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Worldwide Record for Greek Modernist Tsarouchis Painting

Yannis Tsarouchis painting auction
“Mais” (May) is an emblematic piece of work by Yannis Tsarouchis. Credit AMNA

A painting by Yannis Tsarouchis has sold for €475,542 ($510,000) in an Athens auction, setting a worldwide record for the Greek modernist painter’s work.

The guide price for the work, titled “Mais” (May), was €200,000-€300,000.

The work belongs to a series of 12 paintings, one created for each month of the year, that were inspired by the Louis Philippe style and the French Crucifixion images of the 15th century.

A total of 118 paintings and sculptures were featured in the three-day auction in the Zappeion Hall.

Organized by Vergos auctions, the “Greek Art and Sculptures: 19th and 20th-century” auction had sales of €2 million.

“The world record for leading painter Yiannis Tsarouchis, as well as for our house, deservedly places our country on the international map of the secondary art market. Collectors once again showed confidence both in our house and in the value and timelessness of modern Greek art,” said Andreas Vergos, Vergos managing director.

The painting La garde oubliée set record for the works of Yiannis Tsarouchis in 2022. Credit: Bonhams

In 2022 another iconic painting by Greek artist Yiannis Tsarouchis was sold for €441,375 ($460,000) at Bonhams Greek Sale in Paris.

The painting La garde oubliée (The Forgotten Guard) was in the collection of legendary gallerist Alexander Iolas and encompassed the defining elements of the painter’s universe, including the sailor—his signature subject and one of the most celebrated images of 20th-century Greek art.

Tsarouchis painting a product of the Generation of the ’30s

Yiannis Tsarouchis (1910-1989) was one of the leading painters of the Generation of the ‘30s. Another work by Tsarouchis, Épicerie à Mytiline from 1965, sold for €189,375 ($196.000) against an estimate of €80,000 to €120,000.

Known for his striking, colorful depictions of young Greek men, especially sailors, Tsarouchis has created some of the country’s most iconic works of modern art.

His style was both distinctly modern and distinctly Greek and featured elements of ancient Greek art, Byzantine painting, and European modernism.

Utilizing dominant themes and trends found throughout European painting at the time, Tsarouchis injected elements from his own unique perspective as a Greek man in his work, creating an entirely new aesthetic.

As his work contains many homoerotic elements, Tsarouchis has also become an iconic figure in the Greek LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) community despite the fact that the artist could never live openly during his lifetime.

Yannis Tsarouchis’s early life and artistic influences

Yannis Tsarouchis was born to a middle-class family in the Athenian Port of Piraeus in 1910.

His childhood years growing up in his family’s neoclassical home in Piraeus were especially formative on Tsarouchis’ artistic vision even though he moved to Athens with his family in 1927.

The artist himself reflected on the importance of his childhood many years later, saying “I was looking at the sky a lot when I was a small child in Piraeus.”

“I never saw such a sky in any other part of the world, and I’m sensitive enough to see the difference,” Tsarouchis had said. “My first impressions of the sky served as the foundation of my aesthetics and standards. I judge whatever has to do with art according to these standards. Whatever I did is based there, in my childhood memories.”

Living in Athens in the beginning of the twentieth century, Tsarouchis was surrounded by ruins from Greece’s many important historical periods, including the classical, neo-classical, and Byzantine periods, and was thus exposed to the architecture of these time periods.

Related: Yannis Tsarouchis: The Voice of Modern Greek Art

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