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When Greeks get together for a visit, the conversation inevitably leads to family. Immediate or extended family, living or dead, all relations are considered – depending on the conversation. In the background such discussions are Greek notions of extended kindred, soi (pronounced soy).
In this realm of understanding, entire lineages possess very distinct attributes across generations. Specific characteristics are said to flow in different kinship lineages that can be identified over time and seen in daily social life. Exact terms are employed to describe such traits as chrisogo, e.g. a kindred that always makes money; paleosogo, e.g. a kindred that has a hereditary illness, and many many others.
I have as yet to see scholarly accounts do real justice to this subject across generations. So fundamental a point is this core belief, it is the basis and meaning of the very first exchange between Greeks, “apo pou eisai’ (where are you from), e.g. in the sense of your claim to be Greek from where geographically are you descended? Which itself can become a complicated recounting. Here, the central notion focuses on being Greeks from a specific physical place. Being a Greek from a specific place again implies that all such persons and families share specific traits and characteristics across and through extended lineages.
Early Greek arrival to North America Kimon Nicolaides (1859-1931) and his wife Louisa lived in Washington, DC and had three children that reached maturity, Kimon, Jr., Atalanta and Phidias. Each after their own fashion shared their father’s love of the arts. Let us follow something of their lives. With the Nicolaides family, the expression of enduring artistic traits took several forms.
Born on September 18, 1894, Phidias John Joseph Nicolaides attended Washington Business High School, where he excelled. His participation in school theatricals (as they were then called) even made the front pages of the local press nonetheless the young man had clearly made other choices. After graduation, Nicolaides went on to Georgetown Law School. He practiced law in Washington, DC where his eloquence as a public speaker was ever noted. On May 8, 1919, he married Marie Rose Kelly and by all reports the couple lived happily in the nation’s capital.
Atalanta V. Nicolaides was born in Washington on September 21, 1886. At age 20, she became one of the first Greek-American actresses to perform on the American stage. Atalanta played the role of Trinidad in the Broadway play, “The Rose of the Rancho,” through the play’s entire run from November 27, 1906 to June 29, 1907. Various Washington newspapers reported that Atalanta had “decided to go into vaudeville, where she is to appear in original songs and dances (Evening News March 6, 1909).”
Atalanta’s talent was clear to all: “Many Washington theater-goers were interested the past week at the Columbia Theater in watching the effective work of Miss Atalanta Nicolaides, who appeared in ‘Imprudence,” in the role of Miss Perrot. Miss Nicolaides is a young Washington girl, the daughter of a well -known business man…Her beautiful features effectively aided in preserving the charm and romantic atmosphere of that delightful play. Miss Nicolaides is spending the summer at her home in Washington…She will also be seen next week at the Columbia in support of Miss Cecilia Loftus in William Gillette’s new play, “That Little Affair at the Boyd’s,’ Next season she will return to [Broadway for a] part in a new production (Washington herald June 7, 1908).”
Atalanta married Edwin Homer on November 28, 1910 in New York City and the couple had four children. In 1925, Atalanta gave up the stage, to support her children, through her custom gown design/rebuilding establishment just off Fifth Avenue in New York City. The October 1918 issue of the Ladies Home Journal included an interview and description of Atlanta’s work in their lengthy, The New Dressmakers survey article. Atalanta died August 28, 1981. In 1946, Atlanta’s son, Edwin Homer Jr. (1916-2007), drew the newspaper cartoon strip “The Duke of Manhattan.”
Kimon Nicolaides, Jr. was born in Washington June 10, 1891. Despite his family’s opposition, he did in fact become an art student, during which he attended the Art Students’ League in New York, where he studied with John Sloan and George Bridgman. During World War I he served in France as one of the first American camouflage artists. After the war he delivered lectures at the Minneapolis art school and the Hartford Art Association.
In 1925, Nicolaides returned to Art Students’ League where he developed the method of drawing seen in his world famous book, The Natural Way to Draw: A Working Plan for Art Study (Houghton: Boston, 1941) – a book, by the way, that has never been out of print. The minimum expectation in this program of study is that you will draw for three hours a day for a one year period. For Nicolaides, “the desire to draw was as fundamental and natural as the desire to talk, and drawing, like talking, was about learning how to do things the right way from the beginning.”
Painter, muralist, gallery owner and teacher Nicolaides filled his days with instruction, ongoing exchanges with other artists and his own work. In the 1920s, Kimon married Anna English and the couple had three children Kimon, Gifford and Philip. In his last years Nicolaides was also an instructor at the School of Applied Design for Women.
The New York Times has said of Nicolaides life he: “made a distinguished place for himself as a teacher. The influence he exerted in that field appears to have been both constructive and widespread. It will endure and so will the affectionate regard in which he was held by the many whose lives he touched and enriched.” At the time of his death fellow artist George Bridgeman noted, “As an artist Kimon Nicolaides will be remembered by virtue of his works. As a teacher he will live on in his students’ works and their memories.” These remarks have proved more accurate than one would have imagined.
In 2004, artist, Brandy Marsh, reported that when “I decided to research Kimon Nicolaides I was shocked to find not a single biography of him…I know many famous and published artists learned their skills in art and teaching art from following Nicolaides approach, such as Betty Edwards who wrote Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. I even developed my own appreciation for both Nicolaides and Edwards from my own college professor Tom Howell…his 30 years of work shining of Nicolaides’ influences.” Given that Nicolaides’ classic book on art instruction has never been out of print, is still used in instruction, and has been translated into 15 languages demonstrates that his work as a teacher has regrettably hidden his paintings and murals from the consideration they are due in the world of modern art.
On another point Nicolaides was very open and frank. Though he never learned to speak Greek, “It was not my fault,” he once wrote to a friend, he “most assuredly” (his own words again) considered himself a Greek-American. Kimon died in 1938 and was buried at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Mount Pleasant New York.
Gifford A. ‘Nic’ Nicolaides (1927-2014), one of Kimon Nicolaides’ sons was also a life-long artist, painter, photographer and art teacher. As one of his obituaries has it, ‘Gifford studied art at the New York Arts Students League. Gifford earned his B.A. in Fine Arts from San Jose State University in 1972 and his M.A. in Fine Arts from San Diego State University in 1975. He taught art classes at San Diego City College for 13 years and also in San Jose, California for several years, moving to Knoxville, TN in 2001, where he continued to teach and participated in the Festival of Arts. In 2010 he moved to Kingsport, Tennessee where he taught art from his home.” This account omits Nic’s life, in the early 1990s, when he lived in San Antonio Texas where ‘he converted and old warehouse into an apartment and studio—the Nicolaides Studio and Art Gallery at 531 Guadalupe Street. Besides teaching, he turned out large canvases punctuated by bold geometric shapes and large fields of color (” Nic Nicolaides was divorced and the father of twelve children. On January 27, 2014, Gifford Nicolaides was buried at Mountain Home National Cemetery.
Today, there are dozens of individuals living all across the United States descended from Kimon and Louisa Nicolaides. I have only briefly surveyed less than a handful here. Yet it is easy to see how artistic appreciation in its widest sense flows through this extended family. How many more and to what degree if any they consider themselves Greek is a project for future research.

The post Some Descendants of Kimon Nikolaides, Early Greek Merchant in D.C. appeared first on The National Herald.

Source: The National Herald
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