A Cultural History of Modern Hydra

Since the 1950s, Hydra has drawn the interest of artists and intellectuals, gradually becoming a cosmopolitan cultural hub.

Painter, sculptor, & engraver Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas

Painter, sculptor, & engraver Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas

A number of well-known Greek artists and intellectuals have been Hydriots, including painter Nicos Hantzikyriakos-Ghikas and poet Miltos Sahtouris.  Others, like painters Panagiotis Tetsis and Periklis Vyzantios, architect Demetrios Pikionis, poets George Seferis and Odysseas Elytis, author D. Petsalis, and painter-poet Nicolaos Engonopoulos, fell in love with the island on a visit subsequently made Hydra their full- or part-time residence.

In 1936 painter Periklis Vyzantios (1893–1971) orchestrated the establishment of a branch of the Faculty of Fine Arts of Athens on Hydra housed in the Tombazis’ mansion, where eminent artists like Marc Chagall spent long periods.

Foreign artists who have spent much time on Hydra include American novelist Henry Miller, Canadian songwriter-poet Leonard Cohen, and modern artist Brice Marden.

Over the decades, several books have been written about or set on Hydra:

  • The Colossus of Maroussi, Henry Miller (1941)
  • Rien ne va plus (The Sleepwalker), Margarita Karapanou (1994)
  • Clouds over Hydra, Charles Young (1996)
  • Fugitive Pieces, Anne Michaels (1996)
  • The Riders, Tim Winton (1996)
  • Hydra and the Bananas of Leonard Cohen, Roger Green (2003)
  • Rhubarbs from a Rock, David Fagan (2003)
  • Lighthousekeeping, Jeannette Winterson (2006)
  • Hydra, Catherine Vanderpool (1980)

Today, a number of artists and writers, both Greek and foreign, live and work on Hydra, including William Pownall,

Perhaps the cinema contributed most to Hydra’s fame and the development of tourism on the island. Famous movies filmed on Hydra include The Girl in Black by Greek director Michalis Cacoyannis, the Boy on a Dolphin starring Sophia Loren, and Phaedra by director Jules Dassin and starring Melina Mercouri, Anthony Perkins, and Ralf Valone. Other movies filmed all or in part on the island include

  • Incense for the Damned (1970)
  • Out of the Shadows (1988)
  • The Blue Villa (Un Bruit Qui Rend Fou) (1995)
  • Boat Trip (2002)
  • Fugitive Pieces (2007)

Due to the exposure Hydra received in these films, Greeks and foreigners alike have since flocked to this tranquil island. No longer a “secret,” Hydra became a must-see for visitors to Greece.