Yiannis Moralis (Greek, 1916-2009) Composition 73 x 60 cm.

This lot has been removed from the website, please contact customer services for more information

Lot 32AR
Yiannis Moralis
(Greek, 1916-2009)
Composition 73 x 60 cm.

Sold for £ 90,062 (US$ 113,773) inc. premium
Yiannis Moralis (Greek, 1916-2009)
signed in Greek and dated '1951' (lower left)
oil on canvas
73 x 60 cm.


  • Painted in 1951.

    Private collection, Athens.

    Athens, Zappeion Hall, Panhellenic Art Exhibition, April-May, 1952, no. 334 (listed in the exhibition catalogue, p. 18).
    Athens, Benaki Museum, Y. Moralis, Angels, Music, Poetry, October 2001, no. 148 (referred and illustrated in the exhibition catalogue, pp. 118-119).
    Athens, Benaki Museum, Yannis Moralis, September 20, 2018 - February 10, 2019.

    Yannis Moralis, Commercial Bank of Greece Group of Companies edition, Athens 1988, no. 76, p. 86 (illustrated).
    C. Christou, Moralis, Adam editions, Athens 1993, no. 48 (illustrated).
    C. Christou, Greek Painting in the Twentieth Century, Association for the Dissemination of Beneficial Books edition, vol. 1, Athens 2000, pp. 226-227 (discussed).
    Y. Bolis, Yannis Moralis, K. Adam editions, Athens 2005, p. 56 (illustrated).
    Y. Bolis, Yannis Moralis, Contemporary Greek Painters, Ta Nea editions, Athens 2007, p. 44 (illustrated).

    "We love beauty and simplicity"

    Doric in its dignity and Ionian in its subtlety and elegance, Moralis's Composition captures the grandeur and aura of the classical not as a lifeless relic of ancient glory but as a form of eternity constantly reborn in the present. By ingeniously balancing lyrical sensitivity and ordered thought, the artist achieves a modern realization of the classical ideal: the elimination of the temporary, the elevation of form to a symbol and the initiation to a world of ideal rhythms, where form and spirit reclaim their fragmented wholeness.

    The monumental quality and purity of form, the subtle use of colour and spatial relationships, the disciplined rhythm dictated by a deep sense for human scale, the serene atmosphere imbued with meditative silence and elegiac feeling, the shallow compositional depth reminiscent of sculptural relief, the composed immobility and the austerity of the horizontal and vertical lines that set up a perfectly balanced geometric edifice, echo the timeless values of Greek idealistic art.1 (Compare Seated nude, 1958, Rhodes Municipality Modern Greek Art Museum). As noted by Athens National Gallery Director M. Lambraki-Plaka, Moralis was the sole exponent of the 1930s generation whose style was inspired by ancient Greek antiquity and especially by classical stele".2

    «In the early 1950s, Moralis turns towards classical antiquity and formulates a pictorial style highly imbued with pronounced elements of Greekness. He poses new and complex challenges. His means become simpler, frugal and more substantial, enriching his work with new expressive possibilities and values. He emphasizes schematisation and moves to chromatic abstractions. His colours maintain the materiality of paint. His palette, inspired by the 5th-century painter Polygnotus3, is limited to earthen tones, ochres, tonal gradations of blue and black, brick red and white. He insists on flatness, unity and the composition's inner geometry, abandoning descriptive elements and details and concentrating on the essential, which leads him to a balance between form and content."4

    Recalling his work from this period, Moralis once mentioned an incident related to the Bonhams picture: "I remember my friend Kostakis Zaimis coming to my studio in Nea Kifissia in 1951, when I was painting Composition, and telling me: "Paint no more! You'll overdo it."5 Reviewing the 1952 Panhellenic Exhibition, in which Moralis participated with three works, including Composition from 1951, art critic D. Evangelides noted: "Moralis renders the youthful female bodies in exquisite detail and unaffected simplicity as they rest and enjoy their rich and vibrant material substance in their comfortable postures."6

    As perceptively noted by C. Christou, "with the juxtaposition of the nude and clothed female figure, the vertical and horizontal themes, tactile and colour elements and biomorphic and geometric types, the picture compels the viewer to engage in a dialogue."7 All these conflicting elements pose intriguing questions of interpretations without pointing towards a single answer. Moralis wanted viewers to draw their own conclusions, just as Bellows or even Titian had left viewers to explore the intricacies of their famous compositions featuring two seated women—one nude, one dressed—without explanatory narratives (compare G. Bellows, Two women, 1924, sold by Bonhams, New York, 19/11/2014, and Titian, Sacred and profane love, c. 1514, Galleria Borghese, Rome). As noted by Christou, "in Moralis's paintings, one may trace a progress from earthly to heavenly love, from the sensual aspects of the subject to the universal and eternal, to the metaphysical and the transcendental."8

    1 See H. Kambouridis - G. Levounis, Modern Greek Art - the 20th Century, Ministry of the Aegean, Athens 1999, p. 126.
    2 M. Lambraki-Plaka in "A Century of Moralis" [in Greek], To Vima daily, December 25-27, 2009, sect. B2, p. 6.
    3 «The colours I use are based on the Polygnotian palette: black, brick red, ochre, indian blue and black. I once told Marina Lambraki-Plaka that I fancy the colours of the grouse. All these grays, the many gradations of black, the touches of white and the red that shines on their beaks and legs." Y. Moralis, Angels, Music, Poetry, exhibition catalogue, Benaki Museum, Athens 2001, p. 118.
    4 Y. Bolis, Yannis Moralis, K. Adam editions, Athens 2005, p. 52.
    5 Y. Moralis, Angels, Music, Poetry, exhibition catalogue, Benaki Museum, Athens 2001, p. 118.
    6 D. E. Evangelides, "Exhibitions" [in Greek], Nea Estia magazine, no. 598, June 1, 1952, p. 763.
    7 See C. Christou, Moralis, Adam editions, Athens 1993, p. 15.
    8 Ibid, pp. 20, 33, 34.
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations


If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories, buyer's premium excluding Cars, Motorbikes, Wine, Whisky and Coin & Medal sales, will be as follows:

Buyer's Premium Rates
27.5% on the first £20,000 of the hammer price;
26% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £20,000 up to and including £700,000;
20% of the hammer price of amounts in excess of £700,000 up to and including £4,500,000;
and 14.5% of the hammer price of any amounts in excess of £4,500,000.

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

For payment information please refer to the sale catalogue.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licences please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Lot symbols
AR Artists Resale Right

Goods subject to Artists Resale Right Additional Premium.