Yiannis Tsarouchis (Greek, 1910-1989) Soldier dancing Zeibekiko  190 x 70.5 cm.

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Lot 53AR
Yiannis Tsarouchis
(Greek, 1910-1989)
Soldier dancing Zeibekiko 190 x 70.5 cm.

£ 250,000 - 350,000
US$ 320,000 - 450,000
Yiannis Tsarouchis (Greek, 1910-1989)
Soldier dancing Zeibekiko
signed in Greek and dated '5-12-65' (upper left), titled in Greek (upper right)
mixed media on canvas
190 x 70.5 cm.

Footnotes

  • Painted in 1965.

    Provenance
    Private collection Athens.

    Exhibited
    Delphi, European Cultural Centre of Delphi - Ministry of Culture, Apollo's Heritage, July 4-31, 2003, p. 46 (illustrated).

    "It was April of 1965, just before Easter, and we were travelling along with Tsarouchis to Thessaloniki by train. A soldier who recognized him greeted him with enthusiasm yelling 'hey, teacher!' Tsarouchis retained his composure: 'Can you tell me what I have taught you?' 'Zeimbekiko', the young man replied."1

    Tsarouchis, sporadically since 1957 and then more systematically, painted young men dancing the zeibekiko –the male dance expressing the unfulfilled desires of people on the margins of life. (Compare Soldier dancing, lot 38) 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.2

    "In 1934, while sailing to Constantinople, I saw real Zeybeks who boarded the ship in Smyrna. They were dressed in their traditional old costumes and looked very much alike those painted by Gysis and Lytras. (Note: Compare Nikiforos Lytras, Zeybek, lot 11). One of them, no more than 35 years old who spoke good Greek, kept telling me how good a dancer this young man who was with them was and that he was unsurpassed in his dancing. Before dusk, when the ship sailed for Istanbul, the young man danced on the deck. He was short and with heavy bones but when he started moving he was totally transformed. He was no longer the same person. His gallantry was strangely coupled with a sort of humbleness and a sort of gratitude although it was unclear to whom it was addressed. It was as if he was modestly grateful to some god for the miracle life is. Zeimbekiko is a true sacrifice of glory, it is gallantry and spirit crushed and humiliated. It's amazing how this young zeybek lowered his eyes in sweet submission in contrast to his great strength. At the same time he was stamping his feet on the floor as though to scare away an invisible creature crawling there. He looked like a statue of a warrior who has once fought a dragon holding a sword and a shield but now was left with none of those—all of which having been lost, as it often happens with old statues."3

    Conveying monumentality, permanence and sculpturesque clarity, Soldier dancing is a striking image of a young Greek stripped of its specificity to allow the eternal essence of symbol to stand out alone.4 Although fully dressed, the male body—Tsarouchis's signature subject—manages to fully capture the vitality and pulse of life. "In no other painter's work is the human body presented with such integrity, purity and open-mindedness as in the work of Tsarouchis. As a result, his pictures are transformed into a truthful language of a never-ending spiritual quest."5

    1 A conversation recalled by photographer George Tourkovassilis, Yannis Tsarouchis (1910-1989), Eleftherotypia edition, Athens 2009, p. 81.
    2 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.
    3 Y. Tsarouchis, preface to the Tsarouchis, Zeibekika and Some More, p. 11.
    4 See D. Kapetanakis, "Yannis Tsarouchis, Return to Roots" [in Greek], Nea Grammata magazine, 1937 as reprinted in Tsarouchis [in Greek], Zygos, Athens 1978, pp. 7-8. See also preface to the Tsarouchis exhibition at the Redfern Gallery, London, 1951.
    5 T. Niarchos, "A Natural Phaenomenon" [in Greek], in Yannis Tsarouchis, It's Good to Confess, Kastaniotis editions, Athens 1986, p. 293.
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