Contadina signed and dated 'Giorgandas / Roma 1885' (middle left) oil on canvas 60 x 48 cm.
PROVENANCE: Private collection, Athens.
LITERATURE: S. Lydakis, The Greek Painters - Dictionary, Melissa Editions, Athens 1976, p. 72 (illustrated). S. Lydakis, The History of Modern Greek Painting (16th-20th Century,The Greek Painters, vol. 3, Melissa editions, Athens 1976, p. 249 (full page illustration). A. Kotidis, Greek Art, 19th Century Painting, Ekdotike Athenon editions, Athens 1995, p. 230 (discussed), p. 87 (illustrated).
In 1885, Dimitrios Georgandas painted in Rome his iconic Contadina, one of the finest moments of 19th century Greek portraiture for which the art historian S. Lydakis reserved a full page illustration in his seminal History of Modern Greek Painting. A work of incisive observation and interpretation of facial characteristics painted with lucidity of vision and sensitivity to colour values, the portrait is remarkable for the palpable presence and piercing gaze of the sitter that deviate from the stereotypical conventions of the genre.1 Impeccably painted in warm, earthy colours and enlivened by brilliant details set against an austere background, Contadina (peasant girl) bears eloquent witness to the artist's exceptional skill not only in faithfully recording visual data but also in delving into the inner world of the young peasant girl to offer the viewer an intimate glimpse of her emotional identity.
Compared to the artist's previous output from the early 1880s, Contadina, as noted by art historian A. Kotidis, "is distinguished by a brighter palette, softer tones, a more naturalistic design, and a finer finish using much thinner brushes, in an almost veristic representation of the sitter. In his handling of colour, Georgandas achieved an exceptionally high degree of luminosity, something that would have seemed rather inexplicable had he only studied in Athens and Munich. His Italian influences are also verified by the ornamental overtones produced by the designs and the bright red edging on the girl's shoulder-hugging shawl. This work belongs to a long tradition of genre portraits that adorned the homes of city dwellers hailing from rural areas. Peasant girls, young shepherds and various characters of all ages in quaint costumes, whether from the Italian (as in this case), the Bavarian or the Greece countryside, confirmed their owners' ties with their pre-urban past. The large number of paintings with similar subjects in 19th century Greek art clearly shows that there was a significant market for such works."2
Georgandas studied painting at the School of Arts in Athens under N. Lytras and at the Academy of Munich (1883-1884) under N. Gysis, where he distinguished himself in an international competition and was awarded a medal by Ludwig II of Bavaria.3 He also studied painting in Rome and Byzantine art on Mt. Athos. The prestigious shows in which he participated include the Olympia of 1888 and the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris.
1. "Georgandas's portraits are distinguished by realistic accuracy and psychological finesse." S. Lydakis, The History of Modern Greek Painting (16th-20th Century),The Greek Painters [in Greek], vol. 3, Melissa editions, Athens 1976, p. 248. "His portraits are of exceptional quality." S. Lydakis, "The Greek Portrait. Notes on Modern Greek Portraiture" [in Greek], Techni & Logos magazine, no. 9-11, June-August 1986, p. 4. 2. A. Kotidis, Greek Art, 19th Century Painting [in Greek], Ekdotike Athenon editions, Athens 1995, p. 230. 3. In a letter of his, dated June 25, 1886, N. Gysis mentioned: "I am very pleased that 31 of my students distinguished themselves. Ten were honoured with bronze medals and one with silver, while the rest received commendations. Among those awarded there were three Greeks, one of whom was Georgandas from the island of Tinos." Letters by Nicholaos Gysis [in Greek], Eklogi editions, Athens 1953, p. 145.