Constantinos Parthenis (Greek, 1878-1967) The bather 59.5 x 57 cm.

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Lot 82
Constantinos Parthenis
(Greek, 1878-1967)
The bather 59.5 x 57 cm.

Sold for £ 156,000 (US$ 200,202) inc. premium
Constantinos Parthenis (Greek, 1878-1967)
The bather
signed 'C. Parthenis' (lower right)
oil on canvas
59.5 x 57 cm.

Footnotes

  • Provenance:
    P. Prevelakis collection, Athens, since 1940, thence by descent to the present owner.

    Exhibited:
    Athens, Panhellenic exhibition, 1940.
    Athens, Athenian Technological Institute, Exhibition of C. Parthenis works, 26 January-9 February 1966, no 37.
    Athens, School of Fine Arts - 150 Years, National Gallery, 2 June-15 July 1987, no 111.

    O beauty, people always have you on their lips,
    do they always have you on their soul too?

    C. Parhenis1

    One of the four paintings chosen by Parthenis to represent him in the 1940 Panhellenic Art Exhibition, The bather is an evocative rendering of a female nude captured in the great painter's signature style. Against an iridescent background of blue and white stripes, strongly reminiscent of a Greek flag fluttering in the morning breeze, the young bather is invested with idealistic overtones, transformed into an allegorical figure alluding to the timeless visions of Hellenism.

    From 1920 onwards, almost all of Parthenis' output is devoted to symbolist and allegorical compositions, "marked by a persistent absorption in an ideal world, a world purified of any kind of brutality, a world that soars loftily in the heights of Ideas." 2 Carrying all the hallmarks of Parthenis' mature preoccupations, the painting conveys an uplifting feel of national exaltation also shared by the poets C. Palamas and A. Sikelianos. "His mastery of the idealistic potential of the curvilinear, his understanding of the mysteries of colour, the plasticity of his dynamic and so anti-academic nudes, the removal of the incidental and the individualistic from his human landscapes - all attest to Parthenis's faith in a lofty ideal expressed with an impeccable technique." 3

    Unanimously acknowledged as the founder of 20th century Greek art, Parthenis was the first who shaped an artistic paradigm based on the country and its destiny, distancing Modern Greek painting from the academic tradition and turning it towards liberal artistic movements and indigenous cultural experiences. According to D. Papastamos, former Director of the National Gallery in Athens, "Parthenis' is the most important return to the roots ever attempted in the history of Modern Greek art, starting out from where El Greco left off and fully utilising the entire Greek aesthetic tradition. In the late 1930s his artistic language is crystallized, establishing his reputation as the greatest reformer of Modern Greek art." 4 Through the freedom of his artistic choices, the individualised use of multiple formal elements, the boldness of his subjective interpretation and the personal formulation of style, Parthenis gave the Greeks the first example of a free creative spirit. 5

    1. C. Parhenis, 'Beauty and Art' [in Greek], Zygos magazine, no.3, January 1956, p. 13 (reprinted from the Dimitrakos Encyclopidic Calendar, pp. 94-96).
    2. A. Kotidis, 'The Influence of Hellenic Art on the Work of C. Parthenis', Actes du XVIII Congres de l' AICA, Greece, 1984, p. 149.
    3. Z. Papantoniou, 'The Art of Parthenis' [in Greek], Patris daily, 19.1.1920.
    4. D. Papastamos, Painting 1930-1940, Astir Insurance publ. Athens, 1981, p. 14-15, 69.
    5. See C. Christou, Greek Painting 1832-1922 [in Greek], National Bank of Greece, Athens 1993, pp. 108-114 and H. Kambouridis - G. Levounis, Modern Greek Art - The 20th Century, Athens 1999, pp. 40-42.
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