Works by the leading painter of the ’30s generation of Greek artists, Yiannis Tsarouchis, attracted strong bidding at Bonhams sale of Greek Art in London last week. All six Tsarouchis canvasses were sold for a combined total of €520,000. The sale as a whole made €2,400,000.
Among the highlights were: ‘Torso’, painted by Tsarouchis in 1975. Depicting the clothed torso of a young Greek soldier, the painting sold for €182,700 against a pre-sale estimate of €36,000-59,000.
‘Erotokritos’ – the subject of a famous and well-loved 18th century Cretan poetic romance extolling the virtues of love, honour, friendship and courage – made €121,000, exceeding its pre-sale estimate of €12,000-18,000. In the words of the critic Kapetanakis, “What’s remarkable is that Tsarouchis managed, with the wisdom of his art, to elevate a model posing in his studio into a symbol of the Modern Greek spirit.”
‘At the Grocer’s’, which takes the simple exterior of a humble shop as a starting point for an examination of the nature of the inner world of Greekness, was bought for €82,000. The painting is regarded as one of the artist’s signature works, prompting the poet A. Embeirikos to write, “when one looks at Tsarouchis’s work, one has the immediate impression of looking at Greek painting par excellence”.
Bonhams Greek Art specialist, Olympia Pappa, commented: “This sale seems to indicate some return of stability to the market after a period of uncertainty. It was also notable for the number of non-Greek buyers, suggesting that Greek art is now gaining a wider, international reputation.”
Paintings by other major Greek artists also sold well. A major work by the naive painter Theofilos Hadjimichail, for example, entitled ‘Ulysses brings Iphigenia, the daughter of Agamemnon to the High Priest Kalhas for her to be sacrificed to the God Apollo’ made €161,000.
‘City on a Hill’ by Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, one of a series of works from the first half of the 1960s where the artist depicted imaginary towns was sold for €175,500 and ‘The Boat’ by the same artist, painted in Paris in the early 1930s made €118,000
‘The Meadow’ (Tinos) by Nikolaos Lytras – considered to be among his finest works – made €67,400 and ‘Midas’s Secret’ by Nikos Engonopoulos, which depicts the legends surrounding the pleasure-seeking but impetuous King Midas, sold for £60,000.