Lefteris Kanakakis was born in Rethymnon in 1934. He began his studies at the Athens School of Fine Arts in 1954 under Sp. Papaloukas and Yiannis Moralis. His first solo exhibition was organised in Rethymnon in 1960 and then, on a scholarship from Mika Skouze Endowment, he visited Paris for the first time in 1960-61 before receiving a subsidy from the State Scholarships Foundation (I.K.Y.) and enrolling to the École Nationale supérieure des Beaux Arts and the art workshop of Maurice Brianchon (1963-66).
In 1968 he was appointed assistant in the preparatory class of the Athens School of Fine Arts from which he resigned in 1978. He wrote the study The Technique of Oil Painting, as a textbook to be used by the students of the Athens School of Fine Arts. He was a member of the Chamber of Fine Arts of Greece and a founding member of the Centre for Visual Arts (KET, 1974). His works were presented in solo and group exhibitions, both in Greece and abroad, as well as in Pan-Hellenic exhibitions and Biennales.
In 1983 he received the “Nikos Kazantzakis” Award by the Municipality of Heraklion, Crete. At the same time, a retrospective exhibition of his work was held at the Basilica of St. Mark in Heraklion. Another retrospective exhibition of his work was held at the National Gallery, one year after his death in 1985. The Contemporary Art Museum of Crete – “Lefteris Kanakakis” Municipal Art Gallery in Rethymnon houses a permanent collection of some of his representative works.