Doxiadis building signed in Greek and dated '57' (lower left) tempera on card laid down on board 54 x 55 cm.
Provenance: Private collection, Athens.
Literature: To be included in 'Nikos Engonopoulos-His Artistic World' prepared by K. Perpinioti-Agazir, Athens 2007, Benaki museum, p.456, no 576.
A leading figure of 20th century art and literature, and one of the most inspired exponents of the 1930s generation, Nikos Engonopoulos retained a life-long fascination with Greek architecture. As a matter of fact, his first appearance in the Greek art scene, in 1938, was an exhibition of temperas on paper of traditional houses from western Macedonia, following repeated field trips to central and northern Greece organized by A. Chatzimichali and the famed architect Dimitris Pikionis from 1935 to 1939. In 1938 he also worked with Pikionis on scale models of stately homes for the Ministry of Tourism. In 1942, along with architects N. Argyropoulos and A. Papageorgiou, he produced drawings of neoclassical Athenian buildings, while six years later his renditions of traditional houses from Mt. Pelion and the city of Kastoria were published by the Greek Folk Art association. In 1949, he worked under Pikionis for the Ministry of Housing and Reconstruction in the design of new buildings for the city of Piraeus, which had suffered extensive damage during World War II.
In 1972, the Athens Technical University published a collection of 18 colour reproductions of Engonopoulos's Greek Houses series, which Pikionis had once called 'psychographs' of buildings.1 "He made sketches for his famed Houses 'in situ', taking notes of colours, in preparation for the final paintings he completed in his workshop. These works were such accurate representations and, at the same time, personal interpretations of reality that Pikionis justly called them 'psychographs'. They truthfully reflect Engonopoulos's inner beauty and graciousness."2
This painting included in the Greek Sale is a 'psychograph' of a modern building designed by the famous Greek architect and innovative city planner C. Doxiadis, who organized the artist's 1963 one-man show in the Athens Technological Institute. Graceful and calm, based on refined, subtle harmonies and emphasising weightless volume rather than mass, Doxiadis's building is an archetype of advanced and inspired Greek architectural design. The rhythmic articulation of its facade in regular, modular bays and the projection and recession of surfaces indicate a compositional system that seems akin to classical notions of order; its generic and discreet classicism echoing the rational clarity of a Doric temple. Moreover, the grid-like rectilinearity of the planes, which seem to slide across each other like movable panels, makes it a kind of three-dimensional projection of the carefully proportioned flat planes in Mondrian's paintings, while the ingenious interplay of interior and exterior brings it even closer to formalist principles: 'in' and 'out' become relative, as did 'forward' and 'back' in cubist art. In its web-like delicacy of lines, bold use of radiant colours - which is a deliberate analogy with contemporary painting - careful refinement of proportion and buoyant lightness of fabric, this house is an architectural beauty of elegant geometry and austere grace.
In Doxiadis building, the handling of colour, a key element throughout Engonopoulos' artistic career, is equally impressive. Enamel-like bright reds, blues, greens and ochres are applied side by side on the canvas, echoing the famous remark by the legendary Greek architect A. Konstantinidis that colour in architecture is not an ornamental addition but an indispensable part of the whole, a vessel of life.3 As Errieti Engonopoulou, his daughter, notes, "for him each colour has its own value, its own voice."4
1.As cited in N. Engonopoulos, Greek Houses [in Greek], National Technical University, Athens 1972. 2. N. Andrikopoulou, 'Unknown Aspects in the Life and Work of Nikos Engonopoulos', Lexi magazine, no.77, September 1988, p. 654 . 3. As cited in Aris Kostantinidis, exh. cat., National Gallery, Athens, 1989, p. 48. 4. E. Engonopoulou, 'Freedom and Discipline' in Nikos Engonopoulos, The Painter and the Poet, p. 23.