On the lap of his uncle, Thrasyvoulos Tsakalotos, ca. 1920
“My work is something like a journal made up from the emotions, the impressions, the memories and the quests of a lifetime…”
Yannis Moralis was a multifaceted art figure who was awarded several distinctions in Greece and abroad. He was among the leading figures of twentieth-century Greek art — a great painter, sculptor, printmaker, stage designer and teacher whose works reflect the wealth of his visual imagination and the broad spectrum of his quests.
His painting is a fundamental expression of “Greek-style modernism” and his overall contribution to Greek art is seminal and indisputable.
He was born on April 23 / May 6, 1916 in Arta, where he spent his early years. He was the second of the six children of Konstantinos Moralis and Vassiliki Michali. Watching his aunt paint and smelling the oil paints, Yannis felt from a very young age that painting was his calling.
In 1922 his father is appointed schoolmaster in Preveza, where the Moralis family moves and lives for four years.
In 1927 the family settles permanently in Athens, at Pangrati. In addition to his school, on Sundays, accompanied by his father, he attends the Sunday classes of the Athens School of Fine Arts (ASFA). That is where he first meets his subsequent close friend, Nikos Nikolaou.
In 1931, aged just 15, he is accepted in the preparatory course of the ASFA, under Dimitris Geraniotis, and prepares for the School’s entry exams. It is the time where he gets acquainted with Yannis Tsarouchis and Christos Kapralos and meets Nikos Nikolaou again.
The acquaintance of Moralis with Tsarouchis, Kapralos and Nikolaou becomes a milestone in his life and his subsequent brilliant career, since apart from fellow students at the ASFA they become inseparable friends. Tsarouchis, as the oldest, becomes a mentor for Moralis and initiates him into the secrets of the art of painting.
Upon graduating from the ASFA, Yannis Moralis and his close friend Nikos Nikolaou “compete” for a postgraduate scholarship of the Academy of Athens for Italy. The two friends make a pact: the one who wins will share the grant with the other and they will go to Italy together. And so it was: after graduating from the School in 1936, Yannis Moralis wins the Academy of Athens scholarship and, joined by Nikolaou, in June 1937 he travels to Italy to study in Rome.
Moralis will stay in Italy for a few months until November 1937, when he obtains approval for his transfer to Paris, where he continues with studies in fresco and mosaic. In 1939, upon the outbreak of World War II, all those studying abroad are called upon to haste back to Greece. Moralis is among those who return to serve their country.