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40 years of active presence

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

    INTELLECTUAL LIFE – Giulio Caimi

    Giulio Caimi was born in 1897 in a mansion near the Greca Synagogue, son of Mosé Caimi, publisher of local newspaper The Jewish Chronicler.

    The family moved to Athens, where his father published the Jewish Review newspaper. Giulio, a staunch supporter of the vernacular, wrote articles in the main demoticist journal O Noumas and consorted with writers of that era. As opposed to the majority of his coreligionists, politically he was a supporter of the liberal statesman Eleftherios Venizelos, who sent him to Thessaloniki as the first representative of the Greek state in order to influence the staunchly royalist Jewish community of that city.

    He studied in the Fine Arts School of the Athens Polytechnic and in the 1920s travelled to Rome, where he succeeded his father in the newspaper La Tribuna. He befriended almost all Greek writers and artists of the time. He translated into Greek works from Αncient Greek, French, Italian and Sanskrit. He was the first Greek to systematically conduct research on Karaghiozis, the Greek shadow theatre. In 1935 he published his most renowned work Karaghiozi ou la comédie grecque dans l’âme du théâtre d’ombres.

    In 1934 he travelled to Palestine, Syria and Yemen, mostly on foot, recording his impressions and painting some of his best watercolours. An important part of his work was his engagement with Jewish tradition and the Kabbalah.

    The progressive deafness that plagued him since an early age contributed to his isolation and impoverishment. Like the painter Theophilos, he had at times to pay for his austere meals at the small tavernas in Plaka with some of his sketches. When he died a pauper in 1982, his work was largely unknown. His first retrospective exhibition took place in 1994, while in a host of publications the writer Michel Fais delved into his works and commented on them. He also curated the two exhibitions of Caimi’s works at the JMG in 1998 and 2003.

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