Vasilis Dimitriou, guardian of cinema art, dies aged 84

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Vasilis Dimitriou, an artist who sought to prevent Hollywood’s painted billboard art from disappearing, died aged 84 from Parkinson’s disease on September 6.

Vasilis created more than 8,000 works for Greek theatres that practically told the story of cinema since WWII.

Mr. Dimitriou was a self-taught painter from a poor family who survived the Nazi invasion and the Greek military junta. For more than six decades, he painted one to two billboards per week featuring stars ranging from Gary Cooper to Leonardo DiCaprio.

Using homemade paints soaked in glue to keep billboards from leaking in the rain, Mr. Dimitriou created beautiful romantic images. “The Exorcist” was ominously illustrated in chiaroscuro, with blood dripping from the Greek letters of the title. 

In recent years, as digitally drawn and mass-produced movie posters became the norm, Mr. Dimitriou made it his mission to prevent the art form from dying, while acknowledging that it represented a period to what he called the “golden age” of cinema.

“Back then, you went to the movies in a suit and tie,” he told the New York Times in 2014.

“Women wore nice dresses. There was an intermission and half of the theatre went to the foyer to have a drink and discuss the film. Now let’s go.”

He vowed to keep the craft running as long as he could raise his arms to paint.

His work left an indelible mark on the Greek capital, where Athenians grew up seeing his posters. They were a particularly heartwarming sight during Greece’s recent financial crisis, when unemployment hit nearly 25% and consumer confidence plummeted.

“People saw me putting up my posters and giving me a big smile,” Dimitriou said. “Or they would ask to shake my hand and say ‘thank you’ for giving them joy.”

Mr. Dimitriou said he was sad knowing that he was among the last to work to perpetuate an almost extinct art. But he had no regrets.

“Painting is in my blood”, he said in 2014. “When I stop breathing, it’s when I stop painting.”

Sourced By: News24 France/The Greek Herald

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