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Major Work by Constantinos Volanakis to Highlight Sotheby's Greek Sale in May
Konstantinos Maleas, Olive Trees, Mytilini. Oil on canvas. Estimate £80,000-120,000. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Sotheby’s Greek Sale, on Monday, 9 May, 2011, will draw together an exceptional array of Greek art, with important examples of 19th and 20th-century masters such as Constantinos Volanakis, Konstantinos Maleas, and Nicos Hadjikiriakos-Ghika. The sale of 132 lots is estimated to fetch in excess of £4 million.

Speaking about the sale, Constantine Frangos, Senior Director, Greek and 19th Century European Paintings, Sotheby’s, London, commented, “We are very pleased to be offering once again a selection of high quality Greek paintings to an international audience. We expect the Volanakis to attract much attention and we look forward to welcoming collectors from Greece, Europe as well as the rest of the world.”

The sale will be highlighted by Elegant Figures At The Shore by Constantinos Volanakis (1837-1907), estimated at £300,000-500,000. In this monumental panorama, Volanakis deploys all of his painterly talents to present the viewer with a wealth of detail, from the rich tones of the lower left to the delicately observed playing children. This work is a prime example of Volanakis’ sensitive depiction of atmospheric conditions and natural elements within the cadre of the traditional marine painting. The painting is infused with delicate detail, complementing while not overwhelming the calm, growing ambiance for which Volanakis’ work is renowned, revealing impressionist, plein air tendencies stylistically advanced for Greece at this time. Volanakis is an artist of great importance in both the 19th century and marine genre, most notably for his position as a key member of the Greek ‘Munich School’ movement of academic realism, almost belying the warmth and immediacy of his seascapes. The sale will also include four more masterpieces by Volanakis.

Further highlights include masterpieces by Konstantinos Maleas (1879-1928). His Olive Trees, Mytilini, carries an estimate of £80,000-120,000. At the beginning of the 20th century, painters such as Maleas, Parthenis and Papaloukas endeavored to create a genuine and modern form of plein air painting. Using as his models French Post-Impressionism, Fauvism and Nabis Symbolism, Maleas tried to capture the ideosyncracies of the Greek light and the varying landscapes of his homeland. Often executed outdoors with spatulas on small pasteboard or wooden panels, Maleas' poetic landscapes feature a supremely gestural approach. Maleas travelled to Mytilini in the 1920s and it is likely the present work was painted during one of these trips.

Maleas’ The Shore, Attica, estimated at £70,000-100,000, belongs to a series of paintings by the artist entitled Attica's Shores. Influenced by the Post Impressionist movements of the early 20th century, Maleas' work is dominated by vibrant colours and thick brushstrokes. His technique of applying paint in layers was influenced by his teacher Henri Martin under whom he studied in Paris from 1901 to 1908. Maleas' pivotal importance in Greek painting is ascribed to the assimilation of Pont Aven symbolism; the arabesque line and flattened space of art nouveau, and the rich colouring of the Fauves. Often executed en plein air with spatulas, Maleas' poetic landscapes represent a supremely gestural approach that displaces the painted with the painting as the artist's priority.

Estimated at £100,000-150,000, Nicos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika's impressive Flowers, dated 1937, typifies the Greek early twentieth century preoccupation with creating pictorial languages at once international and quintessentially Greek. Beginning and ending his life in Greece, Nikos Hadjikiriakos-Ghika began his artistic scholarship under Konstantinos Parthenis in Athens, relocating to Paris to enrol at the Sorbonne, the Ranson Academy and the studio of Dimitris Galanis. This erudite, well-travelled and sophisticated background would nourish a hungry mind, open to the concept of an analytic and mathematical form of modernism. The sale will include seven more exceptional works by Hadjikyriakos-Ghika.

The House That He Dreams Of (Hydra) by Michalis Economou (1888-1933), is a rich work which demonstrates Economou's talents as a colourist and observer of light, with the intense and variegated orange and yellow hues sensitively combined with pinks and blues, the whole reflected in the calm waters (estimate £100,000-150,000). The whole shimmers, mirage-like, at the foot of the soft, earthy hill. Economou initially went to Paris in 1906 to study architecture, but soon changed his mind and enrolled at the Académie des Beaux-Arts instead. The twenty years during which he lived and worked in France had a profound influence on his oeuvre. In particular the work of Manet and Matisse and their modern theories on composition and colour were adapted by the artist to suit his individual artistic vision.

Other highlights will also include important works by Nicolas Gysis, Yiannis Gaitis, Paris Prekas, Thanos Tsingos, Theofilos, Yiannis Spyropoulos, Alekos Kontopoulos, Nikos Eggonopoulos, Diamantis Diamantopoulos and Alekos Fassianos .

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