Nikos Engonopoulos (Greek, 1910-1985)
Lot 27AR
Nikos Engonopoulos
(Greek, 1910-1985)
£ 100,000 - 150,000
US$ 130,000 - 200,000

The Greek Sale

9 Apr 2014, 14:00 BST

London, New Bond Street

Lot Details
Nikos Engonopoulos (Greek, 1910-1985)
Nikos Engonopoulos (Greek, 1910-1985)
a) Scholiastes d' un texte futur/ Composition with lamp, 1958
signed in Greek (lower right)
oil on canvas
92 x 73 cm.

(b) Scholiastes d' un texte futur/ Composition with lamp, 1958 (drawing)
signed and stamped (lower left)
charcoal and pencil on paper
92 x 72 cm.


  • Painted in 1958.

    Athens, Zappeion Hall, 7th Panhellenic Exhibition, April 21 - June 1, 1963, no. 156.
    Athens, National Gallery - A. Soutzos Museum, Nikos Engonopoulos retrospective, April 3-15, 1983, no. 37.
    Thessaloniki, Municipal Gallery, Nikos Engonopoulos, As Handsome as a Greek, 1997, no. B3.
    Athens, Astrolavos Gallery, Nikos Engonopoulos, Surrealist Whispers, 2002, no. 7.

    The Greek Painters, vol. 2, 20th Century, Melissa editions, Athens 1975, p. 262 (referred), p. 284 (illustrated).
    B. Spiliadi, Visual Remouldings, exhibition catalogue, Nees Morfes Gallery, December 1979, p. 15 (illustrated).
    Athens News newspaper, 4.11.1985 (illustrated).
    Athinorama magazine, 7.11.1985, p. 67 (illustrated).
    M. Marangou, Nikos Engonopoulos. The Painter. A Surrealist with Greek Colours, Eleftherotypia newspaper, 1.11.1985 (illustrated).
    Nikos Engonopoulos, Drawings and Colours, Ypsilon Books editions, Athens 1996, p. 138 (illustrated).
    Politis magazine, 15.12.2002, p. 8 (illustrated).
    D. Vlachodimos, Reading the Past in Engonopoulos, Indiktos editions, Athens 2006, fig. 80 (illustrated).
    D. Menti, Faces and Facades, Literary Identity Interpretations in Modern Greek Poets, Gutenberg editions, Athens 2007, p. 118 (referred).
    K. Perpinioti-Agazir, Nikos Engonopoulos, Son Univers Pictural, exhibition catalogue and catalogue raisonée, Benaki Museum, Athens 2007, no. 600, p. 92 (illustrated), p. 459 (illustrated).

    Thessaloniki, Municipal Gallery, Nikos Engonopoulos, As Handsome as a Greek, 1997, no. B2.
    Athens, Astrolavos Gallery, Nikos Engonopoulos, Surrealist Whispers, 2002, no. 6.

    Nikos Engonopoulos Sketches and Colours, Ypsilon Books editions, Athens 1996, p. 136 (illustrated).

    Flooded with light and colour and bathed in a translucent atmosphere of dazzling clarity and glow, this exquisite painting from the late 1950s is recognised in Melissa editions The Greek Painters as one of the finest examples of the artist's mastery of colour.1 The glittery yellow, green and orange tunics worn by the three standing figures and the enamel-like blues and reds of the background, applied side by side on the canvas without tonal gradations, invite the viewer to a festive ritual of pure colour handled with conscious daring, unique aptitude and undisputed love. As noted by art critic M. Gyparaki, Engonopoulos is a dedicated coloriste, adhering to a long and rich Greek tradition that goes way back to the Homeric epics, a world full of colours that are bound with natural elements, human acts and everyday objects.2 Errieti Engonopoulou, the artist's daughter, holds that "for him each colour has its own value, its own voice"3, much the same way as in Byzantine art, which Engonopoulos always considered an art form Greeks closely relate to.

    The three phantom-like mannequin figures holding a lamp, a book and a statuette, introduce us to an enigmatic world of poetic metaphor, apparently glorifying an unknown heroic or epic event that echoes the didactic description of Byzantine icon painting and the high rhetoric of the artist's beloved teacher C. Parthenis, or seemingly intended, as the title suggests, to be an ironic comment on art and literary criticism. (A similar reference to future text annotations was made by Engonopoulos in his poem "In the Lyrical Chimneys", The Clavichords of Silence, 1939).4 Elegant, athletic and full of youthful virility, the three scholiasts chant the glory and beauty of the human figure. As noted by Athens National Gallery Director M. Lambraki-Plaka, "Engonopoulos's figures may draw their origin from Giorgio de Chirico but they are unmistakably Greek, reminiscent of the Minoans immortalised on the Knossos frescoes and the early kouroi, while alluding to the tall and slender formula of the Byzantine saints also evident in El Greco's work."5 Likewise, Professor D. Papastamos notes that "Engonopoulos's heroes are not 'disquieted'; on the contrary they fully experience an everyday reality still bound with tradition and eastern myths."6 "I am not interested in the face" the great Greek surrealist often remarked. "It's only the body that I paint. I love it because it is the chalice of life. As sparkling as life is when young."7

    The visual act takes place in a shallow indoor space reminiscent of a stage set and accentuating the sense of theatricality which is a key element of Engonopoulos's work. As noted by art historian P. Rigopoulou, the artist never hesitated to explore the correlations between theatrical and pictorial space and introduce the theatrical into his painting.8 "The lack of vast open spaces and supernatural landscapes whose sheer size nullifies the human scale is a typically Greek element. Engonopoulos's work emulates Greece's natural environment, a setting that both frames and accentuates human activity."9 Standing in front of a fastened curtain and illuminated by a circular glow reminiscent of a theatrical spotlight, the three protagonists of this 1958 visual act recall a text by Engonopoulos written a few years later: "The curtain is drawn, and under the stage lights, with the most harmonious moves, in a coordinated whole, amidst colours and music, every human dream comes alive, flooding the soul with guileless joy, far from the obligations and obstacles of grim reality."10

    1. S. Boulanikian, Nikos Engonopoulos [in Greek] in The Greek Painters, vol. 2, 20th Century, Melissa editions, Athens 1975, p. 262.
    2. Nikos Engonopoulos, Drawing or Colour [in Greek], Ikaros editions, 2007, p. 126.
    3. E. Engonopoulou, Freedom and Discipline [in Greek] in Nikos Engonopoulos, The Painter and the Poet, Kathimerini newspaper (Epta Imeres), 25.5.1997, p. 23.
    4. See D. Menti, Faces and Facades, Literary Identity Interpretations in Modern Greek Poets [in Greek], Gutenberg editions, Athens 2007, p. 118.
    5. M. Lambraki-Plaka The Timeless Pantheon of Nikos Engonopoulos [in Greek], Filologiki quarterly, no. 101, October-November-December 2007, p. 9.
    6. D. Papastamos, preface to the exhibition catalogue of Nikos Engonopoulos retrospective [in Greek], National Gallery-A. Soutzos Museum, Athens 1983, p. 8.
    7. Apogevmatini daily, 2.8.1969. See also An Interview with Nikos Engonopoulos [in Greek], Manna, no 5, May 1974.
    8. P. Rigopoulou, Nikos Engonopoulos in D. Tsouchlou-A.Bacharian, Stage-Setting in Modern Greek Theatre [in Greek], Athens 1985, p. 141.
    9. Boulakian, p. 261.
    10. Written in 1961 and reprinted in N. Engonopoulos, Works in Prose [in Greek], Ypsilon, Athens 1987, p. 30.
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