Exhibited: Athens, Lykeion Ellinidon, 1927, no. 114 Thessaloniki, 29th Dimitria 2003, Polykleitos Regos: A hundred years from his birth, no. 2 (illustrated in the catalogue, p. 24).
This stylistically faultless and psychologically acute portrait was made when the artist was only twenty-three, having just graduated from the Athens School of Fine Arts where he studied under Nikolaos Lytras. Its linear elegance, carefully analyzed forms into simple planes, pronounced stylization and reduced palette dominated by lustreless browns, greys and ochres, seem to perfectly match the sitters relaxed posture and detached expression. However, behind the tranquil surface, there are other forces at work. The strong, often angular contours, the swirling forms that betray a restless gestural energy and the emphatically elongated hands that echo the contorted limps in many of the finest expressionist portraits by such modern masters as Oskar Kokoschka and Egon Schiele, clearly express the artists intention to explore the inner life and emotional undercurrents of his sitter, as well as reflect his own intense response to the subject. Much more than a mere description of an individual, this portrait is a complete artistic statement, striking a fine balance between stylistic dignity and poetic sentiment.
Rengos deep love for humanity, which was a determining feature of his art throughout his career, is even more prominent in this captivating portrait, since the sitter is his brother Demosthenes, an actor at that time who had performed at a very young age with the troupe of Thomas Economou in Thessaloniki in 1924. 1 The pleated curtain on the background, besides serving a decorative purpose, may also allude to the sitters professional status, reflecting the artists custom to often enrich his portraits with a subtle sense of anecdotal or narrative detail that would better convey his own feelings towards the subject. Rengos himself, when asked about his portraits, used to say: To do a portrait, a real portrait, there must be love or at least compassion. 2
1. G.T. Vafopoulos, Autobiographical Pages [in Greek], vol. 1, Paratiritis publ., p. 234. 2. See E. Kaplani-Kokkini, Portraits of Polykleitos Rengos (1925-1984) , exh. cat., Municipal Art Gallery (27th Dimitria Festival), Thessaloniki, 1992, p. 34.