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Greek Masters at Sotheby’s London April 21, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Auctions.

Over 800 paintings have been sold and over 50 world record prices achieved since Sotheby’s held its first Greek Sale in London in 2001.

These successes reflect interest from a global audience and the internationalizing of the Greek market, which is galvanized by the active participation of collectors and institutions around the world. On Thursday, May 10, 2007 Sotheby’s will present the first of its 2007 biannual sales of Greek art at its New Bond Street galleries in London. The sale will include 135 paintings and sculpture, among which are five works by Konstantinos Maleas (1879-1928).

At the beginning of the 20th century, painters such as Maleas, Parthenis and Papaloukas endeavoured to create a genuine and modern form of plein air painting. Using as his models French post-impressionism, Fauvism and Nabis symbolism, Maleas tried to capture the idiosyncrasies of the Greek light and the varying landscapes of his homeland. Often executed outdoors with spatulas on small pasteboard or wooden panels, Maleas’ poetic landscapes feature a supremely gestural approach. Maleas travelled to Naxos in 1920 and it is likely that the work in this sale, Naxos, was painted during this trip (est. £50,000-70,000; €74,000-103,000).

Along the Shore by Michalis Economou (1888-1933), one of three works by the artist included in this sale, is a superb example of Economou’s lyrical and poetic landscapes, showing a characteristic delicate sense of atmosphere conveyed through the use of a restrained palette of earthy tones accentuated by the vibrant blue of the sea and the red sail in the foreground (est. £60,000-80,000; €88,500-118,000). The inherent calmness of the scene is heightened by the reflection of the moon in the tranquil sea. Economou initially went to Paris in 1906 to study architecture, but soon changed his mind and enrolled at the Academie des Beaux-Arts instead. The 20 years during which he lived and worked in France had a profound effect on his oeuvre.

Constantinos Volanakis (1837-1907), ‘the bard of the Greek sea’, was one of the most important figures in marine painting during the 19th century. A member of the Munich school, where he initially studied under Karl von Piloty, Volanakis executed some of his most famous works in the Bavarian capital during his stay there from 1864-1883. Painted in Munich, Pushing out to sea (est. £100,000-150,000; €148,000-221,000) is a typical example of the bold and modern style that Volanakis employed in striving to produce a marine aesthetic capable of enobling the sea, and those who live by it for whom it is the basis of their livelihood. This work is both lyrical and atmospheric in its immediacy and spontaneity of execution. This sale also includes the artist’s Volos Harbour at night, estimated at £80,000-120,000 (€118,000-177,000).

Like his teacher Parthenis, Yannis Moralis (b. 1916) was inspired by the art of Greek antiquity, re-inventing it, using a new idiom. However, unlike Parthenis, whose work is characterized by soft and sweeping contours, Moralis preferred starkly geometric forms, reflecting his lifelong interest in mosaic art which he studied as a student in Paris. Moralis’ abstract works from the late 1970s and early 1980s, of which Figure I (est. £100,000-150,000; €148,000-221,000) is a fine example, show a preoccupation with solid compositional structure and a delicate balance between geometric vocabulary of form and curved lines.

Widely regarded as Greece’s leading expressionist painter, Georgios Bouzianis (1885-1959) was deeply influenced by the avant-garde currents with which he came into contact while in Munich from 1907-1934. Whilst in Germany, Bouzianis became associated with the two groups of Expressionist painters Die Brücke, which counted among its members Kirchner, Schmitt-Rottluff, Pechstein and Nolde, and Der blaue Reiter, led by Kandinsky and Franz Marc. Commissioned by Bouzianis’ patron and agent Heinrich Barchfeld, Vater mit Söhnen (Father and Sons) was painted at the height of the artist’s Munich period, cut short by the rise of the Nazis in the early 1930s, and epitomizes Bouzianis’ preoccupation with colour over form. It is estimated at £100,000-150,000 (€148,000-221,000).

Together with Parthenis and Maleas, Nikolaos Lytras (1883-1927) is considered to be a pioneer of 20th-century Greek painting. Like many of his contemporaries, he studied at the Munich academy under Ludwig von Löfftz and Karl von Piloty. The son of Munich master Nikiforos Lytras, Nikolaos Lytras created an aesthetic bridge between romanticism and modernism in Greek painting. In 1914 Lytras took part in a group exhibition with Gerassimos Dialismas in Corfu. Portrait of the Painter Gerassimos Dialismas (est. £30,000-50,000; €44,200-74,000) was most likely painted prior to that exhibition circa 1905-1910. The sale includes a further two works by the artist, including a charming seascape and a landscape study.

This year’s Greek sale will also include works by Theodoros Vyrzakis, Constantinos Parthenis, Nikolaos Gysis, Nikiforos Lytras, Pericles Pantazis, Polychronis Lembessis, Nicholaos Vokos, Alecos Fassianos, Vlassis Caniaris, Alexis Akrithakis, Pavlos, Nikos Nikolaou, Theodoros Stamos among others as well as ten works by Nikos Kessanlis.

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