Head of man with beard signed 'N. Gysis' (middle right) oil on canvas 46 x 38.5 cm.
Exhibited: Tinos, Awakening-Artists from Tinos in the transition from folk to academic, April 2006, p. 37 (illustrated in the exhibition catalogue).
Humane, pictorially fresh and psychologically acute, this stately portrait, possibly of Nikiforos Lytras - the other towering figure of 19th century Greek art and the artists inseparable friend, stands as a lucid demonstration of Gysis bold touch. The sitters bearded profile, moving between the ancient models of philosophers and the aged image of a wise and pensive contemporary, is used as an armature for the display of the artists extraordinary painterly impulse.
Although some attempts of linear resolution are evident, the image is, quite literally, made of paint, displaying a limited yet powerful palette dominated by Gysis signature red. Colour values, as conveyed through the variously scaled and shaped marks of the brush, carry the major burden of describing the sitters likeness in purely pictorial terms, which are at once plastic and two-dimensional in character. The brushwork is searching and impulsive, capable of giving a remarkable sense of immediacy to the image and allowing the artist to maintain both rhythmic and descriptive coherence in the move from specific to more generalised areas. The close-up immediacy endows the picture with compelling energy, while the vigorous, almost turbulent brushwork, especially in the modelling of the beard, acts to generate a sense of mobility and vitality in the prevailing monumentality of the sitters shape.
Ultimately, it is Gysis sensitivity to colour values, honesty of representation, ability to capture beauty emanating from within and integration of his sitters likeness into a convincing and homogeneous whole that makes the picture work. Its rich painterliness, recalling in certain respects the 17th century portraiture of Hals, Rembrandt and Velasquez, conveys some of the best qualities for which Munich School painting was internationally famous in the 1880s and 1890s.