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Famous painting lost for decades featured at Bonhams Greek Sale
The Boat was painted in Paris in 1931 following the artist’s journeys to Northern Italy in the early 1930s. Photo: Bonhams.

LONDON.- A painting by the famous Greek artist Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika that was lost for several decades has resurfaced at Bonhams sale of Greek art at 101 New Bond Street London on 26 November. It is estimated at £80,000-100,000.

The Boat was painted in Paris in 1931 following the artist’s journeys to Northern Italy in the early 1930s. It was among the seven works by Ghika accepted for the Salon des Superintendents in Paris in 1931, five of which have now disappeared.

Ghika had lived in Paris since the mid 1920s absorbing the influences of Matisse Braque and Leger but his Italian travels lent new serenity to his work. The architect Le Corbusier was so impressed with the formal purity of his style that he bought one of the paintings from this period which now hangs in Le Corbusier Foundation in Paris.

Echoes of this breakthrough can be found in another masterpiece by Ghika in the sale painted over 30 years later in 1964. City on a Hill (£120,000-150,000) is one of a series of works from the first half of the 1960s where Ghika turned to depictions of imaginary towns verging on metaphysical abstraction.

His style, very similar to the Synthetic Cubism found in works by Picasso and Braque, highlights the usage of geometric forms and juxtapositions of light and colour, combined with elements of nature and landscape. City on a Hill portrays a vivacious and luminous landscape represented by a colourful maze of shapes ruled by a severe and at the same time harmonious geometry. In his quest for Greekness Ghika created his own visual universe and established a personal artistic language that was inseparably linked to the luminosity and radiance of the Mediterranean light and landscapes of Greece.

In Fishing place by a lagoon (£80,000-100,000), painted in 1977 and included in his London one man show the following year, Ghika draws on the laws of Byzantine perspective to depict a traditional fishing village, the boats and buildings unfolding vertically rather than receding in deep space. The work also alludes to the world of oriental calligraphy with its tender convolutions and fragile gestures reflecting the continuing influence of Ghika’s visit to Japan in the last 1950s.

Another landscape by Ghika in the sale, Small garden landscape, from 1959 (£40,000-60,000) features one of the artist’s signature subjects – the crooked stone walls so characteristic of Greek terrain. Across twisted diagonals and tangled verticals fall the shapes of plants and trees: acanthuses, thistles, thorns and asphodels; and, above all, candelabra-like fig trees, which, sporadic and independent, seem to thrive on the rugged terrain. In Ghika’s own words, "I tried to evoke the whispering of leaves, the buzz of insects, the movements of tree branches, the breathing of the juices, the swirling of petals.”

Two bold canvasses by an artist of an earlier generation, Nikolaos Lytras, continue the theme of landscape. Ploughed Field – Tinos (£40,000-60,000) and The Meadow (Tinos) (£50,000 -70,000) depict the countryside of his native island of Tinos in the Cyclades. The Meadow is regarded as among his finest works and was described by the curator of the artist’s major retrospective in The Athens National Gallery in 2008 as “one of Lytras’s best landscapes of Tinos.”

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