Greek contemporary Art - with its age-long tradition, its artists and their creations of major importance in the international cultural arena- ancient Greek and Byzantine Art offered world exceptional creators even during the slavery years of the Turkish occupation. A bright example -amongst the great number of artists- is Dominicos Theotokopoulos (El Greco) - with his combination of Byzantine spirituality, Venetian color of mannerist forms and Spanish mysticism. Click for Dominikos Theotokopoulos, the famous El Greco (meaning “The Greek”) was born in Irαklion, Crete (then a possession of the Republic of Venice), in 1541 and was named Domenikos Theotokopoulos. Details of his early life and training are sketchy, but he probably first studied painting in his native city. Although no works from his first years survive, they were probably painted in the late Byzantine style popular in Crete at the time. Reminiscences of this style are seen in his later work. He was an erudite man, whose taste for classical and contemporaneous literature seems to have developed in his youth.Moreover, an important and mainly pioneering part is played by artists from Ionian islands in the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, who exploit some conquests of the Italian Renaissance and baroque ateliers. As efforts persist with new outsets, preconditions and objectives, Greek artists emerging in the world during the first decades of the 19th century reconnect Greek art with ancient Greek tradition as well as with the quests of the European ateliers, especially those of the Munich School.
Dominikos Theotokopoulos (El Greco)
Having focused their interest, as a matter of course, to portraiture and historical issues, they create works that respond also to the character of their times. So that the great masters of Greek contemporary Art -Lytras, Gyzis, Volanakis- can arise and expand its thematic fields, enrich its morphologic vocabulary and advance beyond their teachers' styles. Those are the artists who prepare the creators that are following and turning towards the quests of other ateliers, especially the French ones.
Hence, during the last decades of the 19th century, with the "fathers" of Greek contemporary art of the 20th century, the creators Konstantinos Parthenis, Konstantinos Maleas and George Bouzianis, Greek contemporary art will proceed to entirely new formulas beyond the quests of foreign mainstreams. Particularly in sculpture, one can distinctly observe the success of our artists who manage to combine excellently ancient Greek tradition with the folk art forms and the European quests.
Thus, during the first decades of the 20th century, Greek contemporary art succeeds to be forwarded to an ample disengagement from foreign influences and offers works that distinguish for their sincerity and their expressive wealth. This is a course that continues more plainly with the creators that are emerging to the world during the years between the two world wars. Those are the creators that go even further. For, now Greek contemporary art not only consolidates its course to that of international art but also has creators who move forward in a personal way towards all directions and virtually brake new grounds, impose new characteristics and shape wonderfully the features of our times. Although it is not possible to refer to certain names now, it is easy to ascertain that those creators are successfully presented in all major art centers around the world, they express personal encounters and collective concerns, they give form to the fears and hopes of today's people. It is a course that persists with artists in painting, sculpture and engraving. Artists that emerge to the world after 1940 and enrich the international plastic art creations with their new formulas.
In the 20th century, Greek art distinguishes for the multiformity of its quests and the wealth of the expressive language, the honesty of its voice and the quality of its formulas. So, it creates works of all mainstreams, traditional, contemporary and experimental, that -beyond anything else, beyond any regional character- express faith in Man and love for freedom, in a convincing way, with esoteric truth.
Giannis Tsarouchis - He is one of the most inspired exponents of this movements. A student of K. Parthenis at the Athens School of Fine Arts, he also studied with F. Kontoglou and D. Pikionis, after which he goes to Paris in 1935, and produces his first major works at the end of the 30’s. The influences of Pompey’s frescoes, Fayoum or Byzantium, Theophilos and Karayozis, Renaissance and also Baroque as well as Matisse of Baroque work together within his art in a unique way, to give us pictures with man at their center. Figures which are sometimes realistic, sometimes idealized sometimes effusively decorated, and always with the unique stamp which makes the works of the great artists who have something important to say, stand out from the rest. These unique features are present in the three works displayed in Municipal Art Gallery, Two Friends (1938), Basketball Player (1949) and the Squadron Leader, created in the period 1950-1951. In all three, what strikes one most is the active role played by the masses of color, which prepare for the frontal treatment of the subject. Together with this, the way in which shapes and forms are set out on the canvas gives it an introverted dimension, in which are described the features of the faces. These, in accordance with the habit of the artist, are male figures rendered with characteristic realism, as can be seen mainly in the latter works. Here, the individual features of the figures are emphasized. The design in based on masses of color, with linear strikes to stress the outline. The resultant form confirms the power of the artist to express his thoughts and his ideological relationship with art itself, together with the inborn feeling and understanding he has for his native country. Tsarouhis does not reject anything out of hand, but uses everything which moves him as part of his work.