The island of Crete was home to one of the oldest civilizations in Europe, the Minoans, who thrived on the island as early as 2000 BC. One of the most interesting aspects of this early community was their beautiful Minoan art.
The depictions of figures, plants and animals have communicated to us in our modern times through careful work of archaeology. Many of the wall art or frescoes can now be viewed in museums on the island, and at the Minoan art sites such as Knossos.
Byzantine art emerges from the fourth century until the fall of
Constantinople in 1493. Primarily religious in subject, artists at the
Cretan School continued after the fall of Byzantium and this period is
also referred to as Post Byzantine art.
Crete has some of the finest examples of Byzantine art in its churches
all over the island, and in the following museums.
Museum of Religious Art - Monis Odigitrias, Heraklion
Centre for Byzantine Art - Ethnikis Antistaseos, Rethymnon
One of the most respected painters of the European renaissance – an artist known as El Greco – was born in Crete and studied art in the flourishing Venetian culture of the time, in the city of Heraklion.
See our dedicated page about the life and work of Domenikos Theokotopoulos – El Greco.
The arts of ceramics, basket weaving, knife making, and hand woven
textiles are arts that have been practised on Crete for centuries. One
of the most unique hand woven articles is the sariki or headscarf worn by boys and men in the traditional costume.
The sarikia are woven and knotted by hand by women, mostly now
the older women who hold the knowledge of this traditional art. Two
villages known for their textiles are Anogia and Kritsa.
A good exhibition of folk art is located in the Historical and Folk Art Museum on Vernardou 28-30, in Rethymnon.
Much artistic expression in Kriti is expressed in music. The passion, soul and pathos entwined in the performance of Kritiki musiki is unique the world over.
Modern art also flourishes on the island, from ceramics to glass and jewellery, painting and sculpture, every art form is created on the island, one only needs to attend the Renaissance Festival in Rethymnon each year to enjoy the many dramatic arts as well as creative arts.
Kanakakis 1969, Rethymnon Kriti
Here are some of our favourite artists and expressions, existing in the diversity of genres that our time allows us to celebrate.
The Director of this award-winning short film, created on the island of Crete, wrote to us recently to tell us about his expression:
"This film travels to beautiful, mystical Crete, to closely look at Mimetoliths - rocks and stones that imitate living beings.
It embraces the Muses that have languished petrified on the sacred landscape; the Phaistos Disk; intergalactic travel; Pythagoras' golden proportion of 1 to 1.618; missing Planets; the Labyrinth; the Minotaur.
The rocks and stones of certain sacred places are alive with stories to tell. I have believed this since childhood, when my mother would send me on stone-hunts, to keep me busy; and later when as an adult I travelled the world continuously on a spiritual quest, looking for my muse.
I found some of what I was looking for on Crete, the largest of the Greek islands, and travelled back there repeatedly for the last four years. I scoured the landscape for meaningful mimetoliths, because of the legends and mysteries of the island. I built stone monuments to reflect nature and to please the gods. I encountered others who felt the same passions as myself and interviewed them. I tried to penetrate the ancient secrets within the rocks as I filmed them and spoke to them and became one with them.
Then, under the hypnotic spell of all that I had seen and all that I had captured on tape, I imagined mythological truths emerging from these images. I edited the footage myself at home, in true indie fashion, hoping that the language of cinema would add its own impressions and dimensions, and let me share the stories with the audience. "
Marios Chalkiadakis and Natassa Papadogamvraki studied glass art in Scandinavia and England and worked with Orrefors before returning to Crete to open their own studio in Anogia
Crete Art – Galleries
• Municipal Art Gallery on 25 Avgoustou St in Heraklion
• Center of Modern Art on 5 Chimaras St in Rethymnon
• The Lake Gallery - Art Sourcing: a gallery of contemporary art in Agios Nikolaos; marketing and hiring original works and promoting Greek and international artists.
This gallery provides all aspects of art services such as art rentals, sales, art publications, consultancy, commissioning, exhibitions, seminars and workshops.
A beautiful location to see vibrant modern art collections.
Kantanoleontos 2, Agios Nikolaos