Clean Monday feast / Koulouma signed in Greek and dated '66' (lower left) oil on canvas 40 x 80 cm.
Provenance: Acquired directly from the artist in Paris in the late 60s by his lawyer.
Literature: Yiannis Tsarouchis Painting, Tsarouchis Foundation, Athens 1990, no 327 (illustrated). E. Florou, Yannis Tsarouchis: His Painting and his Era, Nea Synora-Livanis publ., Athens 1999, p. 279, no. 788 (referred). E. Florou, Tsarouchis-Painting, (doctoral dissertation) vol. 1, Athens 1989, p. 253, no. 675 (referred).
The rock, that great ruler of the Greek landscape Y. Tsarouchis
An icon of Modern Greek culture and an emblematic figure of the legendary 1930s generation, Yannis Tsarouchis produced sensitive and irresistibly attractive landscapes that immediately capture the eye with their clarity and truthfulness of vision. Radically simplified in design and brilliantly translucent in colour, Clean Monday feast/Koulouma conveys a serene world of pure forms, where the scrupulous observation and study of nature is imaginatively combined with echoes of Byzantine art and Pompeian frescoes.1
The work on offer probably depicts the rocky Athenian Hill of the Muses - a favourite location for celebrating the First Day of Lent (Koulouma) - which Tsarouchis regarded as one of the most beautiful places in the world. This austere and timeless landscape is enlivened by the discreet presence of evocative figures who either converse or silently relish the view, including a group of sailors, the artists signature subject and one of the most celebrated and enduring images of 20th century Greece. Serene, silent and immobile, the contemporary figures seem perfectly integrated into the age-old, immutable site, imbuing the picture with a meditative, almost metaphysical feel accentuated by the silhouette of the Greek Orthodox priest on the upper left.
The pensive, lyrical tone is further heightened by a billowing pillar of faint smoke rising from a distant and unidentifiable, mysterious source.2 Commenting on Lot 97 in the special addendum to the Tsarouchis Foundation edition, the artist noted: Strangely enough rocks with people on them seem smaller, while on their own they look huge, with precipitous cliffs.3
Tsarouchis, much like the ancient Greeks and Byzantines, these great humanist painters, produced mostly figurative works. I got involved with the depiction of nature and landscapes quite late in my career. I had many issues to resolve with the human figure, before that.4 Tsarouchis handles the landscape as a chromatic harmony, a kind of abstract composition. They say that a painter should work in an abstract style only if he is able to faithfully imitate nature. I would say the opposite is true; one who understands that painting is a matter of harmony has earned the right to depict nature, because he has great passion.5 The first natural things Tsarouchis painted were rocks, which he considered the quintessential feature of the Greek landscape. The great ruler of the Greek landscape is the rock. The Greek rocks are our national heritage. They are natures immortal sculptures that will eternally define the character of our land.6
1. See Y. Tsarouchis brief assessment of his 1962-1966 period in Yannis Tsarouchis Retrospective 1928-1981 [in Greek], exhibition catalogue, Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art - Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki 1981. 2. See E. Florou, Tsarouchis-Painting, (doctoral dissertation) vol. 1, Athens 1989, p. 129. 3. Y. Tsarouchis, 'Comments by the Painter on the Works Included in the Edition' [in Greek] in Yannis Tsarouchis-Painting, Yannis Tsarouchis Foundation, Athens 1990, p. ix, no. 327-328. 4. Y. Tsarouchis in Yannis Tsarouchis Retrospective. See also E. Florou, Yannis Tsarouchis: His Painting and his Era [in Greek], Athens 1999, p. 250, note 31. 5. Y. Tsarouchis, Notes and Speculations, Greek Heritage journal, vol. 1, no. 2, 1964, pp. 94-95. 6. Y. Tsarouchis, The Obsession with Greenery, Kathimerini daily, 7.9.1975.