“My work is something like a journal made up from the emotions, the impressions, the memories and the quests of a lifetime…”

Yannis Moralis


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.

In 1941 he marries Maria Roussin and they settle at Kolonaki, spending the summer months at his wife’s house in Kifissia. During the Occupation Moralis accepts commissions to paint portraits as a way of securing a stable income. He also remains active in printmaking.


Moralis and Roussin get divorced in 1945, and two years later, in 1947, he marries the sculptress Aglaia Lymberaki with whom they have his son, Konstantinos.

The same year, 1947, he is elected professor at the preparatory course of the ASFA and starts teaching in February 1948.


In 1949, together with other Greek painters among whom Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, Yannis Tsarouchis, Nikos Nikolaou and Nikos Engonopoulos, they set up the “Armos” art group with the aim of promoting a contemporary art movement with a new aesthetic. The following year they organise their first group exhibition at the Zappion Hall.


Two long and highly fruitful collaborations begin in 1951. The first is when he is commissioned to design the sets and costumes for the ballet Six Popular Pictures, produced by the Hellenic Choreodrama with choreography by Rallou Manou and music by Manos Hadjidakis. Moralis was to work with the Choreodrama for some fifteen years. The second collaboration starts when he designs the front cover and the frontispiece for the book Submarine Y1 V P Katsonis of Elias Tsoukalas, Ikaros, Athens 1951. Yannis Moralis will continue to work with Ikaros Publishing practically till the end of his life.


In 1954 he embarks on a collaboration with Theatro Technis of Karolos Koun.


In 1957 he is elected professor of Painting at the ASFA.


In 1958, Moralis with Yannis Tsarouchis and the sculptor Antonis Sochos represent Greece in the Biennale of Venice. Moralis exhibits 24 paintings, studies for theatre sets and costumes, lithographs and several drawings. His successful participation in the Biennale comes as recognition of his important work in painting; the Biennale is also a major turning point in his career, marking the beginning of a new creative phase.

Remarkably, the first solo exhibition of Yannis Moralis comes only in 1959, at an advanced point in his professional career. The exhibition takes place at the Armos Art Gallery of no. 21 Heraklitou Street, Kolonaki. The works on show are largely those with which he had participated in the Venice Biennale the year before.


In the same year, 1959, Moralis is commissioned to decorate the exterior walls of the Athens Hilton, and the following year he creates compositions for the Xenia Hotel in Florina and the Mont Parnes.

His second solo exhibition comes in 1963 at the art gallery of the Athens Hilton, featuring works from the three previous years. His new series of COMPOSITIONS A, B, C, D, E and Ζ– Epitymvia [Funereal Compositions], which he subsequently donates to the National Gallery, were received with a lot of interest.


In 1965 he is made a Commander of the Order of the Phoenix by King Constantine. It is also the year when he makes ten compositions as illustrations for the Poems of George Seferis, published by Ikaros.

With his third solo exhibition in 1972 at the Iola-Zoumboulakis Gallery, Moralis embarks on one more lifelong collaboration.

From now on his painting is to experiment on a formal level with this “sparse alphabet” as described by Odysseas Elytis in his introductory text for the exhibition catalogue. The show included one more special series of compositions, the Epithalamia — large diptychs or triptychs with the figures rendered with strong curves, and with light blue, white, black and ochre as the typical colours.


When he first visited Aegina, the island reminded him strongly of Preveza, where he had spent his childhood summers. Based on this emotional connection and his love for its “astounding light”, as he often said, Moralis chose Aegina as his place of inspiration and creation. In the ’70s, he decides to build a house-studio there.


The house-studio is designed by his friend the architect Aris Konstantinidis.

This is when the famous “Aegina gang” is formed. In the evenings after work, the friends—Nikolaou, Kapralos, Spanoudis, Elytis—gather in the house of their neighbour Nikolaou where they chat, “laugh and argue” till dawn.

Since then and until his final years, Moralis goes to Aegina on the Holy Week and only returns to the Deinokratous 9 studio in Athens in the winter.


In 1978 he presents his fourth solo exhibition at the Zoumboulakis Gallery; a large series of works under the title Full Moon, made mostly in Aegina.


In 1979 he is bestowed the Arts Award by the Academy of Athens.


In 1983 he has a solo exhibition at the Zoumboulakis Gallery, and the same year, on August 31, he retires from the ASFA after thirty-six years of teaching.


In 1988 the National Gallery hosts a major retrospective of his oeuvre.


In 1992, solo exhibition at the Zoumboulakis Gallery.


In 1996 he marries Ioanna Vassalou. The same year, a retrospective with works from the National Gallery is held at the Academy of Athens.


In 1998 the President of the Hellenic Republic confers upon him the title of Commander of the Order of Honour.


In 2001 the exhibition Yannis Moralis. Angels, music, poetry is held at the Benaki Museum.


In 2005 a retrospective is presented in Hermoupolis, Syros.


In 2008 the exhibition-tribute Y. Moralis. Traces is held at the Museum of Contemporary Art of the Basil & Elise Goulandris Foundation in Andros.


In 2009 the last exhibition in his lifetime takes place at the Bank of Greece Cultural Foundation (ΜΙΕΤ).


Yannis Moralis passed away on December 20, 2009 in his house in Athens.


Yannis Moralis was a multifaceted art figure who was awarded several distinctions in Greece and abroad.



“A work must first satisfy my own eyes. I am often tormented by a painting, trying to decide what is missing and failing to find it. And then suddenly, perhaps a lot later, I realise that it only lacked a single line. I add it and then I find my peace”.

Yannis Moralis