Theofilos Hadjimichail (Greek, 1867-1934) The lion hunt 140 x 180 cm.
Lot 16
Theofilos Hadjimichail
(Greek, 1867-1934)
The lion hunt 140 x 180 cm.
Sold for £86,500 (US$ 140,087) inc. premium

Lot Details
Theofilos Hadjimichail (Greek, 1867-1934)
The lion hunt
fresco
140 x 180 cm.

Footnotes

  • PROVENANCE:
    Iolas collection, Athens, and thence by descent to the current owner.

    Recalling Delacroix's Near Eastern hunting scenes and Henri Rousseau's exotic landscape and wild animal subjects, this captivating large-scale canvas is perhaps the best representation of one of Theofilos's most beloved themes. Both the Lion Hunting fresco frieze from the Zolkos House in the village of Klomidados on the island of Mytilene, now at the Museum of Greek Folk Art in Athens, and the Lion hunting in Tunis, in a private collection, are much simpler compositions set against flat monochromatic backgrounds.

    This painting was most probably painted after 1926 when Theofilos, following a forty-year odyssey, returned to his native Mytilene, where, as noted by N. Matsas, he "enjoyed a very creative and prolific period, during which he painted some of his best works."1 Here, the exotic subject, which echoes the particular fondness of the island's inhabitants of hunting and their tendency to visit foreign lands,2 allows Theofilos to express his fascination with nature without having to succumb to topographical accuracy. Wild palms blend harmoniously with cultivated olive trees and the overall exoticism of the faraway land is tempered by the calm Mediterranean landscape, crowned by few traditional Greek houses and an imposing castle that may very well be his familiar Mythimna Castle in Mytilene (compare The Castle of Mytilene, 1933, Theofilos Museum, Mytilene, where the fortress dominates a verdant olive grove.) There is a sense of home and domesticity in this Theofilos's vision of the exotic.

    Filtered through the artist's rich imagination, imbued with a spirit of untutored simplicity and handled with compositional discipline, confident brushwork and vibrant colour, the natural environment is transformed into the enthusiasm sparked in him by the luxuriant vegetation. Even the figure of the Saracen hunter on the bottom left is so well integrated into his natural surroundings that it becomes practically invisible. Moreover, despite being in the extreme foreground and, consequently, closer to the viewer's eye, he is much smaller in size that the lion to emphasize the grandeur of this regal animal, which with its tufted tail and magnificent heavy mane has always been a source of inspiration for Theofilos.3 Once again the painter takes full advantage of art's liberating freedom that recognizes no limitations when it comes to space, scale or perspective. The painter O. Kanellis, one of the first to discover the work of Theofilos, made the following insightful remark: "Without realizing it, Theofilos sought to illuminate the truth of Greek nature with man being part of it. His paintings are fields of shapes and patches of colour that are integral to the natural environment, helping him express an overall feeling emanating from life itself, a feeling based on pure vision and the observation of nature. When we see an outdoor scene by Theofilos we hardly think that we see the landscape from a distance, but rather that we live in it, that we actually walk through it. Any sense of distance is eliminated and we are surrounded by lush trees, pristine grasslands and crystal clear waters in a lucid, diaphanous atmosphere. Only Bonnard and Theofilos were able to convey this feeling."4


    1. N. Matsas, The Tale of Theofilos [in Greek], Estia publ., Athens 1978, p. 153.
    2. See G. Petris, The Painter Theofilos, Exandas editions, Athens 1978, p. 34 and G. Kaplani, Theofilos, The Artist's Works at the Museum of Greek Folk Art, Ministry of Culture, Athens 2010, p. 79.
    3. N. Matsas, The Tale of Theofilos, Dodoni editions, Athens, p. 46.
    4. O. Kanellis, The Painter Theofilos [in Greek], Tachydromos magazine, no. 379, 15.7.1961


    Please note that due to Greek regulation, this lot cannot be exported from Greece and will be available for viewing and inspection in Athens either by appointment or during the Athens Preview, 26-28 March 2014. This painting will be located in Athens during the auction.

Saleroom notices

  • Please note that in the third line of the footnote present in the paper catalogue the word 'canvas' should be replaced with 'fresco'.
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