Private Collection, Paris
Boats in a Port is an exceptional example of Ghika's early work, painted in the late 1920s following his vastly successful first solo show in Paris. This image of a French port exhibits a confidence and verve surely inspired by Ghika's recent commercial triumph, through the strength of the palette and the simplified forms. Ghika's work was ground-breaking in the context of a national Greek art – the present work demonstrates early efforts to overturn pictorial conventions and defy the teachings of the Munich School.
Having studied briefly at the Académie Ranson in Paris, Ghika threw himself head-first into the Parisian art milieu, visiting museums, sitting in cafés, making friends with Picasso, Arp and Braque and acquiring his own studio. The aesthetics and spatial treatment of the Post-Impressionists and Cubists had a great impact on Ghika's painting. The influence of Cézanne's treatment of landscape is evident within Ghika's fractured planes of cool blues and greens, and Braque's in Ghika's spatial awareness in depicting multiple angles simultaneously. In the present work, loose structures are tightening and a simultaneous perspective is introduced, a method of depiction that would set the aesthetic tone for Ghika's later works.
Boats in a Port marks an important contribution to European art that would be a jumping-off point for Ghika's later Greek landscapes. Ghika's impressive oeuvre typifies the Greek early twentieth century preoccupation with creating pictorial languages at once international and quintessentially Greek. Indeed, as Fani-Maria Tsigakou has pointed out, Ghika's ''geometrical spaces (...) are often imbued with metaphysical significance. In his open-air scenes he stresses the Greekness of nature by alluding to classical and oriental pictorial traditions. In his sparklingly coloured and carefully composed landscapes he not only managed to capture the dazzling Mediterranean light, but also introduced a modernist spirit into viewing the classic Greek landscape.'' (Fani-Maria Tsigakou, Nikos Hadjikyriacos-Ghika, Grove Art Dictionary). Boats in a Port's distortion of a landscape into decorative and visually-satisfying planes of abstraction is the finest example of the exercises undertaken by a young Ghika to arrive at his eventual destination: the modern expression of Greekness.
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