Details & Cataloguing

The Greek Sale


Yannis Moralis
1916 - 2009

signed, inscribed and dated 1988 lower left; signed, inscribed and dated 1988 on the reverse

acrylic on canvas
195 by 130cm., 76¾ by 51in.
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Zoumboulakis Gallery, Athens


Yannis Mbolis, Yannis Moralis, Athens, 2005, p. 106, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Painted in 1988, this monumental, harmonious and deeply poetic work shows Moralis at the height of his powers. As Maria Katsanaki has written of the artist's oeuvre, 'his creative work, both in its realistic and geometric stage, is first and foremost anthropocentric, with Eros and Thanatos its axes' (Maria Katsanaki, in Four Centuries of Greek Painting, p. 671). It is predominately Eros which characterises Moralis' works of the period, the present work particularly suggestive, despite the full geometric abstraction of the figures.

The tension between suggestiveness and abstraction is a hallmark of Moralis' mature work, as Kyriakos Koutsomallis has observed: '1976 marks the beginning of a period devoted exclusively to geometric abstraction. Forms now become wholly immaterial, dissolving into pure schemata. Their monumental character does not reduce their sensuality. On the contrary, eroticism acquires its transcendental expression. In no way does their sensual robustness - only vaguely reminiscent of nude human figures - take anything away from their graceful tenderness, lyrical quality and richness' (Kyriakos Koutsomallis, 'The Painting of Yannis Moralis, A Tentative Approach', in Y. Moralis, Traces (exh. cat.), Museum of Contemporary Art of the Basil and Elise Goulandris Foundation, Andros, 2008, pp. 18-19.

The thread of continuity weaving through Moralis' oeuvre is his preoccupation with the human form, and notably the female form. As Dimitris Papastamos has pointed out, 'In his work, which is based on a homogenous style, the connecting link between one picture and another is the human body, the female body, depicted with an ample, well-rounded figure reflecting the physical type of his various models. This type, for which he always showed a penchant from boyhood on, is as much a hallmark of Moralis' work as the sailor (...) is to Tsarouchis, or the building labourer to Diamandopoulos. And even though it fades out to some extent after 1950, it was always present deep down in the artist's mind: the memory of woman's physical form remained with him forever, and his aesthetic and moral ideal is embodied in that type in all his work, right down to his latest pictures in the style of abstract Geometrism. (...) From the curvaceous lines of his nudes in the 1940s his attention gradually shifted to the limbs. Whereas the figures in his earlier works had given hardly a hint of mobility, from now on the movements flow from every joint (...). The power that is present in these bodies is no longer that of sensuality and eroticism but that of dynamic equilibrium and a feeling of life.' (Commercial Bank of Greece ed., Yannis Moralis, Athens, 1988, p. 21). While Moralis used a variety of techniques in his attempt to capture the essence of womanhood, he increasingly eliminated the body's material substance in his works, sometimes accentuating outlines and producing an effect of flatness, sometimes modelling three-dimensional figures in a more naturalistic manner.

The origins of Moralis's abstract works, of which Erotic is a fine example, lie in the portraits he painted during the German occupation (1941-44), which were characterised by a restricted palette, an opposition of light and shadow, and a concern for the flattening of form and space. After 1970 Moralis produced works containing completely schematic presences. His preoccupation with compositional structure and colour relationships is paramount in Erotic, which has both a delicate formal balance between its light and dark forms and a chromatic harmony overall.

The Greek Sale