Santorini signed in Greek (lower right) oil on cardboard 49 x 56 cm.
Painted in 1924.
PROVENANCE: Margarita Kassimatis, Athens. By descent to the present owner.
EXHIBITED: Athens, Zappeion Megaron, Maleas, December 1924. Athens, Zappeion Megaron, Retrospective 1928. Athens, Studio, C. Maleas retrospective, February 1-28 1935. Venice, XX Esposizione Biennale Internazionale d'Arte di Venezia, 1936, no 265. Venice, XIV Biennale, Greek participation - C. Maleas retrospective, 1936. Athens, Parnassos exhibition hall, C. Maleas retrospective, November 24 -December 14 1938. Athens, National Gallery, Maleas Retrospective, 1980, no 166.
LITERATURE: Antonis Kottidis, Maleas, Adam Editions, Athens 2000, p. 172 and 225, no 168 (illustrated). Antonis Kottidis, Triantafyllidis, University Studio Press, Thessaloniki 2002, p. 97, no 34 (illustrated). Antonis Kotidis, The Painter C. Maleas (1879-1928), doctoral dissertation, Thessaloniki 1982, pp. 151-154 (referred), fig. 6.54, p. 381 (illustrated). E. Matthiopoulos, The Greek Participation in the Venice Biennales 1934-1940, vol. 2, doctoral dissertation, University of Crete, Rethymno 1996, p. 611 (referred). Antonis Kottidis, Constantinos Maleas (1879-1928), Adam editions, Athens 2000, pp. 213, 215, 224, 227, 229-230, 295, 348 (referred), pp. 224-225 (illustrated). 1. Antonis Kottidis, Theofrastos Triantafyllidis, Thessaloniki, 2002, no. 34, p. 97 (illustrated).
"The white and porous middle of day" Odysseus Elytis, Axion Esti
Selected in 1936 by the Greek Art Committee as one of the 28 works by Maleas that represented Greece at the XX Venice Biennale, this amazing view of magical Santorini is discussed at length and in far more detail than any other painting in the artist's monograph by Professor A. Kotidis:
"In Santorini, the landscape is the starting point for the development of a formal system, while the pictorial space is structured through a multitude of juxtapositions. The viewers' attention is not captured only by the charming Aegean landscape that unfolds in front of them but also by the painting's well-defined organizational, compositional and stylistic scheme. A pronounced diagonal from the lower left directs the eye to the upper right corner: the subject is introduced starting from the bottom and unfolds upwardly. The foreground is occupied by rocky formations, pathways and bushes in an almost abstract composition. The steps carved into the rock lead to the middleground, the road and the clifftop settlement. Further back, the soft form of another rocky hill leads the eye towards the background, while a promontory introduces a calm horizontal from right to left in the middle of the composition. The spatial organization is quite unique; although the artist relies on the vertical to render the man-made environment (houses, steps), even contrasting it with horizontal motifs (sea currents, promontory), he actually reserves the leading role for the curvilinear, captured in the S shape that encompasses the adobe dwellings in its upper curve and the rock-carved steps in its lower. Thus, the dominant impression is that the composition is exclusively structured in terms of the curvilinear, resulting in a dynamic and rhythmical work, rich in expressive content."
"The composition is based on a diagonal that divides the pictorial space into two triangles, one of land and the other of sea. This strong diagonal, formed by the outline of the land on the lower part and that of the hamlet higher up, is further pronounced by two smaller parallel diagonals. These diagonals enfold the stretch of land outlined in white in the foreground and the hilltop behind the hamlet in the upper middleground. The different handling of lines in the two triangles is part of the work's basic concept of organizing the composition in terms of contrasts and juxtapositions. In the triangle of the land one can follow the oblique parallel lines in the motifs of the pathway, the steps, the road leading to the settlement and the step-like hillside behind it. On the other hand, in the triangle of the sea, the horizontal organization is evident in the motifs of the sea, the promontory, the cloud formations and the far horizon. The two parts of the picture are also differentiated by their distinct colour scheme. The land is dominated by warm, earthy hues, while the sea is rendered in a colder palette of blue tones. However, each part includes patches of colour from the other in almost equal proportion, enriching the work without jeopardising its compositional balance."
"In Santorini, the lucidity of the Cycladic atmosphere makes the light seem harsh and impressive; the landscape is sparse, luminous, barren; the architectural volumes are small, white, plastic with soft curves and straight lines. Here, Maleas strives to capture the genuine elements of the Cycladic landscape, eliminating the sense of depth and rendering the far off volumes as pronounced as the nearer ones. He works on the contrasts in both colour and form: he blinds with the white; he delves into the blue; he lets the work breathe though the warm, earthy tones; he doesn't hesitate to use black for shadows. He underscores the sculptural effect of the structured environment imposed on the textured quality of the natural surroundings. These two elements, free of symbolist priorities, coexist for the first time in the work of Maleas. For the first time, the composition's syncopated rhythm enables human creations to not be overwhelmed by those of nature. Relying on a system of forms, the work fully reveals not just an image but the actual essence of the natural and architectural landscape. By capturing the uniqueness of the then remote Cycladic landscape, Maleas introduces its glorification, destined to become a defining aspect of the image of Greece. The "white and porous middle of day," Elytis's well known verse from Axion Esti that marked the relationship of light with Cycladic nature and architecture in the Greek poetry of the 60s, existed in Greek painting as early as 1925 in the works of Maleas."1
Unanimously acknowledged as the great Greek master of landscape painting, Maleas travelled extensively in mainland and insular Greece during the 1920s, venturing to penetrate into the inner world of this age-old land, become part of its reality and then recompose it with freedom and creativity. "Wherever he discovered a viewpoint that met his aesthetic criteria, he immediately engaged in an exhaustive discourse with nature that didn't end before he captured all its chromatic brilliance and radiating poetry."2 "The sense impressions he gathered during these travels are orchestrated in a poetic dream, reflecting not the world of appearances but the way he wanted to see, feel and experience the natural environment."3
1. A. Kotidis, Constantinos Maleas [in Greek], Adam editions, Athens 2000, pp. 215, 224, 227, 229, 230. 2. S. Lydakis, Constantinos Maleas [in Greek] in The Greek Painters - 20th Century (vol. 2), Melissa editions, Athens 1975, pp. 61-62. 3. D. Papastamos, The Representation of Nature by Constantinos Maleas [in Greek] in Constantinos Maleas, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery - Alexandros Soutzos Museum, Athens, 1980, p.13.