In 1907, Kissonegris graduated from the Pancyprian High School and went on to study medicine in Athens for three years. He served as a medical volunteer in the Balkan wars for the Greek Red Cross in Thessaloniki. After the end of the war, he decided to leave medical school and enroll in the School of Fine Arts in Athens. Unfortunately, he contracted tuberculosis and was forced to cut short his education and return to Cyprus. Back home, he took the position of art teacher at the Pancyprian High School and the English School in Nicosia. His contribution to the field of art education was considerable; essentially he introduced the instruction of free design, established painting from life and brought his students into contact with the works of great painters by getting them to reproduce them. In 1953, the artist immigrated to South Africa with his family.
The content of his works was inspired by events of everyday life, his environments including many urban, rural, seaside and mountainous landscape. His style was descriptive and intensely poetic; his tone sensitive and lyrical. Modern Cypriot art draws from the strong foundations laid by Kissonegris’s artworks which have remained like important testimonies of a time long passed. He was the first Cypriot artist to paint from life and the first to use watercolour. He also worked with oils, pencil and ink. A defining trait in his creative output has always been his attention to detail; also his handling of the field with ease, dexterity and clarity, the finesse of the line and the gentle use of form and colour. Kissonegris’s watercolours are considered to be his best work. Carefully structured compositions with sheer colours and calm brushstrokes, they display a harmonious interplay of tones and where shadows have a determining role.
Ioannis Kissonerghis, Turkish Child Peddler, 1920, Oil on board, 18 x 18 cm