Olympiacos football player with wings of victory signed in Greek and dated '54' (upper left) colour pigments on canvas 120 x 70 cm.
Painted in 1954.
PROVENANCE: Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner.
A monumental male of sculpturesque clarity and commanding presence, Tsarouchis's young Olympiacos FC player bursts with male virility and adolescent fervour. Broad planes of dazzling white, fiery red and watery blue, formed by quick and expressive brushstrokes accentuated by bold outlines, immediately capture the eye, while the shallow stage-like compositional structure turns the figure into the protagonist of an imaginary play, into the hero of a Modern Greek legend.
In the 1950s, when this work was painted, the Olympiacos football club, rooted in the poor neighbourhoods of Piraeus, became legendary with thousands of fans throughout Greece. This was a golden age, during which the club won seven championships (six in a row), seven cups and 5 doubles, remaining undefeated in the league from 1949 to 1956 and in the cup tournament from 1950 to 1961. During that period, Olympiacos fielded perhaps the best team in its long history, a galaxy of stars that included key players of the Greek national team.1
As noted by former Minister and Mayor of Piraeus A. Andrianopoulos "in my opinion, the best team ever was the legendary squad from the 1950s. We are talking about Theodoridis, Rosidis, Darivas, Bebis, Yfantis, Polychroniou, Ioannou, Xanthopoulos, Soulis, the team that won consecutive championships and beat Milan FC. As for the red and white striped uniforms it was actually my father's idea! In 1925, when Olympiacos was founded, he was studying in England and he brought back an Arsenal FC jersey, which at the time was striped red and white, unlike today's solid red with white sleeves. When my eldest son was born in London I took him to Highbury Park to show him our roots!"2
In Michalis Kakoyannis's 1955 movie Stella with art direction by Yannis Tsarouchis, in a scene with Melina Mercouri, a picture of an Olympiacos FC player by Tsarouchis himself can be seen in the background. Born and raised in Piraeus and inspired by the team's success and mass appeal among the working classes, the artist painted many young men in Olympiacos's red and white jerseys 3, seeking in their healthy, physically fit bodies and harsh facial traits the humane dignity and inner truth of Modern Greece. Here, his imposing young player, captured with respect and a worshipful disposition, represents both a paean to victory and an elegy to youth and beauty.
1. See V. Kardasis, Olympiacos, an Archive, a History [in Greek], Militos editions, Athens; N. Delagrammatikas, The Legendary Years 1953-1959, 1996-2003, the Protagonists [in Greek], Ellinika Grammata editions, Athens 2003. 2. An Eighty Year Legend [in Greek], Active magazine, no. 87, Marchp. 28 2005, p. 94. 3. Such a painting of a young man wearing Olympiacos's FC jersey was oncegiven by Tsarouchis to Karolos Koun. See G. Lazanis, "The 'Unknown Football Player' by Yannis Tsarouchis" [in Greek], Osei Myra, Yannis Tsarouchis 1910-1989, Kastaniotis editions, Athens 1998, p. p. 263.