Yiannis Tsarouhis (1910-1989)

Yiannis TsarouhisYiannis Tsarouhis is considered to be one of the leading exponents of the Mid-War II and Post-War II period of Modern Greek Art. As a painter, a man of the theatre, a thinker and a teacher, he influenced Modern Greek art and Greek society with his body of work and way of thinking. As the poet and lyric-writer Nikos Gatsos once observed: “Tsarouhis combines the wisdom of the people - before the people became a faceless mass - with the knowledge and perception of an extremely cultivated person. If Tsarouhis was absent, the sky would be poorer by a thousand astral bodies”.

His activities in the arts are polymorphous and multi-varied and his work is influenced by many and different factors. Besides painting, he was active in the folk decorative arts, weaving, hagiography, scenography, directing, poetry and writing. He was greatly influenced at the start of his career in 1930 by the shadow-theatre of Karangiozis, the posters of Dedousaros and S. Spatharis, the Byzantine-popular artist, F. Kontoglou, the paintings of Theophilos, Greek Pottery Art, and Hellenistic Drawings (Pompeian murals, Fayium, etc.). From 1955 onwards, these elements are interspersed with influences from the Renaissance Art, Baroque, Dutch and French art of the 17th and 19th century Naturalists, as well as the mural art of central Asia. Equally influential was the art of Matisse, mostly in his use of colour.

In the course of his eternal quest to come up with the ‘correct’ way of representing reality in his paintings, the most characteristic element is the interchange and fluctuation between two different, perhaps opposite worlds: East and West. In a very broad statement, the first period of his work could be described as Oriental Expressionism - the eastern and mural art which is expressed through pure colour, whereas the second period, which is on exhibit here, as Naturalism - painting that is expressed through tonal drawing (chiaroscuro), perspective and faithful representation. Until his death, he was persecuted by his division between these two opposite worlds and his attempt to unite them.

Theophilos Dressed Up as Alexander The Great (1968)

Yiannis Tsarouhis
The full-bodied portrait of the popular painter Theophilos was drawn by Tsarouhis in order to express his admiration and love for him. Using an old picture of his, he imprinted him in such a way that his posturing and gaze transfixes the viewer. The whole figure is symbolic of the painter’s disposition to memorialise, to keep him forever alive in people’s eyes and to maintain his true spirit. For him, Theophilos was a model – the authentic painter who placed his stamp folk art as a genuine conveyor of the Thirties generation. Although this work can be seen as historical, it is above all the personal ‘belief’ of Tsarouhis and a big ‘thank you’ for the road that was paved for him.

This work characterises the second main period of Tsarouhis’ art. What is noticeable is a change in style and technique in relation to older works of his, which can be mainly attributed to the combination of Byzantine colour technique with the realistic impression of the figure. He delivers the volume of the body using the basic colours of Byzantine painting, while at the same time offering a perspective and mass analogous to classical western works.