Masterwork by Patriarch of Modern Greek Painting at Bonhams Greek Sale in Paris

Paris – An important work by the Greek artist Nikiforos Lytras (1832-1904) is to be offered in The Greek Sale at Bonhams Paris on 18 May. Jeune fille faisant le baigne (Girl washing her hair) is a highly evocative image of quiet monumentality and a wonderful vignette of rural life, perfectly illustrating Lytras' adherence to local traditions and customs deeply rooted in the Greek folk culture. It has an estimate of €220,000-€280,000.

The work evokes an archaic simplicity, and the scene is endowed with a solemn grandeur accentuated by a limited palette of subdued and unvaried hues that perfectly match the austerity of the setting. Its composition adheres to the firm compositional structure championed by the masters of the Munich School, especially Karl von Piloty, under whom the artist studied at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. Often referred to as the Patriarch of Modern Greek painting, Lytras enjoyed an illustrious career, his works attracting a dedicated and ever-growing clientele including some of the period's most prominent collectors.

The sale also includes works by artists belonging to a group of revered and influential Greek painters who had a profound influence upon Greek art in the 20th century, including Yiannis Moralis and Nikos Engonopoulos. Pleine Lune I (Full Moon I), painted by Moralis (1916-2009), is a graceful reflection of the artist's long preoccupation with the inner rhythm and musical resonance generated by the daring combination of varied types, shapes and colours – true to his Greek heritage and yet utilising a formal vocabulary informed by modern sensitivity. It has an estimate of €300,000-€500,000. L'Archéologue (The Archaeologist), painted in 1943, introduces the viewer to a magical pictorial world of poetic metaphor. Engonopoulos combines the ancient past with modern-day elements to subvert the conventional ways in which rational thought perceives the world. Yet, as noted by the theatre director and playwright Alexis Solomos, what is astonishing is the prevailing Grecian spirit in his work. "Everything Engonopoulos touches becomes Greek". It has an estimate of €120,000-€180,000.

Nikos Engonopoulos (1907-85), a poet as well as a painter, was one of the most important members of the 'Generation of the 30s', a group of Greek writers, poets, artists, intellectuals, critics, and scholars who made their debut in the 1930s and introduced modernism to Greek art and literature. Engonopoulos was a major representative of the Surrealist movement in Greece, his first individual exhibition held in 1939. Three years later, he finished his most popular long poem Bolivar, inspired by the revolutionary leader Simón Bolívar. The 'Generation of the 30s' also included Yiannis Moralis, who is known for his characteristic geometric stylisation which incorporates elegant curves. Moralis created theatrical costume and set designs for the Greek National Theatre and Greek National Ballet, and was in 1965 decorated by King Constantine II with the Order of the Phoenix.

Anastasia Orfanidou, Bonhams Greek Art specialist, commented: "In a strong sale, the stunning Jeune fille faisant le baigne by Lytras stands out for its serene beauty, and the wonderful artistry with which the painter has captured this intimate domestic moment. It is a very special work by an artist who is undoubtedly one of the most important and influential Greek painters of the 19th century."

Other highlights of the sale include:

Constantinos Parthenis (Greek, 1878-1967). Vierge tenant l'Enfant Jésus. Estimate: €150,000-200,000

Theofilos Hadjimichael (Greek, 1871-1934), Hercule tue L'hydre de Lerne. Estimate: €140,000-€200,000

Chryssa (Vardea) (Greek, 1933-2013), Les portes de Times Square, New York. Estimate: €80,000-€120,000

Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghykas (Greek, 1906-1994), Cabines de campagne. Estimate: €60,000-€80,000

The Greek Sale is as ever a collaborative sale put together by Bonhams in London and its associates in Athens, Art Expertise.

Selected highlights from the sale will be on preview in Athens at Amalias 36, Amalias Ave. 10558 from 4 - 7 May and in Paris at Bonhams, 4 rue de la Paix from 14 and 16 - 18 May.

19 April


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