A discreet life full of dynamism and a sense of measure, a kind and generous soul, a giving and responsible person, Alexandra Canellopoulos espoused Paul’s love for “beauty”. She served her husband’s art collection with a shared passion combined with a usefully cool approach, participated in its expansion as a trusted assistant and was the “instigator” of the Museum that housed their life’s work—some 7,000 exhibits of their private collection.
A daughter of the politician Dimitris Lontos and Melpomeni Skabavia, Alexandra Canellopoulos (1921-2008) was raised with values centring on man and the homeland. Her charismatic personality and the principles of her upbringing led her along the road of discreet and responsible volunteerism. Her action as a volunteer nurse of the Greek Red Cross at a young age during WWII and her subsequent social and culture activity through her support of welfare institutions was both a desire and an obligation for her.
Her marriage to Paul Canellopoulos in 1945 led her naturally along the path of her husband’s noble task of locating and acquiring thousands of Greek artworks that demonstrated the continuity of Greek culture. Together they made the decision to share the collection, so diligently formed, with all Greeks. Together, Paul and Alexandra Canellopoulos, donated their collection to the Greek state in 1972 and housed it in the Michaleas neoclassical mansion under the Acropolis. Together, in 1976, after an exemplary design so that the exhibits help visitors understand the evolution of Greek art, they opened the P & A Canellopoulos Museum to the public.
“ It was not just life that joined us but our common views and principles. What united us most with Paul was our great love for the land and its history, for he was above all else a Greek”. Excerpt from an interview.
In 1999, Paul and Alexandra Canellopoulos established the Foundation that bears their name in order to support the Museum and help the nation through actions for the development of areas such as the remote region of Thrace. After her husband’s death in 2003, Alexandra Canellopoulos remained active in matters pertaining to the Museum as well as in supporting social groups in need and promoting educational programmes. On her initiative the Museum was modernised and extended to enhance the display of the exhibits.
“My mind goes always back to my late husband, Paul Canellopoulos, the soul and motive power behind the collection, a life’s dream for both of us. At last the dream came to be. Now the entire collection is on display in the extended facilities of the Museum. I cannot help thinking of the joy Paul would feel about the fulfilment of our common goal—to hand over to the future generations at least a small part of our Greek cultural heritage”. Foreword by Alexandra Canellopoulos for the Museum’s 2007 book on Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Art.
The many distinctions bestowed on Alexandra Canellopoulos included the 1940-41 War Medal and the silver medal of the Academy of Athens in 2005. Yet to her and those who knew her, the greatest reward for what came generously out of her soul was the deep love and respect of all those fortunate enough to know and work with her.