View of harbour signed in Greek (lower left) oil on canvas 70 x 53.5 cm.
PROVENANCE: Private collection, Athens.
A moving composition of austere beauty capturing the romantic atmosphere of a fin-de-siecle harbour scene, this fine example of Volanakis' Greek period (1884-1907) relies on a strong vertical and horizontal to create a peaceful stillness, while transient gleams and shiny luminosities lead the viewer's eye towards the distant horizon, accentuating the poetic feeling. Rich in rhythm and full of light and mellow warmth, the painting showcases Volanakis's predilection for certain iconographical schemes regarding his handling of port views, as pointed out by M. Vlachos, a leading authority on the artist: The ship is the main subject, while all port-related references are pushed to the sides and the background. The focal point is enlivened by the action surrounding the ship -loading, unloading, embarkation, disembarkation. Only one pier is shown, usually sideways to the left, while port-side activities are always diminished so as not to disrupt the tranquillity of the scene.1 This quiet poetry is further suggested by the inclusion of a pair of genteel strollers,2 one of Volanakis's favourite scaffage themes, while the overall feeling of peace and reverie inspires the viewer to adopt a dreamlike attitude towards life.
1. M. Vlachos, The Painter Constantinos Volanakis (doctorate thesis) [in Greek], Athens 1974, pp. 127-129. 2. Acting as an intermediary between the painted scene and the viewer, the hatted gentleman indirectly invites whoever stands in front of the work to turn their gaze towards the sea and contemplate the scene. See M. Vlachos, The Viewer as Intermediary in Volanakis' Paintings in Constantinos Volanakis 1837-1907, Poet of the Sea, exh. cat., Hellenic Maritime Museum / Aikaterini Laskaridi Foundation, Athens 2009, p. 52.