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Artists who shaped the modern Greek identity at Bonhams Greek Art Sale
Yannis Tsarouchis, Marine Reading, estimate £18,000-22,000. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- Leading painters of the well-known Generation of the 1930s whose work helped to define Greek Art for much of the 20th century are well represented in Bonhams Greek Sale in London on 25 November.

Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika’s Studio with Large Window estimated at £100,000-150,000, for example, wonderfully conveys what the artist himself referred to as “the magic of painting”. The joyous painting, depicting the artist’s owns studio, is dominated by shapes of two large easels, one of which belonged to the great American painter, James Whistler. Like Studio with Large Window, which was painted in 1984, Village in Spring (£60,000-80,000) of 1980 shows Ghika (1906-1994) breaking away from the simple geometric shapes seen in, for example, Santorini from 1967 (£40,000-60,000). The two later paintings explore a freer, less formal expressive language in which fluidity of form and lightness of colour prevail.

Together with Ghika, Yannis Tsarouchis was also a member of the Armos art group that was set up in the late 1940s to promote Greek tradition in painting. Yiannis Tsarouchis (1910-1989), who is often referred to as the painter of 'Greek people', drew much inspiration from the working class youth of his home town and the Greek sailors and soldiers he encountered during his service in the Greco Italian war. Such models who populate his oeuvre are presented as artistically elevated symbols of the Modern Greek spirit as in Marine Reading of 1947 (£18,000-22,000). In the two paired works, The offering and two winged men and Two winged men below two classical figures (£30,000-40,000) the very modern appearance of the men creates a bridge between their new world and the ancient world of the figures.

Greek Arcadia by Nikos Engonopoulos (1910-1985) was painted in 1975 for an Athenian who wanted a reminder of his ancestral roots in the unspoiled Greek countryside. Unusually, the work was painted on glass, emphasizing the depth of the pure colours which Engonopoulos deployed. The artist saw each colour as speaking with its own voice, an insight gained from his study of Byzantine art, the art form to which he believed the Greek people responded most spiritually. A later work, Three Wise Men (£30,000-40,000), though stylistically very different, - it reflects his advocacy of surrealism – is nevertheless also replete with bold colours and Byzantine influence. Its adoption of cultural symbols drawn from Greek mythology and the heroism of a bygone age provides a clear link with the work of Tsarouchis.

Finally, Erotic by the master of geometric abstraction, Yiannis Moralis (1916-2009), is a distinguished and important work that conveys the inner rhythm of the daring combination of shapes and colours. Like his fellow artists of the generation of the 30s, Moralis always sought the realisation of the classical ideal and, by focusing on the essential, expressed what is permanent and universal.

Bonhams Greek art specialist, Olympia Pappa, said, “The painters of the Generation of the ‘30s were driven by their deep attachment to Greece’s classical heritage on which they drew to express – each in very different ways – what it means to be Greek in the modern world. Their concept of Greekness shaped the way the nation regarded itself and left an abiding legacy for artists of the present day.”

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