Famous Greeks [10]: Yannis Tsarouchis

more than a year ago
Yannis Tsarouchis 1910 - 1989

Widely-regarded as one of the most important 20th Century Greek painters, Yannis Tsarouchis followed two main approaches to his artistic career; the incorporation of the ancient Greek ideal as expressed by the Renaissance and the Baroque movements, and simultaneously rejecting these ideals. In doing so, he played a pivotal role in portraying and shaping Modern Greek identity, alongside contemporaries such as Yannis Moralis and Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghykas, all members of the Armos art group, established in 1949.

Born in Piraeus, young Tsarouchis went to study at the Athens School of Fine Art in 1929 and graduated in 1935. In paralel with his studies, he attended the studio of prominent Greek modernist, Photis Kontoglou, one of the first artists advocating the inclusion of Greek traditions into painting. It was with Kontoglou that Tsarouchis learnt about Byzantine iconography, popular architecture and dressing customs. After graduating, he travelled to Istanbul, Paris and Italy where he was exposed to the artistic movements of Europe. During this time, he also met with a number of prominent contemporaries, including Henri Matisse, Edouard Manet and Alberto Giacometti.

Returning to a war-torn Greece in 1936, Tsarouchis put his artistic career on hold to become a soldier in the Greco-Italian war in 1940. Greatly influenced by Greece and Europe before and after the Second World War, it can be said that Tsarouchis was not only a humanist, but a truly intellectual painter. Adopting styles and techniques from movements he was drawn to, such as Impressionism, Tsarouchis created a truly distinctive style. With constant references to Greece’s past and present - from ancient sculpture to folk art - Tsarouchis reflected on the complexities of Greece’s identity during his lifetime with equal amounts of tragedy, beauty, humour and wit.


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