Shores of Tinos signed in Greek (lower right) oil on canvas 49 x 69 cm. (19 1/4 x 27 1/8 in.)
Painted c. 1923-25
Provenance: D. Pieridis collection Private collection, Athens.
Literature: H.G. Gotsi, The Painter N. Lytras, dissertation thesis, Thessaloniki 1992, p. 53, 54 (referred) fig. 45 (illustrated)
A rare work by an expert landscape painter and pioneer expressionist, Shores of Tinos captures the power and brilliance of the Cycladic landscape, while demonstrating Lytras interpretative approach to nature. Impetuous brushwork, heavily textured surfaces and intense colour support the liberation of properties intrinsic to his medium and confirm the supremacy of his pictorial gesture over the original subject. Expressionism had a definitive impact on him during his studies in Munich, at a time when fierce brushstrokes and bold colour schemes began to acquire greater importance than the fugitive effects and impressionistic analysis of light.1 In his landscapes, Lytras uses nervous, wide and thick brushstrokes and arranges his pulsating planes in zones to create an active space of vibrant colour.2
In the summer of 1923, just before or after he was appointed professor at the Athens School of Fine Arts, Lytras visited Tinos, the native island of his father, the great 19th century painter Nikiforos Lytras. The islands intricate shoreline became a source of inspiration for the artist, who produced a number of exquisite landscapes. According to H.G.Gotsi, who did her graduate thesis on Nicholaos Lytras, the painting offered at auction is one of the four known works from this period. Shores of Tinos depicts a panoramic view of the islands barren rocks as they slope towards the sea. In this composition, Lytras introduces a large, almost triangular shape rendered in broad, short or long, straight or curvilinear, oblique, horizontal or undulating, continuous or interrupted brushstrokes, using a variety of colours, either side by side or overlapping. The sandy beach in the middle ground is rendered in light pink and a touch of ochre, while the sea is painted in blues and greens. At the foot of the mountain on the left, some white is added to indicate human habitation. In this painting, the handling of volumes in terms of an interplay of light and dark areas in the foreground, as well as the development of diagonal and horizontal lines that build up a solid compositional edifice, are elements echoing the works of Cezanne. On the contrary, the vaguely defined horizon and mountains on the upper right are akin to the impressionistic handling of atmospheric perspective. Comparing Shores of Tinos to landscapes from his earlier output, one can observe an increasing propensity towards abstractive rendering, a tendency to break away from the world of appearances and create a new reality through an architectural organization of space and handling of form, without abandoning naturalistic colouring.3
In the fall of 1923, Lytras, who was a founding member of the influential Omas Techi art group, started teaching at the Athens School of Fine Arts. A restless spirit and a gifted instructor, he brought with him a wind of change and drove home the message of artistic freedom. The painter S. Vasiliou, a student of his, remembers: He allowed us to paint the dark olive-green studio walls a brighter shade, to paint the screens the same luminous and bright colours and -most exciting of all- to hang prints of works by Van Gogh, Cezanne and Renoir on the walls.4 Lytras longing for new expressive forms and search for a deeper pictorial truth infused the forces of renewal in modern Greek painting with a fresh and vital impetus and had a major impact on the 1930s generation.
1H. Kambouridis - G. Levounis, Modern Greek Art, The 20th Century, Athens 1999, p. 30 2D. Papastamos, Painting 1930-40 [in Greek], Astir ed., Athens 1981, p. 39 3H.G.Gotsi, The Painter Nikos Lytras 1883-1927 (graduate thesis) [in Greek], Thessaloniki, 1992, pp. 53-54 4Lights and Shadows, Athens 1969, p. 33