Thoughts, carefully chosen words and actions that are important for a single man characterise the life of Paul Canellopoulos. A life based on the notion of quest: an inner quest through study and knowledge, and a quest for beauty through the ‘hunt’ for lost reassures that are restored by being presented to the public.
Paul Canellopoulos (1906-2003), the youngest son of Angelos and Eleni Canellopoulos, studied chemistry at the university of Munich. His love for art, literature and all things Greek, encouraged by his father, informed his entire life. The opportunities for learning he found in inter-war Germany led him to the parallel study of humanities and the classics, in which he delved with passion and devotion. Having become a partaker of the Greek spirit, he harmonised his knowledge of philosophy with religiousness and the acceptance of the Greek Christian element as it flourished in Byzantium.
Gradually and deliberately he sought out and acquired every Greek artefact that could be saved and returned to its birthplace. He travelled around the world and saved hosts of works of Greek art from obscurity.
The love of Paul Canellopoulos for the Beauty in Greek art led him automatically, without forethought or planning, along the path of a “collector of Greek art”. His love and immersion into the Greek language and his combined desire to promote the art and language of Greece made him an excellent ‘guide’ to his collection, the world’s largest private collection of Greek art.
“I was often asked over the years about how I got the idea to become a collector of Greek art. I never thought I’d be one; it happened without my realizing it. Just as one feels one has suddenly learnt how to swim and float in water, or how to ride a bicycle and stand on two wheels. My difference with other collectors is that it was not something I pursued, yet my love for beauty took me there almost automatically”. Excerpt from the book THOUGHTS of Paul Canellopoulos, Athens 1990.
In 1945 he married Alexandra Lontou, who became his partner in life as well as a trusted assistant to him as a collector. Together they housed the great collection of Greek artworks at that ideal as well as honorary spot on the northern slope of the Acropolis. It was there that the artefacts were displayed, expertly arranged so as to demonstrate the unity of Greek art over time. It was there that Paul Canellopoulos, even at an advanced age and with impaired eyesight, passionately guided the visitors who wished to learn, who shared his love for the Greek spirit and the imprint it left on thousands of items over the centuries.
Paul Canellopoulos was awarded several times by the Greek state and by foreign leaders for his life and work, for his services to the Nation. Yet what he himself was proud of among so many Greek and foreign distinctions was the medal for the 1940 Albanian Campaign (War Cross) “for his heroic efforts during the operations” of the Greco-Italian war.
“Once a collector has come to possess the largest collection of Greek art objects, it is inevitably no longer his; it belongs to all”. From an interview of Paul Canellopoulos.