Asian princess signed 'J. Busianis' on the reverse oil on canvas 105.5 x 70 cm
Painted in 1956.
Provenance: Private collection, Athens.
Literature: Antonis Kotidis, Modernism and Tradition in the Greek Art of the Inter-war Era, University Studio Press, Thessaloniki, 1993, no 218, p. 283 (illustrated). K. Chariati-Sismani, Studying under Bouzianis, Athens, 1995, p. 62 (referred), p. 150b (illustrated). N. Theofilou, Bouzianis, The Fifth Era, Exandas Publ., Athens 1979 (illustrated). Dimitris Deliyiannis, Bouzianis, Adam Editions, Athens 1996, p. 142, no 198 (illustrated).
Exhibited: Athens, Parnassos, 1960, no 13. Athens, National Gallery and Alexander Soutzos Museum, 21 Oct. - 8 Dec. 1985, no 27 (illustrated in the exhibition catalogue). Andros, Museum of Modern Art, Basil and Elisa Goulandris Foundation, 'George Bouzianis', July-August 1989. Thessaloniki, Municipal Gallery, October-November 1989 (illustrated in the exhibition catalogue p. 59).
In this magnificent painting, whose large-scale format and signature style make it a quintessential Bouzianis from the 1950s, the painter undertakes not only to bridge his subjective eye and emotional charge with the objective features and inner life of his sitter, but to completely free himself from the humanistic ideal of the Renaissance and go further back, even further than ancient Greece, seeking out in the primitive roots of art the archetype expressing the collective consciousness of mankind. By means of impetuous brushwork, sensuous colour, spatial ambiguity (is there a second figure looming behind the princess?), forceful treatment of form and handling of line not simply as a contour but as an organic and structural component of the figure (as mainly exemplified in his oils after 1950)1, the canvas is transformed from a field of representation into an arena of action, where the figure hangs suspended on the verge of abstraction.2 The facial characteristics are intentionally distorted and the body contorted, while the surrounding space acquires a material quality and an eerie, barklike texture that is practically craving to devour the human figure. Skilfully balanced between Kore and Maenad, Asian princess becomes a powerful symbol of the multifaceted inner world of the modern subject.
These advanced pictorial formulations lend the work an expressive force comparable to the best postwar abstract painting, recalling - or even foreshadowing - de Koonings violent women heroically dominating the maelstrom of paint through which they loomed, or Dubuffets textured maps of the female form that go way back to Palaeolithic fertility-cult models rather than to the ideal of classical beauty. Likewise, Bouzianis believed that art shouldnt be a process of beautification but, instead, a vehicle for emotional states - a purely anti-idealistic perspective that questioned arts traditional anthropocentric mission and subverted all established notions about Greek painting.3 Note that in contrast to the sharp profile of ancient Greek vase painting, the frontality of the portrait, set against a barren background, is akin to the perception governing Byzantine icon painting, and endows it with a symbolic dimension as if it were the image of a modern saint. Professor D. Deliyannis, who prepared the artists monograph, notes: Bouzianis insistence on frontality is of great import. The single female figure, which dominates his work, breaks away from ancient Greek portraiture, while retaining a close relationship with the Byzantine style.4
A master of psychological interpretation, a true visionary and a great painter of the female figure, Bouzianis is without a doubt an artist of international calibre. It is widely acknowledged by those who search for some deeper meaning in art that Bouzianis work - with the questions it raises, the roads it opens and the influence it is capable of exerting - always remains in the vanguard of great European art.5 Assessing the painters market value, art critic H. Kambouridis noted that Bouzianis is one of the rare Greek artistic products that can match international competition.6
1. A. Kotidis, Modernism and Tradition in Greek Art of the Interwar Period [in Greek], University Studio Press, Thessaloniki 1993, p. 279. 2. See H. Kambouridis - G. Levounis, Modern Greek Art, The 20th Century, Ministry of the Aegean, Athens 1999, p. 136. 3. See S. Lydakis, History of Modern Greek Painting [in Greek], Melissa publ., Athens 1976, p. 296. 4. D. Deliyannis, Bouzianis [in Greek], Adam publ., Athens 1996, pp. 38, 39, 99. 5. G. Mourelos, The Metamorphoses in the Painting of Bouzianis, Zygos Annual Edition of the Hellenic Fine Arts, vol.2, Athens 1983, p. 21. 6. H. Kambouridis, 'Bouzianis and his Shareholders', Art Magazine no. 5, March 1994, p. 80.