Yiannis Tsarouchis (Greek, 1910-1989) Soldier dancing 61 x 44 cm.

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Lot 38AR
Yiannis Tsarouchis
(Greek, 1910-1989)
Soldier dancing 61 x 44 cm.

Sold for £ 65,062 (US$ 87,058) inc. premium
Yiannis Tsarouchis (Greek, 1910-1989)
Soldier dancing
signed in Greek and dated '68' (lower left)
oil on canvas
61 x 44 cm.

Footnotes

  • Painted in 1968.

    Authenticated by the artist on the reverse '19-1-87'.

    Provenance
    Private collection, Athens.

    Exhibited
    Athens, Athens Art Gallery, Views of Greece, January 14 - February 14, 1982 (illustrated in the exhibition catalogue).

    Literature
    E. Florou, Tsarouchis – Painting, (doctoral dissertation) vol. 1, Athens 1989, no. 699, p. 255 (catalogued).
    E. Florou, Yannis Tsarouchis, his Painting and his Era, Nea Synora - A.A. Livanis editions, Athens 1989, no. 817, p. 280 (catalogued).

    Tsarouchis's soldiers and sailors rank among the most celebrated and enduring images of 20th century Greece. A potent signifier of masculinity and youthful vigour, the male in uniform alludes to the promise of adventure and the struggle of men with their destiny.

    Here, one of the artist's signature subjects is captured in a shallow indoor space against a dark monochromatic background—a compositional structure reminiscent of Renaissance portraits that played a pivotal role throughout his career—allowing him to build up an edifice of pure forms, an everlasting world liberated from the fleeting moment. Imaginatively combining a keen eye for many neglected aspects of popular culture with a deep understanding of a wide range of art forms, from Byzantine icons and Fayum portraits to old master paintings and Matisse, Tsarouchis probed into the inner world of Greekness, elevating a young soldier performing the zeimbekiko dance into a symbol of the Modern Greek spirit.

    Ever since 1957, Tsarouchis painted young men dancing the zeibekiko—the male dance expressing the unfulfilled desires of people on the margins of life. (Compare Soldier dancing, lot 53) The artist's relationship with the zeibekiko was long, profound and above all experiential. He had been an excellent dancer himself and was thoroughly familiar with this saturnine, almost ritualistic and extremely personal dance, whose social evolution and broadening appeal he had witnessed in the music scene of Athens even before 1940. For Tsarouchis, zeibekiko expresses the Modern Greek male psyche. A dance representative of a marginal male culture, it symbolizes the eternal struggle of life with death. By depicting it in his work as being danced by Greek sailors and soldiers, he highlighted its folk character and stated his belief that the mystic origins of zeibekiko have Greek roots, deriving from the ancient divination centers of Thrace and Dodoni. He also mentioned that he never used models for his zeibekiko paintings, which were based solely on his memory and imagination.1

    As argued by D. Kapetanakis, Tsarouchis found the truth of Modern Greece in the bodily forms of Greek youth. In contrast to other cultures, such as the French, which are female-centred, Greece, both ancient and modern, is mainly expressed through masculine types.2 In the same vein, Nobel laureate O. Elytis noted that "Tsarouchis restored the human body in a land whose age-old civilisation has always been man-centred. Thanks to his paintings, the figures of Hermes, Narcissus, St. Georgios and St. Dimitrios started to live and breathe again and circulate among us."3 For both Kapetanakis and Elytis, Tsarouchis's male figures are invested with a symbolic and traditional value that carries on the male-centred humanistic ideal of Greek antiquity, while at the same time expressing the spirit and reality of Modern Greece.4

    1 Y. Tsarouchis, preface to the Tsarouchis, Zeibekika and Some More [in Greek], exhibition catalogue, Zoumboulakis Gallery, Athens 1982, p. 7. See also E. Florou, Yannis Tsarouchis: His Painting and his Era, [in Greek], Nea Synora-Livanis editions, Athens 1999, pp. 192, 207.
    2 See D. Kapetanakis, "Yannis Tsarouchis, Return to Roots" [in Greek], Nea Grammata magazine, 1937 as reprinted in Tsarouchis [in Greek], Zygos, Athens 1978, pp. 6-8. See also preface to the Tsarouchis exhibition at the Redfern Gallery, London, 1951.
    3 O. Elytis, preface to the Yannis Tsarouchis: Fifteen Works and One Original Print 1938-1963 album [in Greek], 1964.
    4 See E. Florou, Tsarouchis – Painting, [in Greek], doctoral dissertation, vol. 1, Athens 1989, p. 118.
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