The dance of the Muses / Musentanz signed 'N. Gysis' (lower right) pastel and charcoal on paper 46.5 x 78.5 cm.
Painted in 1897.
PROVENANCE: Private collection, Athens.
EXHIBITED: Munich, Glaspalast, 1901, no 133. Athens, Exhibition of works by Nicholaos Gysis, Eteria Filotechnon, Iliou Melathron, 1928, no 87. Athens, Nikolaos Gysis 1842-1901, The Great Master, National Gallery - A. Soutzos Museum, October 8 - December 10 2001, no. 17 (illustrated in the exhibition catalogue, fig. 53, p. 83).
LITERATURE: Nelli Missirli, Gysis, Adam Editions, Athens 1996, no 218, p.p. 274-275 and p. 359 (illustrated). Yannis Papaioannou, Greek Artists, Nicholaos Gysis, volume A', Melissa Publications, Athens 1974, p. 184, no 34 (illustrated). Marinos Kalligas, Nicholaos Gysis, MIET Editions, Athens 1981, p. 104 (referred). M. Papanikolaou, Works by 19th C. Greek Artists in the Art Exhibitions of Munich, Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki 1978, p. 339 (referred). E. Kazolea, Das Allegorische Werk von Nikolaos Gysis, master's thesis, University of Regensburg, Regensburg 1988, no. 110 (illustrated).
"Throughout my life I dreamed." N. Gysis
Reading like a piece of Greek mythology eternalised on an archaic red figure vase or the pediment of a classical temple, this mesmerizing work of idealized beauty, pure idea and linear rhythm bears the mark of a great artist who envisioned an imaginary world where all dreams and aspirations could be fulfilled. Drawing from the poetic and inspiring atmosphere of the symbolist era, imbued with grace and harmony and charged with spiritual content, the nine ethereal and feathery muses convey a sense of perpetual movement, marking a nuanced shift from the visible to the invisible and luring the viewer to a transitory state where gravity is negated and the soul elevated to the realm of music.
"Gysis is interested in capturing rhythm and movement. The dancing to the sounds of the musical notes on the stave underscoring the composition dominates the exquisite Dance of the Muses (1897), in which wispy female entities, drawn with the melodic and flowing lines of Jugendstil, rhythmically perform their dance moves against a crimson-coloured flat background of an undefined space."1 "Gysis's references to the Greek past offer an inexhaustible variety of expressions. Dance of the Muses is a composition of movements captured in white and black lines on a terracotta backdrop, where the grace of the female bodies and the variety of their waving foldings conveys the impression that we stand before a classical frieze. A sequence of musical notes can be discerned at the feet of the central figure."2
As noted by Dr. N. Misirli, an authority on the artist, "Gysis was particularly drawn to music and poetry and had expressed the wish to become a musician or a poet if he was ever born again. His entire oeuvre is suffused by musical suppleness and poetic impulse, while many of his works were created to the sound of the music played by his children. His relationship with music was established during his childhood, when the sounds of the violin and the lute from local celebrations and feasts reverberated throughout his native island. Consequently, one of his first priorities when he arrived in Munich was to start taking music lessons and, as inferred from his correspondence, he often visited the opera and was fired up by the works of Richard Wagner. As time went by, Gysis increasingly painted and thought listening to the piano, mainly works by Beethoven, whom he considered the ultimate master. During his idealistic reflections he placed music above all other arts. His adulation of music should be seriously considered when one studies his work, because otherwise it is impossible to fully comprehend his harmonious, sensitive, rhythmical lines and lyrical compositions."3 "The melody of lines of a composition developing in a planar fashion also resounds in Dance of the Muses."4
In his seminal treatise on Gysis, former Athens National Gallery Director M. Kalligas noted that "Dance of the Muses is a typical example of the unique grace and elegance with which Gysis endowed his subjects,"5 while Professor T. Tsatsos argued that "in Gysis's later years his figures become almost transparent, immaterial, like spiritual beings. A few lines against a luminous background and some touches of light against a dark background and a figure emerges. These figures seem like sparse yet strikingly beautiful fragments of a lost civilization."6
1. M. Katsanaki, The Drawing in Nikolaos Gysis's Work in Nikolaos Gysis 1842-1901, The Great Master, exhibition catalogue [in Greek], National Gallery - A. Soutzos Museum, Athens 2001, p. 110. 2. Y. Papaioannou, Gysis's Painting in The Greek Painters [in Greek], vol. 1, Melissa editions, Athens 1974, p. 162. 3. N. Misirli, The Ideological Background of Gysis's Works in Nikolaos Gysis 1842-1901, The Great Master [in Greek], exhibition catalogue, National Gallery - A. Soutzos Museum, Athens 2001, p. 82. 4. N. Misirli, Gysis [in Greek], Adam editions, Athens 1995, p. 268. 5. M. Kalligas, Nikolas Gysis [in Greek], National Bank of Greece Cultural Foundation, Athens 1981, p. 104. 6. T. Tsatsos, Design and Colour in Gysis's Work, in About Painting [in Greek], Estia editions, Athens 1970, pp. 47-48.