Exhibited: Athens, Panhellenic art exhibition, Association of Greek Artists, Zappeion, 1917, no 104. Athens, GEO Company, Lytras and Zevgolis exhibition, 1920, no 19 or 20. Athens, Zappeion, Retrospective exhibition, 1929, no 75. Athens, National Gallery and Alexander Soutzos Museum, Nikos Lytras, 19 March - 2 June 2008, no 61.
Literature: Chariklia-Glafki Gotsi, 'The artist Nikos Lytras', dissertation thesis, Thessaloniki 1992, p.p. 43, 85, illustration no 35. Afroditi Kouria - Dimitris Portolos, Nikos Lytras - Creating with colour and light, National Gallery - ELIA, 2008, p. 121, no 61 (illustrated). Antonis Kotidis, Modernism and tradition in the Greek Art of the Inter-war era, University Studio Press, Thessaloniki 1993, p. 187, no 104 (illustrated).
Lytras From Galatsi is a masterpiece of plein-air painting that goes way beyond the transient sensations and fugitive effects of the impressionistic glance to capture the lasting truth of the Attic landscape. Rocky terrain, rolling hills and distant mountains are handled not just as coloured patterns of light and shade in a sequence of receding planes but, rather, as a powerful means of communicating the artists acute perception and intense experience of their primordial volumes. Much more than displaying an intricate fabric of energetic brushstrokes and textured surfaces that betray the sure hand of a master expressionist, this amazing work aims directly at the essence of things, seeking to capture the inner rhythm, eternal structure and timeless canon of the austere, age-old land of Attica; seeking, in other words, not only to identify its unique character but also to interpret its very soul.
In his 1920 showing at the Geo art gallery in Athens, where he co-exhibited with sculptor Grigoris Zevgolis, the landscape of Attica was well represented with fine pieces, including this exquisite view from Galatsi. This shouldnt surprise us explains the art historian A. Kouria, who recently prepared the monograph on the artist. The Attic landscape persistently claimed Lytras attention since it was sparse, barren, with pellucid, pure forms and planes in a translucent atmosphere and with an innate rhythm Lytras paintings lend the Greek landscape a new formal identity and meaning, with the natural environment stripped of the descriptiveness and narrative of traditional naturalistic landscape painting often characterised by a tendency for idealisation, genre overtones and penchant for the blatantly picturesque. His landscapes are rugged, frugal, without beautifying tricks or decorative framings, often relying instead on a limited and very restrained palette. Moreover, identifying many of these landscapes is problematic, if not impossible, due to the artists fragmentary visual approach and abstractive process, as well as the lack of anecdotal elements or landmarks that shape the superficial features and determine the identity of a specific area. 1
In From Galatsi one can easily discern one of the signature traits of Lytras landscape painting: the asymmetrical composition and the powerful, pronounced diagonal of the hillslope, which, by virtue of its pure, bent form, essentially defines the space. The hills large, triangular shape in the middleground, rendered in broad, long, continuous brushstrokes, as well as the overall development of diagonal, oblique, undulating or horizontal lines, build up a solid compositional edifice, which creates a new reality through an architectural organisation of active space and vibrant form without breaking from the world of appearances. According to H.G. Gotsi, who did her graduate thesis on Lytras, From Galatsi demonstrates the painters endeavour to liberate form from visual reality in a Cezannesque manner, while the sweeping, energetic brushwork in the foreground echoes the works of van Gogh.2
In his search for an interpretative approach to nature and a deeper pictorial truth, Lytras infused the forces of renewal in Greek painting with a fresh and vital impetus and had a major impact on the 1930s generation. As noted by Athens National Gallery director M. Lambraki-Plaka, Nikolaos Lytras was a painter committed to the truth of vision, perhaps the most representative exponent of early Greek plein-air painting. This quiet, thoughtful and reserved man was a true revolutionary who reinvigorated Greek painting and left a rich legacy of works full of vitality and inner truth that can deservedly stand next to the great masterpieces of early European modernism. 3
1. A. Kouria, Nikos Lytras, Building Form with Color and Light [in Greek], exh. cat., National Gallery-A. Soutzos Museum, Athens 2008, pp. 107-109, 113. 2. H.G.Gotsi, The Painter Nikos Lytras 1883-1927 (graduate thesis) [in Greek], Thessaloniki, 1992, p. 43. 3. M. Lambraki-Plaka, introduction to Nikos Lytras, Building Form with Colour and Light, p. 14.