The Ghikas House on Hydra: From Artists’ Haven to Enchanted Ruins

Helle Goldman


Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas (1906–1994) achieved international renown in the 1950s as the foremost Greek painter of his generation. His grand family home on the island of Hydra became a destination for numerous visiting painters and writers, including Henry Miller, Patrick Leigh Fermor, John Craxton, and Sidney and Cynthia Nolan. Some stayed for extended periods and produced important work there; others, such as George Johnston and Charmian Clift, visited it for social engagements. When the mansion burned down in 1961, by which time a colony of expatriate artists and writers had been established on the island, Ghikas left Hydra and the house was never rebuilt. This essay reflects upon Ghikas’s home, and the hospitality and intellectual and creative company offered there, by considering what Cynthia Nolan, the Johnston-Clifts, Miller, Leigh Fermor and others have written about it in their letters and books. The house is gone but it remains as a literary construct as well as a mystery-shrouded ruin that serves as a poignant reminder of a significant period in the island’s modern history.


Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas; Greece; Hydra; Expatriate painters

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