Composed houses, Hydra, 1939 signed and dated 'GHIKA 39' (lower right) egg tempera on canvas laid on panel 40 x 60 cm.
Painted in 1939 and over painted by the artist himself in 1945-46.
PROVENANCE: E. Voila-Laskari collection, Athens. V. Niskos collection, Crete. Private collection, Athens.
EXHIBITED: Athens, British Council, November 1946, no. 27 (illustrated in the exhibition catalogue). Athens, Greek-American Union, April 4, 1973. Athens, National Gallery, Ghika, May 1973, no. 24. Athens, To Trito Mati gallery, March 1979. Athens, National Gallery - Alexandros Soutzos Museum, Metamorphoses of the Modern, The Greek Experience, May 14 - September 13 1992, no. 121 (illustrated in the exhibition catalogue p. 92).
LITERATURE: Kathimerini newspaper, 17.11.1946, p. 1 (referred). To Vima newspaper, 28.11.1946 (referred). Nea Estia journal, vol. 41, no. 468, 1.1.1947, p. 48 (referred). Angloelliniki Epitheorisi journal, no. 11, January 1947, p. 353 (illustrated). Athene magazine, Chicago, summer 1947, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 5-6 (referred), p. 5 (illustrated). Philologiki Protochronia, Athens 1951, pp. 115-116 (discussed). The Art of N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, Athens 1973, pp. 34, 71 (referred). The Greek Painters, vol. 2, 20th Century, Melissa editions, Athens 1975, p. 338 (discussed), p. 339 (illustrated). N. Petsalis-Diomidis, Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, Catalogue raisonné of his Paintings, Athens 1979, no. 204, p. 224 (illustrated). Dimokratikos Logos newspaper, 14.5.1995, p. 23 (referred). Ellinomouseion, Six Centuries of Greek Painting, vol. II, Athens 2001, p. 89 (illustrated). J.P. de Rycke, N.P. Paissios, Ghika and the Avant-Garde in Interwar Europe, Benaki Museum - N.H. Ghika Gallery, Efesos editions, Athens 2004, no. 169, p. 173 (illustrated). Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, Ta Nea editions, Athens 2006, pp. 30-31, 139 (illustrated). D. Iliopoulou-Rogan, N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, The Apollonian - The Dionysian 1906-1994, exhibition catalogue, Benaki Museum, Athens 2006, no. 65, p. 50 (illustrated). K.C. Valkana, Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, His Painting Oeuvre, Benaki Museum, Athens 2011, no. 36, p. 108 (illustrated).
Matching the quality of some of Picasso's best works from the 1930s, this tightly designed and visually dynamic image echoes the fragmented planes and spatial distortions cultivated by cubism, while alluding to an enduring convention of Greek art through the ages. According to the painter himself, "the character of the Greek schema, whether in antiquity, the Byzantine era or folk art, is by and large geometric."1
Painted in 1939 and reworked by the artist in 1945-1946, this enchantingly beautiful picture of warm ochres and pastel tints is the advanced formulation of a labyrinthine architectural complex transformed into a rhythmically orchestrated nexus of slanted lines, angular shapes and interwoven geometric planes. As noted by M. Achimastou-Potamianou, "in Composed houses from 1939, the volumes of the houses dissolve, the superfluous details fade out and the whole townscape is brought to life with an intensely poetic disposition and distinct nobility in a classicist composition."2
"When I painted the views of Hydra in the 1930s I was drawn and inspired by the clear lines and the austere design I discovered in the tiered square houses. These elements effortlessly offered me the cubist handling of form evident in my Hydra landscapes. My works from this period are like silent symphonies composed of geometric shapes and lucid colours, like architectural compositions made of fragments of rocks, walls, steps, stone fences, patches of sky and sea. Immovable cube-like structures like macaroons with rose sugar."3
In one of the most insightful and thought-provoking essays ever written on Ghika, poet Kimon Friar elaborated on the idea of the artist as composer: "The works of Ghika are composed: that is, they contain the elements of both composition and composure. Objectively, they are precisely arranged in a composition of deliberate proportions. Subjectively, whatever emotional or intellectual force they radiate is rigidly controlled into a composure. We have here, then, a marriage of power and restraint, that vibrant synthesis which has always characterised the Greek genius, whether in the past or the present, best symbolized by the Parthenon itself. In all Ghika's paintings, abstracted or not, the lines and special proportions take on the tonalities and movements, the range of warm and cold tones, the rhythm and, what is more, the timing which is equivalent to the arrangement and orchestration of musical composition. The relation of one space to another, the treatment of each surface unit, the choice and arrangement of colours continuously play upon the eye as sound plays upon the ear. In effect, we find ourselves involved in a complex yet essentially strong rhythm, as though we were listening to a composition by Bach. His paintings are all witnesses of that triple counter-pointing of the verb "compose": they are a designer's compositions in line, colour and space; they are the work of a musical composer; and their final resolution is a composure which the classical artist imposes on the recalcitrant materials of life to create a cosmos for which we all long and dream but which only the artist may invoke."4
1. N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, On Greek Art [in Greek], Neon Kratos journal, no. 5, January 1938. 2. M. Achimastou-Potamianou, Ghika's Art [in Greek] in The Greek Painters, vol. 2, 20th Century, Melissa editions, Athens 1975, p. 338. 3. N. Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, Talking about Hydra [in Greek], Efthini journal, no. 158, February 1985, pp. 49-52. 4. K. Friar, Ghika as Composer, Greek Heritage quarterly, vol. II, no. 5, 1965, pp. 72-74.