Yiannis Tsarouchis (Greek, 1910-1989) At the grocer's 71 x 100 cm.

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Lot 23AR
Yiannis Tsarouchis
(Greek, 1910-1989)
At the grocer's 71 x 100 cm.

Sold for £ 68,500 (US$ 85,634) inc. premium
Yiannis Tsarouchis (Greek, 1910-1989)
At the grocer's
signed in Greek and dated 1963 (lower right)
oil on canvas
71 x 100 cm.


    N. Steifel collection, Paris (according to E. Florou's doctoral dissertation on the artist, Athens 1989, vol. 1, p. 243).
    Private collection, Athens.

    Athens, Benaki Museum, Yiannis Tsarouchis, 18 December 2009 - 14 March 2010, no 242 (illustrated in the exhibition catalogue, p. 191).

    The Greek Painters - Yannis Tsarouchis, Melissa editions, issue no. 25, Athens 1974 (cover illustration).
    E. Florou, Tsarouchis - Painting, doctoral dissertation, Athens 1989, no. 527, vol. 1, p. 243 (listed); vol. 2 (illustrated).
    E. Florou, Yannis Tsarouchis, his Painting and his Era, Nea Synora - A.A. Livanis editions, Athens 1999, no. 188, pp. 274, 273 (listed), p.196 (illustrated).
    Yannis Tsarouchis (1910-1989) Painting, Yannis Tsarouchis Foundation, Athens 1990, no. 317 (illustrated).
    Yannis Tsarouchis 1910-1989, Exhibition catalogue, Benaki Museum, Athens 2009, no. 242, p. 191 (illustrated).
    T. Niarchos ed.,Yannis Tsarouchis, for Painting and Love, Ta Nea editions, Athens 2010, pp. 90-91 (illustrated).

    Featured on the cover of Melissa editions' Greek Painters issue on Yannis Tsarouchis, this signature work by an emblematic figure of Modern Greek culture immediately captures the eye with its clarity and truthfulness of vision. Simplification of form, limited colour scheme, confident brushwork and shallow compositional structure coupled with a stage designer's perception of space, which played a pivotal role throughout Tsarouchis's career, build up a solid edifice of pure forms, an everlasting world liberated from the fleeting moment, perfectly matching the silent inflexibility and almost hieratic posture of the three standing figures. As noted by Nobel laureate O. Elytis, "just like the adjustment of binocular lenses captures images with perfect clarity, Tsarouchis's painting turns our vision away from the imposed, philhellenic reality and focuses it on the reality of the Greeks, which was always latent inside us."1

    Painted in the early 1960s, at a time when representational art was overshadowed by non-objective abstraction, At the grocer's is a bold statement of the artist's resolve in portraying familiar everyday images and probing into the inner world of Greekness. As noted by poet A. Embeirikos, "when looking at Tsarouchis's work, one has the immediate impression of looking at Greek painting par excellence, more so than in the work of any other Greek painter, with the exception of Theofilos. In his hands, everyday life becomes raw material out of which the artist composes symphonies of colour that have the shivering vibrancy of oratoria and the glittering enchantment of legends."2

    This scrupulous observation and study of contemporary life is imaginatively combined with distant echoes of Byzantine art and Pompeian frescoes.3 The linear arrangement of figures in the foreground set against a flat monochromatic backdrop interrupted by pronounced vertical elements is a typical Hellenistic-Roman layout found in Villa dei Misteri in southern Italy as well as in the Aldobrandini Wedding fresco from the 1st century BC. Moreover, this kind of paratactic design, also evident in Byzantine church decoration and shadow-puppet folklore, is reminiscent of Theofilos's compositions where all scenes seem to exist on one uniform level or plane. In both artists everything is clearly expressed and all visual phenomena are thrust forward to the narrative surface where they receive even illumination in a continuous present. As noted by Dr. E. Florou in her treatise on Tsarouchis, At the grocer's has evident references to Theofilos's similar subjects,4 a testament to Tsarouchis's lifelong admiration of the great folk-art painter.

    The austere and humble facade of the grocery store deserves more attention. Although far detached from the neoclassical splendour of Tsarouchis's coffee-shop exteriors, it is invested with the same aura of simplicity, purity and classical order, conveying a sense of monumentality and timeless serenity. Its pronounced and rhythmical verticality, geometric purity of form, accuracy of design, compositional balance and juxtaposition of light and dark areas, will be repeated by the artist three years later in his renowned pair of Neon coffee-shop paintings, now in the collection of the National Gallery in Athens.5 This subtle dialogue of form and human scale creates a lyrically interpretative composition, a tranquil world of spiritual purity, austere beauty and shared humanity that borders on abstraction. As noted by E. Florou, "the strong verticals and horizontals and the almost monochromatic intervals create an abstract harmony of form, echoing certain constructivist works, even Mondrian."6

    1. O. Elytis, preface to the Yannis Tsarouchis: Fifteen Works and One Original Print 1938-1963 album [in Greek], 1964.
    2. A. Embeirikos, The Triumph of Sensuous Painting[in Greek], Zygos magazine, no. 72-75, November 1961 - February 1962, pp. 11-12. See also Yannis Tsarouchis, Greek Heritage quarterly, vol. 1, no. 2, Spring 1964, pp. 92-93.
    3. See Y. Tsarouchis's brief assessment of his 1962-1966 period in Yannis Tsarouchis Retrospective 1928-1981 [in Greek], Exhibition catalogue, Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art - Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki 1981.
    4. E. Florou, Yannis Tsarouchis, his Painting and his Era [in Greek], Nea Synora - A.A. Livanis editions, p.196.
    5. See Y. Bolis, Yannis Tsarouchis [in Greek], Ta Nea editions, Athens, p. 75.
    6. E. Florou, Tsarouchis - Painting, [in Greek] (doctoral dissertation) vol. 1, Athens 1989, p. 109.
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