Yannis Tsarouchis

Tsarouchis Yannis
© Contemporary Greek Art Institute Archives

Born in Piraeus in 1910 and died in Athens 1989. Studied at the Athens Academy of Fine Arts (1928-1933) under Vikatos and Parthenis. He was initiated into Byzantine art by Kontoglou (1931-1934), and also got to know the work of Theofilos. He travelled in the interwar period to Izmir, Istanbul and Paris, where he became familiar with Impressionism, Cubism and Surrealism. He returned to Greece 1940 and fought on the Albanian front. He was a founding member of the Armos group. He worked with the Iolas Gallery in New York (1953-1957) and lived in Paris during 1967-1980. In 1982 he showed his personal collection, donating it to the Foundation bearing his name, which is housed in his home in Maroussi. Took part in numerous group exhibitions and international events, including the Venice Biennale (1958, with Yannis Moralis and Antonis Sohos). Designed stage sets and costumes for the Greek National Theatre, the Greek Art Theatre Karolos Koun, La Scala in Milan, the Dallas Opera, the Olimpico Theatre in Vicenza, and Covent Garden in London; and designed sets and costumes for films by Jules Dassin and Michael Cacoyannis. Also, he turned his attention to weaving, winning a prize for a carpet design in 1931. He wrote numerous articles for newspapers and periodicals (which have been published in book form) and illustrated a number of books (collections of poetry by Seferis, Elytis and others). In 1981 he founded in his home in Maroussi, Athens, the Yannis Tsarouchis Foundation, which operated from the following year as the Yannis Tsarouchis Museum.


Solo Exhibitions


I was and I remained a scholar and a student Yannis Tsarouchis Foundation Athens


Yannis Tsarouchis: Illustrating an Autobiography (Part Β) Benaki Museum – Pireos Str. Building (138 Pireos St.) Athens


Yannis Tsarouchis: Illustrating an Autobiography (Part Α) Benaki Museum – Pireos Str. Building (138 Pireos St.) Athens


Yannis Tsarouchis: Studies for 17 Themes Benaki Museum – Pireos Str. Building (138 Pireos St.) Athens


Yannis Tsarouchis 1910-1989 Retrospective exhibition Benaki Museum – Pireos Str. Building (138 Pireos St.) Athens


Courses Yannis Tsarouchis Museum Maroussi


Studies and Variations Yannis Tsarouchis Museum Maroussi


Painting and Theatre – Parallel Routes Yannis Tsarouchis Museum Maroussi


Yannis Tsarouchis. Between East and West: Selections from the Collection of the Y. Tsarouchis Foundation former Fix Brewery Athens (curated by Anna Kafetsi)


Museum of Cycladic Art Athens


Zeibekika Zoumboulakis Galleries Athens


Retrospective exhibition Yannis Tsarouchis, 1928-1981 Retrospective exhibition Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki Thessaloniki (curated by Alexandros Xydis, organised by the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art [MOMus – Museum of Contemporary Art])


The Months and the Seasons Athens Art Gallery Athens


FIAC Grand Palais Paris (Galleria Il Gabbiano)


Zygos Gallery Athens


Galleria Forni Bologna


Galleria Il Gabbiano Rome


Zoumboulakis Galleries Athens


Retrospective exhibition Astor Gallery Athens


Merlin Gallery Athens


Mezikis Grocery Store Athens


Zoumboulakis Galleries Athens


Payne Gallery Athens


Retrospective exhibition British Council Athens


Redfern Gallery London


Galerie d’Art du Faubourg Paris


Romvos Gallery Athens


Th. Alexopoulos shop Athens


The Triumph of Sensual Painting

In confronting the work of Yannis Tsarouchis, one has the immediate impression of regarding that which might be called Greek painting par excellence, more than if he were examining the work of any other Greek painter, with the single exception perhaps of Theofilos Hadjimichael.

The ‘Greekness’ of Tsarouchis’ work is truly remarkable. It would, however, be entirely wrong to say that his work is nationalistic in character, or to judge it by the criteria of relativity, the limits of which usually embrace only the periphery of Greek painting. Because Tsarouchis is not simply an artist who is known in his homeland as being exceptional, but is one of the few Greeks who have talent plus quality and originality, we classify him among those outstanding stars of painting, who with exquisite brilliance illuminate the world of art and are recognized everywhere.

