By Sophia A. Niarchos
OYSTER BAY, N.Y. — Although he had been suffering with Parkinson’s disease for 10 years, when Theodore Anagnostaras passed away in January, he died of a broken heart.
“My mother died in December and once she was gone, he lost his will to live. She was the energy force in his life,” his daughter Georgette says.” Last Friday, September 24, would have been guitarist-singer-artist Ted Anagnostaras’ 89th birthday.
Today, while Georgette looks back on his life, she also looks forward to immortalizing her father, the man who believed that “everyone and everything has a right to immortality” and who brought about that immortality by making them subjects of his artistic output.
“A book of photographs of my father’s artwork is available for sale, and I am working on putting together a photographic show of his works in Greece and arranging an exhibit at a gallery in Miami,” she says proudly. “We will also be publishing such items as cards and calendars, and I will work to promote his work by showing it in such institutions as schools and nursing homes.”
Georgette’s efforts can largely be credited to the inspiration her father was in her life. While her mother showed her the world of business and the importance of making money, her father, she notes, “made me see that there’s another side to making money…that you can make yourself happy by doing what you love even if you don’t make a lot of money.
“He exposed me to arts and culture. He always wanted to sit and talk about philosophy, about the teachings of Socrates and Plato, and told me that you need balance in your life or you will die young from a heart attack even if you make a lot of money.”
After spending many years studying music in Athens and New York colleges, including the Conservatory of Music and the New York College of Music, Anagnostaras left a potentially promising career as an opera singer and guitarist, relegating song and instrument to gatherings of friends, and, aided by some private instruction and classes at the Arts Students League in New York, embarked upon a very successful career as an artist.
Largely due to the promotional and business-focused efforts of his late wife, whom he immortalized in his nude studies, Anagnostaras’ works hang in collections owned by such well-known personalities as George Livanos, Mrs. Laurence Rockefeller and classical guitarist Andres Segovia.
“We had hosted Segovia in our home,” recalls Georgette, adding that her father had reserved his greatest praise for him. “He called him a ‘Spanish genius,’ someone who demonstrates, as he put it, “the total physical and spiritual union of the man and his instrument.”
Anagnostaras had high standards for any artist and listed among his favorites the classical composers Schubert and Schumann and such modern musicians as The Beatles, Tom Jones, and Dean Martin and the Greek masters Hadzidakis, Theodorakis, Dalaras and Parios. He extended those standards even to his daughter; and when he decided she had not been born with musical talent, told her he wouldn’t teach her how to play the guitar.
“I think he was disappointed because I didn’t come running to him to ask him to teach me to play the guitar. This was partly because my mother wanted me to be a well-rounded person and get over my shyness, so she immersed me in Girl Scouts, gymnastics, Greek lessons and ballet. But I’m now determined to learn.”
Asked whether her father preferred that his art, which he perfected on frequent lengthy trips to Greece and the islands of Crete and Ikaria, be appreciated by celebrities (he met such people as New York City Mayor Robert Wagner, PASOK party leader Andreas Papandreou and Archbishop Iakovos and even spent time with Maria Callas and other singers of his time in New York) or by the not-so-famous, Georgette replied without hesitation: “By common people.”
That likely explains why he exhibited his nude studies, portraits done in the tradition of Daumier and DaVinci, and land and seascapes not only to private collectors in his studio or at galleries, but also sharing them with the hoi polloi at such venues as the annual Gracie Square Art Show and at the Washington Square Outdoor Art Exhibit.
“For art exhibitions, I helped him with advertising, posters, flyers, packing up his artwork for transport to the shows or showing it for judging at competitions. It was as if I were the son he didn’t have,” the woman Anagnostaras called his “masterpiece” says.
Her involvement in his vocation may explain why three of his works will not be sold.
“I always wanted to have something of my father’s to keep for myself. While he was alive, he sold everything he made; but now he can’t sell anything, so I am keeping a painting of a little girl giving her mother a flower, an island scene, and a portrait of me with the sun around my face,” Georgette says.
If you love excellence in art or music and want to purchase a keepsake of Theodore Anagnostaras’ paintings or recordings, call Georgette at (212) 300-7707.