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Loukia Nicolaides (1909-1994): The Visionary Painter

Born in Limassol in 1909 and passing away in Penzance, England, in 1994, Loukia Nicolaides embarked on an artistic journey with the encouragement of the painter Vasilis Vryonides.

She studied in Paris at the Colarossi Academy (1929) and the  École de Beaux Arts (1930-1933). At a time when the percentage of illiterate women in Cyprus was very large and that of women who had received a university education was negligible, the fact that she was able to defy the social rules and prejudices that defined a woman’s position and role in the closed Cypriot patriarchal society during the first decades of the 20th century has to be seen as a minor revolution.Contributing to this was the fact that she came from a wealthy, bourgeois, cultivated family, who showed understanding in the face of Nicolaides-Vassiliou’s strong and unyielding will nurture her talent for painting.  

Returning to Cyprus in 1933, Nicolaides-Vassiliou was confronted with the harsh realities of closed Cypriot society. From the artistic euphoria of Paris, she found herself in an utterly barren artistic environment. Moreover, she was forced to deal with the mores of conservative Cypriot society and its attitude towards the female sex. This had a decisive influence on her career as an artist.

It was in the margins of social life and primarily in private spaces, just like all the other women of her time, that she lived her four years sojourn in Cyprus following the completion of her studies (she moved permanently to Britain in 1937). Therefore, it was only natural that she would seek out her subject matter in the private life of her home and that of her family and friends. She was especially interested in the female world and female phycology.  

Despite the many difficulties she faced between 1933 and 1937, Loykia Nicolaides-Vassiliou was especially prolific during that period. Besides her many oil paintings, she also made a large number of watercolours from nature, depicting landscapes and scenes from daily life.

Some of these were also used to create oil compositions. Most of her watercolours draw their themes from her hometown of Limassol and the village of Platres, where she spent the summer holidays with her family. Some of them were painted in Famagusta, obviously during a journey she made there. Nicolaides-Vassilioy painted succinctly and abstractly, showing particular dedication to the colour qualities and the rendering of the atmosphere of the space and character of people.  

Dr. Eleni S. Nikita, who extensively researched the painter starting in 1992, asserted that Loukia Nicolaides Vasileiou, as both a woman and an artist, embodied the prototype of a "modern woman" in Cyprus. She represented the vision of her hometown, Limassol, which was striving for modernization. As an artist, she brought the spirit of interwar Paris to Cyprus.

Special thanks to journalist/researcher Chrysanthos Chrysanthou for providing the photos and his valuable assistance.