Yiannis Moralis in 1975
This is the look I recall. It's not my photo. I met him in Aegina in August 1968 with my stepmother, to whom he'd been married. Dad asked me to drive to Aegina, so we'd have a car for the family. I did the journey from England in four days - my third visit to Greece. I knew Yiannis Moralis' reputation. I've seen his portraits of Maria since - one on a card circulated to everyone at her funeral in 2005 at St.Sophia's in Moscow Road, Bayswater, her body laid with my Dad's ashes at Kensal Green Cemetery.
Then, long ago, in Aegina, my memory is less of Moralis' work than the focus of his kind curiosity and quietness in the midst of much happy laughter, singing, eating, drinking and boisterous table talk in which, I, a polite political innocent so far as Greece was concerned, heard frequent reference to the name Markezinis. Outside the glow of a taverna, rather than squeeze through the crowd I strolled down the gravel road for a pee. The northerly etesian, which Maria detested and wouldn't call meltemi, was gusting as boisterously as our party, stirring the olives trees into a crackling roar that ebbed and flowed like breaking surf. Standing in the warm dark I was assailed by unfamiliar dread, more intense for the closeness of the bustling taverna. My anxieties are to do with enclosure, so this was odd. Maria said later, and matter-of-factly, that I'd had a bout of panic - sudden fear in a lonely or open place caused by Pan.
In summer 1968 Georgios Papadopoulos, who'd led the previous year's coup d'état was claiming that if the 'Revolution' - as his Junta called it - stayed more than a certain time in power it would lose its dynamic and become a 'regime'. He was already trying to draw Spyros Markezinis into metapolitefsi - a word that only surfaces 5 years later to describe a return to democracy acceptable to those who'd taken it away and to a small number of old guard politicians - Markezinis being one - who might survive the risk of being close enough to the regime to achieve a recovery of parliamentary rule. On 13 August, as I enjoyed the beach, Alexandros Panagoulis tried to assassinate Papadopoulos as he was being driven to Athens from his summer residence.
Dad was in the Foreign Office. His stay in Aegina was cut short because of events in Prague that broke on 21 August. I didn't visit Greece again for 27 years.
On 21 December 2009 came an e-mail via the family from Vaggelis Chronis:
I regret to advise you that Yiannis Moralis passed away yesterday...his funeral is taking place this morning at 11.30 at a cemetery in Athens...
Yiannis Moralis had been husband to my Greek step-mother Maria Roussen.
She was to meet and later marry my dad. I only met Yiannis Moralis once (as I wrote here) but he’s someone whose art has run through my life. I’m glad to have even a very distant connection with him through the family. He was and will remain a great artist who lived a long good life. I've promised myself one day soon to visit his birthtown Arta and see its beautiful bridge across the Aracthus.