Nikos Engonopoulos (Greek, 1910-1985)
Lot 23AR
Nikos Engonopoulos (Greek, 1910-1985)
Sold for £79,250 (US$ 128,290) inc. premium

Lot Details
Nikos Engonopoulos (Greek, 1910-1985)
Nikos Engonopoulos (Greek, 1910-1985)
a) Geometric composition, 1961
signed in Greek and dated '61' (lower left)
oil on canvas
55 x 46 cm.

b) Geometric composition, 1961
signed in Greek and dated '61' (upper left)
oil on canvas
55 x 46 cm.

(2)

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE:
    Estate of the artist.
    Private collection, Athens.

    EXHIBITED:
    for (a)
    Athens, French Institute, November 1987, no 22a.
    Athens, Skoufa Gallery, 1995, no 15.

    LITERATURE:
    for (a)
    French Institute catalogue, 1987, no 22a.
    Chartis, Issues 25-26, November 1988, p. 161.
    Y. Kolokotronis, Still Life in Modern Greek Art from the 19th Century to the Present, Pierides Foundation, Thessaloniki 1992, p. 114 (illustrated).
    Still Life in the Neohellenic Art during the 19th and 20th centuries, Thessaloniki 1992, p. 114 (illustrated).
    Kathimerini newspaper, 25 May 1997, p. 17.
    M. Stefanidis, Ellinomoussion, 2nd Volume, p. 102 (illustrated).
    for (a) and (b)
    K. Perpinioti Agazir, Nikos Engonopoulos, Son Univers Pictural, Benaki Museum, Athens 2007, p. 470, no 693 (for a), no 696 (for b).


    Treat nature by the cylinder, the sphere and the cone.
    Paul Cezanne

    Paying homage to the great Cézanne who exhorted painters to depict reality in terms of simple geometric shapes and volumes,1 Engonopoulos ventures beneath the surface to find in the cube, the cylinder, the prism and the cone the underlying, basic structure of the world, the all-encompassing essential force that binds the universe. "I love Cézanne. I consider him the greatest painter and by studying his work I was led to the ancient and modern Greek art."2

    These archetypal forms echo the ideal world of Plato who considered them pure beauty and fundamental elements for building the world. Elemental and three-dimensional, these forms also seem like stemming from a Bauhaus sculpture workshop in the 1920s, forming an imaginary cultural bridge that spans the millennia. As noted by Walter Gropius, the great German architect and founder of the Bauhaus School, these original geometric shapes are purely abstract entities that dash through time and all countries, ensuring validity in all human creations. Primary forms and colours (red, yellow and blue) were concepts that proved particularly influential at the Bauhaus. Paul Klee quickly adopted them, while for Wassily Kandinsky they were an indispensable part of his teaching.3

    In these two magnificent works, Engonopoulos's pure and perfectly balanced geometric objects are invested with the same spiritual import they carried not only for the early 20th c. avant-garde but also for the age-old tradition that remained a constant source of inspiration throughout the painter's career, namely Byzantine art. "The Byzantine elements feature conspicuously in all my work."4 A Byzantine artist's perception of space is not that different than that of the surrealist Engonopoulos. The former ignored the purely rational organisation of space invented by the Renaissance, while the latter denied it. They both visualized the space; they didn't construct it based on mathematical equations like Raphael or Leonardo.5

    Adhering to the reversed Byzantine perspective, according to which all parallel lines and parallelepiped structures instead of converging towards a distant vanishing point converge towards the viewer, Engonopoulos questions the principles of conventional linear perspective, echoing the multiple viewpoints of cubism (compare Pablo Picasso, Reservoir at Horta - Horta de Ebro, Museum of Modern Art, New York). Both his forms and colours allude to an architectural harmony, articulating a world which obeys its own self-sufficient laws. The enamel-like bright reds, blues, greens and oranges, which the artist handles with conscious daring, unique aptitude and undisputed love,6 have their own value, their own 'voice'7 much the same as in Byzantine art, which Engonopoulos always considered the art form Greeks most closely relate to.8

    1. See J. Gasquet, Cézanne, a Memoir with Conversations, Thames and Hudson, London 1991, pp. 163-164.
    2. Interview by A. Mystakidis [in Greek], Phos tou Kairou, 8.12.1954.
    3. See Bauhaus Archiv, M. Droste, Bauhaus 1919-1933, Taschen, 1990.
    4. Zygos journal, no. 31, September-October 1978, p. 13. See also N. Zias, Nikos Engonopoulos, The Byzantine [in Greek], Athens 2001.
    5. See A. Xydis, Nikos Engonopoulos, a Greek Surrealist Painter [in Greek], Tetradio journal, no. 3 (1945), pp. 39-48.
    6. S. Boulakian, The Work of Nikos Engonopoulos in Greek Painters, 20th Century [in Greek], Melissa, Athens 1974, p. 262.
    7. E. Engonopoulou, Freedom and Discipline in Nikos Engonopoulos, The Painter and the Poet, Kathimerini daily, Epta Imeres, 25.5.1997, p. 23.
    8. Epitheorisi Technis journal, March 1963, pp. 193-197.
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