One of the most characteristic, and most distinguishing elements of his art is the quality of truth, and the complete absence of rhetorical pomposity and melodramatic overemphasis. Truth in the work of Tsarouchis is completely objective and organic, even though the emotion that urged its projection is always fundamentally subjective in nature. It is truth distilled and explosive like thunder, uninfluenced by any sort of dogmatism, either that of a school or of an accepted morality or aestethic. This fundamental independence is so apparent that even the most ‘clothed’ image in the paintings of this artist appears to be completely naked. His is a truth that is not slow in fermenting thought and intellectuality, but rather one that is immediately discernible and apparent to the senses, that is manifest because of the basic integrity of the artist, and that terminates in an enchantment which remains a perfect stranger to every shadow of romanticism, duplicity, or facileness.

Another prime, and I might add, profoundly moving characteristic in the work of Tsarouchis is to be found in the dynamic beauty of his colours. I should indeed say that they exist within the artist as a delight a priori – that is to say, before the colours themselves are applied to the canvas, even before they assume the form of beauty in the finished work. Pulsing and vibrant like waves emanating from a transmitter of great range, shooting out radiant rays with shinning brilliance and power, they seem to excite one even prior to the consideration of the image itself, as pure matter that vigorously excites the aesthetic senses. Regardless of these sensual elements in the components of Tsarouchis’s colours, there exists as well an intellectuality and, I might add, a lyrical volatility that one finds seldom if ever in other artists. This quality constitutes, furthermore, his distinctive characteristic, and is found to such a degree in his work that, even there where one might exclude the possibility of any spirituality, the art lover will find it always interwoven with the palpitating hedonism of his colors and in such great unity that matter and spirit, color and voluptuousness form in the end a unique and indivisible element, essential and primordial.

A third characteristic in the work of Tsarouchis is to be found in the perfect harmony of his colours, a harmony almost imperative and not so much of his mind as of his temperament, a condition sine qua non of his instinct. Without this plenitude Tsarouchis could find no satisfaction even if, from some other point of view, his paintings were to be considered beautiful and splendid by artists and art lovers.

Morphologically speaking, the work of Tsarouchis has its foundation in the commonplace. On this is based and unfolds itself. However what is the nature or this commonplace?

Certainly not the daily banal routine. Neither is it the typical fawning and fundamentally weak description of mores, nor is it based on the pseudopoetic picturesque. The commonplace in Tsarouchis’s work is the phenomenon of organic nature that confronts equally both the ordinary as well as the distinguished and the eclectic man. It is from common clay that one kneads the most humble, small objects as well as finely worked sculpture. One and the same laboured and inspired matter, found everywhere by the artist as by the photographer, from within the mass of visible elements, is capable of being given value and individualized into a concrete object, according to the manner that produces in the end, independent, of the theme, an autonomous and abundant world. In his work, Tsarouchis neither pursues nor aims at naked realism, whether civic, proletarian, or naturalistic restaging. Never! Rather the opposite; from the same material out of which others create dry forms and cheap decorations that never surpass conventionality, Yannis Tsarouchis composes symphonies of colour that reach their climax in small or large compositions, that have the agitating vibrancy of an oratorio and the glittering enchantment of legend drawn from the artist’s own mythological world – all of this within the most glaring brilliance of midday luminosity, within the most orgiastic glory of Greek light.

It is thus that the paintings of Tsarouchis, at first glance so realistic, constitute, in the end, by means of their very commonplace immediacy, neither simply a copy of nature nor of men, but a classic achievement, one that equates itself with a perfect mystery entwining within itself the liveliest stimulating sensations, intellectual elevation, and the clarity of a powerful and conscious intellect. His paintings evoke a mystery beyond ‘artistic’ literature, beyond all types of hidden whisperings emanating from the dark backstage of criticism and aesthetics.


Andreas Embiricos

* From “Zygos” magazine, iss. 72-75, November 1961-February 1962, pp. 11-12 (English translation by Nikos Stavroudakis, published in “Greek Heritage: The American Quarterly of Greek Culture”, Spring 1964, Vol. 1 no. 2, pp. 92-93.