Gounaropoulos’s return to Greece coincided with the emergence of an important artistic movement in which the so-called ‘30s Generation’ played the leading role. Gounaropoulos along with other artists who had returned from Paris, such as Michael Tombros and Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas, as well as with Giorgos Bouzianis who had come back from Germany, infused the Greek artistic scene with international avant-garde trends.
1934 marked Greece’s first participation in the Venice Biennale, with works by 74 renowned artists. One of them was Gounaropoulos, whose work was given special mention in numerous articles published in the Italian press.
The year 1935 witnessed an exhibition that marked a watershed in the evolution of modern art in Greece. It was the ‘Exhibition of the Three’, in which Gounaropoulos, Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas and the sculptor Tombros jointly showed their work.
In July 1937, Gounaropoulos was entrusted by the Municipality of Athens to paint the murals in the Council Chamber of the Athens City Hall. True to his personal style, Gounaropoulos created a magnificent pictorial ensemble of 112 square meters. He employed an oil-based paint mixed with wax to create a mural that represented the history of the city of Athens from ancient times to the modern day. The historically faithful depiction of the figures, clothing and objects was due to Gounaropoulos’s meticulous study of ancient Greek vases, coins, sepulchral steles, statues, and much of the available literature on ancient Greek art. Employing no assistance throughout the duration of the project, Gounaropoulos started working on the mural in March 1938 and completed it approximately two years later.
When World War II broke out and Gounaropoulos was 50 years old, he published two drawings in the newspaper I Niki (Victory), aiming to boost the Greek troops’ morale. The two drawings were I Panagia mazi tou (May the Virgin Mary be with him) and I Niki mas fterougizei (Our victory is soaring).
In 1950-51, Gounaropoulos painted the murals in the Church of Hagia Triada, in the Greek city of Volos. In 1958, he received the Guggenheim Award for Greece.
Throughout the long course of his career, Gounaropoulos presented his work in more than seventy group exhibitions in Greece and abroad, four solo exhibitions in Paris, one in Alexandros Iolas’s ‘Hugo Gallery’ in New York (1948), and twelve solo exhibitions in Greece (indicatively: 1949, Gallery ‘Romvos’; 1957, French Institute of Athens; 1959 and 1962, Gallery ‘Zygos’; 1965, 1971 and 1973, Gallery ‘Astor’. In 1975, he had the pleasure to witness a retrospective exhibition of his works at the National Gallery – Alexandros Soutsos Museum.
Alongside his painting, Gounaropoulos illustrated books of contemporary poets and intellectuals, such as Andreas Embiricos, a major Greek poet and close friend of his, Sotiris Skipis, Apostolos Melachrinos, I.M. Panagiotopoulos and Kostas Varnalis.
Gounaropoulos died in 1977, at the age of 88, having attained sixty-five consecutive years of artistic creation. When asked, shortly before the end of his life, whether he was content with his contribution to art, he responded: ‘Yes and no. Yes, because what I gave was authentically my own, part of a truly personal vision. And no, because an artist’s work comprises but a minuscule percentage of his entire vision.’