Yannis Tsarouchis – One of the Greatest Greek Painters

Yannis TsarouxisI was born in a three-storey house, at the corner of Louka Ralli and Vasileos Georgiou Streets, in Piraeus. Like most of the houses in the neighbourhood, it was a structure of neo-classical architecture. At that time to go for a walk in the city was like strolling in a gigantic stage set with rocks and fine houses, with statues and pediments.” With these words, Yannis Tsarouchis, the great painter, a man of theatre, a thinker and a teacher from Piraeus, described his birthplace.

Early 20th century Piraeus, with its mansions and hills, the Municipal Theatre, the sea and the sunset colours, was, in Tsarouchis’ mind, a mythical city which rooted deeply within the artist’s imagination, for both the bourgeois environment in which he grew up and for the poor-class districts which fascinated him in childhood. Many of Tsarouchis’ finest works were inspired by his home-town and its people.

Overall, Tsarouchis’ activities in the arts were multi-varied and his work was influenced by numerous factors. Besides painting, he also engaged in the folk decorative arts, weaving, hagiography, scenography, directing, poetry and writing. He was greatly influenced by Renaissance Art, Baroque, the Dutch and French Art of the 17th and 19th century, as well as by the shadow-theatre of “Karagiozis”.

Tsarouchis himself, however, gave us the best possible interpretation of his work:

I have two basic aspirations, despite the thousands of differences among my works. One aspiration is neo-classical and tries to assimilate the ancient classical ideal as expressed by Renaissance and Baroque. My other trend is to express my objections to my own ideal.

Chronology

  • 1910: Yannis Tsarouchis was born in Piraeus
  • 1928-1933: He studied at the Athens School of Fine Arts
  • 1930-1934: He studied under Fotis Kondoglou (a prominent Greek painter and writer) as his assistant. Kondoglou taught him the technique of Byzantine icons, fresco and printing
  • 1935-1936: He was in Paris daily visiting the Louvre and other museums to study the Renaissance, the 19th century, Manet and other Impressionists.
  • 1936: He returned to Greece via Naples, where he made an acquaintance with the painting of Pompeii
  • 1938: He held his first individual exhibition in Athens
  • 1940: He fought in the Greco-Italian War, on the Albanian front
  • 1946: He designed the sets for Dostoevsky’s The Idiot for the Greek National Theatre
  • 1951: He exhibited at the Gallerie d’Art du Faubourg, in Paris / The same works also went on display in the Redfern Gallery in London
  • 1953: He signed a contract with the Iolas Gallery in New York
  • 1958: He exhibited at the National Museum of Modern Art, in Paris and then at the Guggenheim Museum, in New York / He participated in the Greek stand at the Venice Biennale / He designed the sets and costumes for Cherubini’s opera Medea, directed by Alexis Minotis with Maria Callas in the leading role, at the Dallas Civic Opera in Texas
  • 1958-1962: He worked mainly as a stage designer in Europe and the USA
  • 1967: When the dictatorship was imposed on Greece he moved to Paris
  • 1975-1983: He lived both in Athens and Paris
  • 1981: He created the “Yannis Tsarouchis Foundation”, at his house at Marousi, Athens
  • 1987-1988: An exhibition of models of his stage designs was held in the Goulandris Museum of Cycladic Art
  • 1989: He was staging, translating and directing Euripides Orestes, when death intervened on July 20

Said About Him

A revolutionary can’t be classical at the same time. But Tsarouchis is. Odysseas Elytis (perhaps the most important Greek poet - Nobel Prize in Literature, 1979)

All of his works stare back at me, as if they had soul. I can speak no more. Nikos Kazantzakis (world-famous writer and philosopher)

Tsarouchis expresses the wisdom of people, before the people became a faceless mass. Nikos Gatsos (Greek poet and lyric-writer)

I am but a very curious explorer. I get momentarily enthusiastic about one of my discoveries, then, disappointed, I look for another. Yannis Tsarouchis (about himself)

Yannis Tsarouchis – One of the Greatest Greek Painters
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