Portrait of Miss N.A. with two roses signed in Greek and dated '49' (lower right) oil on canvas 61 x 55.5 cm.
PROVENANCE: Private collection, Athens.
EXHIBITED: Thessaloniki, Macedonian Center of Art, Retrospective 1928-1981, October 1981, no 77; Athens, French Institute, Hommage à Tsarouchis, 1990 (illustrated in the catalogue); Athens, Benaki Museum, Retrospective Yiannis Tsarouchis, December 2009.
LITERATURE: Yiannis Tsarouchis-Painting, Y. Tsarouchis Foundation, Athens 1990 (illustrated, no 180). E. Florou, Tsarouchis Painting, (doctoral dissertation) vol. 1, Athens 1989, no. 330, pp. 17, 69, 230 (referred). E. Florou, Yannis Tsarouchis, his Painting and his Era, Nea Synora-A.A. Livanis publ., Athens 1989, no. 398, pp. xxiii, 71, 267 (referred), p. 73, fig. 72 (illustrated). N. Andrikopoulou, Tracing Nikos Engonopoulos, Potamos publ., Athens 2003, p.56 (illustrated).
In 1949, the year he painted Portrait of Miss N.A. with two roses, Tsarouchis co-founded Armos, Greece's leading avant-garde art group at the time, and participated in the group's first exhibition at the Zappeion Hall, along with 15 other artists, including sculptor Nelli Andrikopoulou. Having studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts, Andrikopoulou left Greece in 1945 aboard the legendary Mataroa1 together with many promising Greek artists, including C. Coulentianos, M. Makris and C. Vyzantios, to study sculpture in Paris under Ossip Zadkine, before returning to Athens in 1947.
"Back in Athens, we often met at the studio of Natalia Mela, which at the time was frequented by fellow artists, and at the Brazilian café on Voukourestiou St. Somewhere between these two hangouts we decided to put up a show. That's how the Armos group was formed and with the participation of older and younger artists we mounted an exhibition at Zappeion Hall in December 1949." 2
As noted by Dr. E. Florou in her book on Yannis Tsarouchis, Portrait of Miss N.A. with two roses belongs to the painter's 1940-1949 period which she roughly divides into two categories: narratives and portraiture. "In contrast to his narrative works, the second category was aimed at the purely pictorial interpretation of the world experienced first hand. Tsarouchis's 'play' of forms eternally revolves around the percentage of realism in the picture and the way this would be rendered through the percentage of colour or tone." 3
In terms of subject matter, this charming painting conveys an atmosphere of pensive serenity and grace, echoing Tsarouchis's 1936-1938 Thinker series, while in terms of stylistic properties and building up of form it shows a fascination with expressive colour and rich surface texture. 4 Broad, overlapping planes of dynamic colour and confident, sweeping brushstrokes slathered on canvas with confidence and verve build up a solid edifice of pure form, an everlasting world liberated from the fleeting moment.
In a highly perceptive 1937 article that also constituted the first comprehensive review of Tsarouchis's work, D. Kapetanakis noted that "broad areas of pure colours occupy a space that ensures their long-lasting harmony. Anything transient must be pushed aside to celebrate the purely pictorial realisation of a symbol's everlasting value. Light and dark contrasts, which place the subject into crammed space and limited time, must be eliminated. We are reminded of the fauves, of Matisse. Tsarouchis learned from them but used their teachings in a very personal manner to produce works that are truly Greek in essence. And what's more without resorting to extravisual references but with detached sobriety. The objects in Tsarouchis's works are studio objects: a chair, a mirror, a vase with paper flowers or a simple screen. Everyday objects that don't even claim to signify the depth of daily life or mundane existence. A kind of decoration inspired by nothing more than the backdrops used by itinerant photographers. What's remarkable is that Tsarouchis managed, with the wisdom of his art, to elevate a model posing in his studio into a symbol of the Modern Greek spirit." 5
1. See N. Andrikopoulou, The Voyage of the Mataroa-1945, In the Mirror of Memory [in Greek], Estia publ. Athens 2007. 2. N. Andrikopoulou, Tracing Nikos Engonopoulos [in Greek], Potamos publ., Athens 2003, pp. 53-54. 3. E. Florou, Yannis Tsarouchis, his Painting and his Era, [in Greek], Nea Synora-A.A. Livanis publ., Athens 1989, p. 71. 4. See A. Xydis, 'The Contribution of Tsarouchis in the Discovery of Greek Tradition', Zygos magazine, no 72-75, November 1961-February 1962, p. 9. 5. D. Kapetanakis, 'Yiannis Tsarouchis, Return to Roots', Nea Grammata magazine, 1937 as reprinted in Tsarouchis [in Greek], Zygos, Athens 1978, pp. 7-8.