the collections of his American friends, who bought many of his paintings in Greece, and from private and institutional collections.