Yiannis Tsarouchis (Greek, 1910-1989) Young man from Piraeus  65 x 53 cm.
Lot 22AR
Yiannis Tsarouchis
(Greek, 1910-1989)
Young man from Piraeus 65 x 53 cm.
Sold for £ 150,000 (US$ 197,298) inc. premium

The Greek Sale

2 May 2018, 14:00 BST

London, New Bond Street

Lot Details
Yiannis Tsarouchis (Greek, 1910-1989)
Young man from Piraeus
signed in Greek and dated '39' (lower left)
oil on canvas
65 x 53 cm.

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Private collection, London.


    An early Tsarouchis masterpiece acquired directly from the painter right out of his studio, Young man from Piraeus reflects the artist's attitude towards painting, both as a long and rich tradition to draw from, as well as an ideal vehicle to probe into the inner world of Greekness. In its rich surface texture, archaizing process of simplification, shallow compositional structure, solidly outlined forms and silent inflexibility, it's akin to similar paintings by Matisse (compare Music, 1939, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo,) while its clarity and truthfulness of vision, combined with echoes of Byzantine art, recall the pictorial conventions of Karaghiozi shadow puppet theatre, which exerted a strong influence on Tsarouchis throughout his career. In 1939, the year he painted Young man from Piraeus, Tsarouchis published an article on Karaghiozi, noting its figures "have an external resemblance to ancient Greek vase painting but what matters most is their beauty, the realism of their design, the effortless and rich rhythm that governs them. Their value lies in that they interpret the most essential aspects of Modern Greek life."1

    Tsarouchis' signature male subject—here a working class young man from his native port town of Piraeus holding a komboloi (worry beads) and a cigarette (compare N. Engonopoulos, The sailor, Bonhams Greek Sale 12/12/2006, lot 104)—is placed in a traditional coffee-shop setting featuring the ubiquitous three-legged metal table and wooden chair. In her monograph on the artist, art historian E. Florou noted: "Tsarouchis's subjects from 1936-1939 were mainly male figures set in a room with only a few objects, such as a chair, a door, a flower vase stand or a mirror. These figures were usually seated and portrayed at full length frontally or in profile, dominating the foreground and taking up most of the pictorial space (compare Young man facing to the right, Bonhams Greek Sale 21/11/2011, lot 35). They were inspired by the time's standard photo-studio poses assumed by working class people next to a vase stand or against a stage-set like backdrop screen2 . Tsarouchis used those popular photographic poses because he believed that, compared to academic posing, they were more expressive and better suited for capturing the type of the Modern Greek folk."3

    Reviewing Tsarouchis's first one man show in 1938, art critic Z. Papantoniou noted: "The artist often feels the need to redraw inspiration from unspoiled folk sources to lend it the purity which gave birth to myth and folk song."4 , while in an article that constituted the first comprehensive review of Tsarouchis' work, D. Kapetanakis perceptively observed that his works "are truly Greek in essence. What's remarkable is that Tsarouchis managed, with the wisdom of his art, to elevate a model posing in his studio into a symbol of the Μodern Greek spirit."5

    1 . Y. Tsarouchis, "Karaghiozis is Theatre" [in Greek], Paraskinia journal, no. 74, 14.10.1939.
    2 . The stage designer's perception of space played an important role in the work of Tsarouchis as it did in that of Engonopoulos, Moralis and Vasiliou. In the 1930s, these painters designed sets and costumes for the National Theatre under the directorship of F. Politis, while later their contribution proved to be instrumental in the international renown of K. Koun's Theatro Technis. See H. Kambouridis - G. Levounis, Modern Greek Art, The Twentieth Century, Ministry of the Aegean, Athens 1999, p. 66.
    3 . E. Florou, Yiannis Tsarouchis: His Painting and his Era [in Greek], Athens 1999, pp. 41-42. See also The Greek Painters, vol. 2, Melissa editions, Athens 1975, p.298.
    4 . Z. Papantoniou, "Y. Tsarouchis Exhibition", Kathimerini daily, 8.2.1938.
    5 . Kapetanakis, "Yiannis Tsarouchis, Return to Roots", Nea Grammata journal, 1937 as reprinted in Tsarouchis [in Greek], Zygos journal, Athens 1978, pp. 7-8.
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