Ian Collins has been awarded the

Runciman 2022 of the Anglo-Hellenic League

for John Craxton’s play The Lover of Life. A Greek soul

published by Pataki Publications (ed. by Mary Kitroef).

The announcement of the winner of the award was made on Monday, June 13, at 7 p.m,

at an event held at King’s College London.

Prize winner Ian Collins said:

“The Runciman Prize is a great honour for me, and it caps off in the best possible way the centenary of John Craxton’s birth, which this year marks the centenary of his birth. A fervent philhellene and an absolute hedonist, Craxton longed to live and paint in Greece. He fulfilled his wish at the age of 23 and since then all his works have been tinged with the colours of an indomitable joy.

For many years he resisted the idea of a biography. We were close friends for the last ten years of his life and when he finally agreed that I could write his biography, I confessed to him that I had been taking detailed notes since our first meeting. Many interviews followed until his hospitalization and death in 2009. His thoughts have always been with me ever since, as I worked on his biography. This wonderful award actually belongs to him – a great artist of incredible sensitivity, intelligence and anarchic spirit who enjoyed a long love affair with Greece.”

The chairman of the Union Council, Dr John Kittmer, in turn said:

“Warm congratulations to Ian Collins for his excellent biography of John Craxton. The Anglo-Hellenic Association rewards works that forge the strongest links between Britain and Greece. Through his life and work, John Craxton revealed the special bonds of love that exist between the two countries. A great work about a wonderful personality.”

The Runciman Prize was established in 1983, on the initiative of the then President of the Union, Count George Jellicoe, in honor of Sir Steven Runciman, the eminent Byzantinologist and longest serving President of the Union (1951-1967). The prize is awarded to the best work (or works), written in English, published in the previous year, on a subject of Greek interest, and aims to promote Greek history and culture.

A few words about the book

Born into a large Bohemian family, John Craxton (1922-2009) longed from an early age to live and paint in Greece. He achieved his goal, and ever since then all his works have been tinged with an indelible joy.

He never took an exam in his life, except to obtain a motorcycle driving licence. An anarchist spirit of self-taught erudition, he abhorred taboos, especially those of the neo-Romantic movement of the 1940s, of which he was considered a leading figure. And while his lonely, dark figures were his self-portraits, he led an extremely social life throughout the Second World War. At 19 he met a wild soul mate named Lucian Freud, who followed him to Greece in 1946, only to return alone to England five months later. Craxton had already met, in London in 1945, the Greek painter Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika and the British writer Patrick Leigh Fermor. The three of them were together in life and art for the next 50 years, in Hydra, Crete, Kardamyli, Corfu…

A modernist with a love of archaeology, Craxton was a special artist. His work, influenced first by Blake and Palmer and then by Miró and Picasso, evolved into a dialogue with Byzantine mosaics, El Greco and the Greek way of life. Craxton loved the resilience of myth to Greek rural life. He had famous friends, but he painted everyday people. In the end he resembled a shepherd from his adopted homeland, Crete.

A naïve stranger and a victim of a mischievous sense of humour, he got himself into unpleasant situations several times. No matter what he was dragged through, however, he never ceased to treat everything with a heroic hedonism.

A few words about the author

Ian Collins is an author of books on art and an exhibition curator. He has written monographs for Rose Hilton, Joan Leigh Fermor and John McLean and has worked with the Yale Center for British Art, the British Museum, the Sainsbury Centre in Norwich, the Benaki Museum and the Leventis Gallery in Nicosia. He is the curator of the exhibition “John Craxton: A Greek Soul”, on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the painter’s birth, at the Benaki Museum (13/4-11/09/2022). John Craxton’s work John Craxton. A Greek soul (2022). He lives in England and Greece.

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