Jannis Spyropoulos studied at the Athens Art Academy between 1933 and 1938. In 1938 he was awarded a travel scholarship for Paris, where he continued his studies at the "École des Beaux-Arts" and private academies. Spyropoulos returned to Greece in 1940 but did not have a one-man show until 1950, in Athens.
At that time Spyropoulos turned to abstraction, inspired by French painting, notably the work of Paul Cézanne. Jannis Spyropoulos developed a personal style poised between tectonic composition and ferociously spontaneous brushwork. Using the handle of his brush, Spyropoulos would incise a nervy network of lines into the film of paint. One of the constants of Spyropoulos' painting is his palette, in which he always remained true to the scenery of his native land. It evokes brown earth and grey rock short through with the cool brilliance of a blue sky, the sea and the crisp clarity of the Aegean atmosphere.
Spyropoulos' abstract work represents an important contribution to the rich field of contemporary Greek art. The more abstract his work became, the more successful Spyropoulos became internationally. His work was shown at international exhibitions, including the World House Galleries in New York in 1959, the "Neue Galerie im Künstlerhaus" in Munich in 1962 and the National Collection of Fine Arts at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, in 1969.
Spyropoulos was the first Greek artist to be represented at "documenta" in Kassel, showing work at "documenta III" in 1964. He was awarded numerous distinctions and prizes. At the 1960 30th Venice Biennale Spyropoulos was honoured with the "UNESCO" prize; he was the first Greek to have received a prize at the Biennale.
In 1976 Spyropoulos fulfilled a dream by buying a house in Ekali. Studio, dwelling and museum under one roof, it now houses the Spyropoulos Foundation. In his late work Spyropoulos intensively worked over painted surfaces and reverted to his 1960s collages.
Jannis Spyropoulos died in his house at Ekali in 1990. A retrospective of his work was shown in several Greek cities in 1994 and at the National Gallery in Athens from late June 1995.