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Nikiforos Lytras (Greek: Νικηφόρος Λύτρας; 1832, Pyrgos, Tinos – June 13, 1904, Athens) was a nineteenth-century Greek painter. He was born in Tinos, and trained in Athens at the School of Arts. In 1860 he won a scholarship to Royal Academy of Fine Arts of Munich. After completing these studies, he became a professor at the School of Arts in 1866, a position he held for the rest of his life. He remained faithful to the precepts and principles of the Munich School, while paying greatest attention both to ethographic themes and portraiture. His most famous portrait was of the royal couple, Otto and Amalia, and his most well-known landscape a depiction of the region of Lavrio.
Nikiforos Lytras was a child of a popular marble sculptor. In 1850 to the age of eighteen years he went to Athens to study in the School of Arts. He studied painting with Ludwig Thiersch and Raffaelo Ceccoli. With his graduation in 1856 he started teaching there the course of elementary writing.
In 1836 with a Greek government’s scholarship he went to Munich to study in the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. His teacher there was Karl von Piloty. In 1862 after King Otto was exiled the scholarship was no longer available to Lytra so the expenses undertook the ambassador of Greece in Vienna Simon Sinas. In the summer of 1865 before his return to Greece he meets Nikolaos Gyzis in Munich. There they visited and studied a lot of art masterpieces.
With his return in Athens Lytras became professor in the Athens School of Fine Arts in the department of Painting and he taught there for 38 years. Spyridon Vikatos was one of his pupils.
His son Nikolaos Lytras followed in his footsteps by also studying at the Munich academy of Fine Arts and also heading the Athens School of Art. In later life he founded the 'Art Group', which many years later in 1919 exhibited in Paris, with participants including the engraver Demetrios Galanis, a friend of Derain, Braque and Picasso and a member of the French Academy. The nineteenth-century painters Ioannis Altamouras and Periklis Pantazis (both of whom died young) may be regarded as forerunners of this group.
Nikiforos Lytras died at the age of 72 in 1904, after a short illness that is believed to have been caused by his colours’ chemicals substances. After his death Georgios Jakobides took his place in Athens School of Fine Arts.
During the period that Lytras was Piloty’s student he focused in history painting. His subjects were inspired from Greek Mythology and Greek history. After his return to Greece he started to paint portraits and every day life scenes.
Lytra’s paintings about everyday life correspond in the ideology of the ruling class of the times. His trips in Minor Asia and Egypt enriched his paintings with dark skinned children and other elements of Anatolia. The last period of his life he painted many scenes about aging, loneliness and the fear of death.
Lytras was one of the most famous painters in Athens. He participated and honored in many exhibitions: at the Zappeion exhibitions, as well as in exhibitions in Paris (1855, 1867, 1878, 1889 and 1900) and in Vienna (1873). Also as he was the official portraitist in Athens and he painted many members of the upper class of his time.
His contribution in art was conceived also through his courses in the Athens School of Fine Arts. Although devoted to the school of Academic Realism and remaining uninfluenced by Impressionism, he marked Greek art history in his own way.
In 1903 he was decorated with the Golden Cross of the Order of the Redeemer. In 1909 – after his death - some of his paintings were presented in Piloty’s School (1885–1886) in Munich. In 1933 in Athens School of Fine Arts an exhibition with Lytras' 186 paintings were presented.
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