Posts tagged ‘Legion d’Honneur’

Constantine Andreou

Today we’ll cover a great artist, my uncle Constantine Andreou recipient of the Légion d’Honneur and the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.

My uncle was born in São Paulo, Brazil on March 24, 1917 died on October 8, 2008 in Athens, Greece. He had a very successful career that lasted over six decades gaining fame around the world and especially in France and Greece.

His career started in Greece just a couple of years before World War 2 reached Greece and by 1939 he was participating in national competitions of art.

He first tried participating at the Panellinio (Πανελλήνιο) in 1939 but was disqualified. In 1942, he tried again with the same artwork and the judges accused him of cheating as the art was so lifelike. Fortunately, to his defense came three of the major artists of the time in Greece: Memos Makris, John Miliades, and Nikos Nikolaou. The latter becoming his lifelong friend.

What’s also impressive is that he was drafted into the Hellenic Army in 1940, with Italy’s invasion of Greece, and later participated actively in the Greek Resistance while at the same pursuing his art career.

Right after the war, in 1945, he won an art scholarship to go to France. This was to be his country for residence for the next 57 years.

During his long career, he worked with some of the major intellectuals of his time such as Le Corbusier and Picasso. He was also part of Jean-Paul Sartre inner circle in Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Sartre wrote about my uncle several times in his periodical Les Temps Modernes, liking him as equal to Picasso, Mondrian and Gastaud. In 1999, he was honored by La Ville-du-Bois, the village where he lived, by having their library named after him.

He returned permanently to Athens in 2002 and in 2004 he founded the “Costas Andreou Foundation”, that is currently being chaired by my brother Arys Andreou.

In his career he won many awards for his work:

  • Gran Prix d’Antoine Pevsner, 1998
  • Croix de Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur, 2000
  • Officier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, 2005

There is an extensive write up on my uncle on Wikipedia under Constantine Andreou

Andreou family

In the last entry I spoke of the founder of my mother’s paternal lineage in Chile, Juan Martínez de Vergara. I’ll get back to that lineage in future posts but today will move to my father’s side, the Andreou line.

Though I don’t have much information on this line what I do have tells a very interesting story.

My father was born in 1929 in the neighborhood of Colonos in Athens, Greece. He was the seventh of eight children of whom the four eldest and the most youngest were born in São Paolo, Brazil. The first child was born in 1916 and the youngest in 1935.

Just this, is an interesting story. Take a look at the map to see where the two countries are in relation to each other and think about the time period.

Among these children, a great artist arose that was honored with the French Legion of Honor and the Order of Arts and Letters, Constantine Andreou.

My grandfather was named Kimon Andreou, just like me, and was born in Cairo, Egypt in 1889 to a Greek couple who had recently emigrated there from central Greece.

The story, as it has been related to me, is that my grandfather first traveled to Brazil sometime in around 1910. He returned briefly to Greece where, through an arranged marriage, he wed my grandmother and sailed back to Brazil settling with his young bride in São Paolo.

After about a decade in Brazil, the family of now six returns to Greece. The last four children were now born in Greece.

If anybody’s keeping track, that’s 6 transatlantic trips and 6 moves with an ever growing family in the period of 1910 to 1937, a time when most never left their village.

Why all this back and forth half way across the world in such a short period of time? I don’t know but, I intend to find out….

The family that was fortunate enough to watch the Great War (or WW1) from Brazil and out of the theatre of war was not so lucky with the second world war. The family at this time was in the Kypriadou neighborhood of Athens and survived through the Nazi occupation of Greece.

The stories told of German atrocities, the famine and illnesses, the people dying in the streets and what they had to do to survive are enthralling and hair raising.

In 1944, my grandfather dies leaving my grandmother a widow with a seven year old daughter and a couple of teenage sons. Luckily, the oldest children were adults and were able to contribute to the survivival of the family.

During the Nazi occupation, all the boys in the family joined the Greek resistance and contributed in any way they could. My father was in his early teens and was already a talented sapper rigging railroads and bridges with explosives to sever the Nazi supply routes.

After the war, the family split with different children migrating to different countries to escape war torn Greece and try to start a new life. The eldest male, Constantine, went to France on an art scholarship to begin a long and illustrious career attaining worldwide fame. Others returned to Brazil once again while others stayed in Greece for a few more years until those too went to Brazil.

The Andreou family managed to avoid the Greek civil war and by 1950 were all, minus Constantine, in Brazil.

The 1950’s were great for the Andreou family in Brazil, though one of the men returned to Greece to start his career in jewelry. The others had their own businesses in Brazil and my father had started his own career in jewlery.

One of the highlights of my father’s career was his selection in 1963 by the government of Rio de Janeiro to create the bejeweled Key to City that was to be presented to US President John F. Kennedy, scheduled to visit the city after a brief visit to Dallas, TX. Unfortunately, that was not to be…..

By the mid to late 1960s my father moves to New York City at the urging of his best friend and my godfather, George Papadopoulos (no relation to the Greek Colonel of the same name). By 1980, he was a US citizen, married and with two children. In 1984, my family of Andreou Vergara moves back to Athens, Greece and now my parents are happily retired and enjoying their life.