Nude A' signed in Greek and dated '84' (lower center); signed and dated 'Yannis MORALIS, Athènes Grêce 1984' oil on canvas 186 x 86 cm.
Exhibition: Athens, National Gallery - Alexandros Soutzos Museum, Yiannis Moralis-Retrospective, (late entry), April 1988.
Literature: Yannis Moralis, Compiled and edited by Vassilis Fotopoulos, Commercial Bank of Greece Group of Companies, Athens 1988, p. 296, image 295 (illustrated). Y. Moralis, Traces, Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation 2008, p. 214 (illustrated). Moralis, Critical text by Chrysanthos Christou, Adam Editions, Athens 1993, no 215 (illustrated). Y. Moralis, Angels, Music, Poetry, Benaki Museum, Athens 2001, p. 323, no 455 (illustrated in a photograph with the artist).
Glowing like a time-softened marble statue brought to light in a Greek garden, this etherealised nude, imparting a sense of Doric dignity and Ionian elegance, is transposed into a timeless melody of Greek beauty. Celestial yet humanly touching, with the flexible form of all the great Venuses and Graces, Moralis' tall and beautiful kore is a precious ornament of translucent simplicity and harmonious perfection. Slender, stylishly elongated, with tender, heaving forms, serene expression, fluid line (notice how her shoulders run down into her arms in an unbroken stream of movement), graceful pose and delicate colouring, she comes as close to the classical rhythm as any Boticellian celebration of innocent beauty, bearing testimony to the painter's inspired leap of imagination and personal reinterpretation of the classical.
The female nude has always been a key subject in Moralis' art, tracing his stylistic development and revealing the wide range of his art historical and intellectual interests. As noted by D. Papastamos, former Director of the National Gallery in Athens, "since 1974 Moralis has been giving us images of woman in her new, emancipated status. This recurrent figure, either sitting or reclining, is always treated in a progressively reductive manner"1, without, however, losing its recognizable form.2 By sacrificing superfluous descriptive detail, rejecting the illusion of space, avoiding tonal gradations and emphasizing only the essential structural elements, Moralis expresses what is permanent and universal. "Dedicated to the human figure, particularly the female one, Moralis has given us some of the most significant and intrinsic aspects of 20th century art - not only of Greek but of world art. Above all else his paintings are at once erotic, profoundly sentimental and poetic. In them one may trace a progress from earthly to heavenly love, from the sensual aspects of the subject to the universal and eternal, to the metaphysical and the transcendental."3
Moralis' aim has always been to transform the human figure into a monumental form. "This leaning towards monumentality is evident since the artist's early output. Indeed, at no time in his career has he been attracted by the idea of capturing the fleeting instant: never do we find a reflected glint giving a momentary glow to colour, nor are the bodies and objects ever lit by the light of day. Instead, his figures are imbued with their own light, the same eternal light of Byzantine art which does not derive from a specific source but emanates from within. In his figures, anatomical distortion and foreshortening are invariably subordinated to the tranquil rhythm of the composition."4
In Nude A', the serene and disciplined rhythm dictated by a deep sense for human scale, the shallow compositional depth reminiscent of sculptural relief, the austerity of the horizontal and vertical lines that set up a perfectly balanced geometric edifice, the subtle use of colour and spatial relationships (note the unique dialogue of blacks and the stark juxtaposition of earthly hues with the dazzling white in the background), the excellent draughtsmanship and purity of form and the inspired synthesis of gently flowing curves conspire to create one of the most personal evocations of physical beauty in the whole of Modern Greek art. As N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghika once noted, Moralis' youthful females, closely attuned to the idealism of ancient Greek art and endowed with grace and tenderness, are created by the Muses and the Hours.5
1. D. Papastamos, 'Yannis Moralis the Artist', in Yannis Moralis, Commercial Bank of Greece, Athens 1988, p. 26. 2. See K. Koutsomallis, 'The Painting of Yannis Moralis, a Tentative Approach' in Y. Moralis, Traces, (exhibition catalogue.), Museum of Contemporary Art of the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Andros 2008, p. 17. 3. C. Christou, Moralis, Adam publ., Athens 1993, pp. 20, 33, 34. 4. M. Chatzidakis, 'Yiannis Moralis', Zygos magazine, no. 80, July 1962, p. 6. See also M. Chatzidakis, 'Yiannis Moralis', The Charioteer review, vol. 1, no. 1, Summer 1960, pp. 56-62. 5. N. Chatzikyriakos-Ghika, Nea Estia magazine, no. 1245, 15.5.1979.