Timeless values of Greek art evoked at Bonhams Greek Art Sale

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Timeless values of Greek art evoked at Bonhams Greek Art Sale
Lot 53: Yiannis Tsarouchis Dionysos in Euripidies' The Bacchae. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- Works which evoke the timeless values of Greek art, while reflecting contemporary sensitivities, feature in Bonhams Greek Art Sale in London on 9 April.

Scholiastes d’un texte futur – known in English as Composition with lamp – by the surrealist artist, Nikos Engonopoulos adheres to a long Greek tradition that goes back to the Homeric epics. The three faceless heroic figures – the scholiastes or scholars of the title – are rendered in brightly coloured oils and bring to mind the frescoes of Knossos while drawing on the influences of Byzantine art, the works of El Greco and of the Italian metaphysical painter Giorgio de Chirico. Engonopoulos often said, “I am not interested in the face. It’s only the body that I paint. I love it because it is the chalice of life. As sparkling as life is when young,” and his three elegant athletic men, full of youthful vitality, symbolize the beauty of the human figure. Painted in 1958, Scholiastes d’un texte futur is estimated at £100,000-150,000 and is accompanied by a preparatory drawing in charcoal of the same work.

The lion hunt, by the naïve painter, Theofilos Hadjimichael, is considered to be the finest representations of one of the artist’s favourite themes. Theofilos exploits the freedom of painting to operate outside the constraints of space, scale or perspective to convey the place of man in nature - specifically Greek nature. Although the lion dominates the centre of the picture, there is a sense that the animal, the natural landscape, the man made addition of a castle and the modestly sized figure of the hunter co-exist in an almost domestic harmony. The lion hunt carries an estimate of £80,000-120,000.

In Girl going into the sea, by the master of geometric abstraction, Yiannis Moralis, the artist represents the young bather as a monumental timeless form. The figure is stripped of descriptive detail or the illusion of space presenting the viewer with the distilled essence of human presence as in a Minoan fresco or a fragment of a Greek vase. As in all his work, Moralis is here seeking the realization of a classical idea – the discovery of a universal measure for lyrical feeling and intellectual thought. The painting is estimated at £80,000-100,000.

Nikos Hadjikyriakos’s-Ghika’s poetic geometry is beautifully represented in Midday, from 1965, which is one of a series of famous works in which the painter depicted imaginary towns. In these paintings, which verge on metaphysical abstraction, Ghika absorbed the influence of Synthetic Cubism pioneered by Picasso and Braque but adapted it to a Greek context. Midday is full of maze-like shapes and jagged angles which, nonetheless, express, through the use of colour and contrast, the effects of the noon day sun on an urban landscape. It is estimated at £60,000-80,000.

Dionysos in Euripides’ The Bacchae, by the simultaneously revolutionary and classical painter of ‘Greek people’, Yiannis Tsarouchis, uses Byzantine pictorial composition to illustrate the moment from Euripides play, The Bacchae, when Dionysos, a son of Zeus, appears in the sky to announce he will take revenge on those who have denied his divinity. At the same time, the image draws heavily on Christian iconography, The figure of the floating apparition of Dionysos, who stands at the apex of a triangle framed by a man and two women to the right and the tomb of his mother, the mortal Semele, to the left, is a clear reference to the resurrected Christ as depicted in Byzantine illuminated manuscripts. (Since the 19th century parallels have been drawn between Christ and Dionysos who is known as one of the ‘dying gods’ – one who leaves and then returns). By use of this Dionysos-Christ symbol, Tsarouchis suggests a direct, continuous, thread of Hellenism from classical myth through the time of the Christian era to the modern day. The painting is estimated at £40,000-60,000.

The sale also has a strong Modern and Contemporary feel and contains works by artists as diverse as Alexis Akrithakis, Alecos Fassianos, Vlassis Caniaris, Chryssa, Kyriakos Katzourakis, Pavlos, Theodoros Stamos, Costas Tsoclis and Takis.

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