George Z Constant

George Z Constant

Greek / American
1892 - 1978


George Z Constant (Giorgos Konstantinopoulos) was born in Arachova in 1892. He lost his parents at the age of four and grew up with his uncles in the monastery of Panagia Eleousis near Patras. In 1910, he immigrated to St. Louis, United States, having already made the decision to study fine arts and, in 1912, he enrolled at the Washington University of St. Louis. With the help of a scholarship he continued his studies at the Art Institute of Chicago from where he graduated in 1918. In the same year, he married the pianist Florence Farwell, took part in a group exhibition at the Arts Club in Chicago and began teaching at the Hull House, a settlement house with rich communal activities in the same city. During the period 1920-1921, he taught at the Dayton Art Institute and then moved to New York. During the years of the recession, Constant got involved in public works and programs of the Works Progress Administration and, in that context, a work of his was included in the exhibition New Horizons of American Art, held in 1936 at the MoMA in New York. As the national tragedy of the American economic collapse was coming to an end, Constant faced the personal drama of his wife's death in 1937. He then married her younger sister, Elisabeth Farwell, whom he also lost a few years later from a chronic heart disease. In 1942, he married the dancer Kalliroi Lekakis, sister of artist Michael and ceramist Katerina Lekakis; it was the first time where he found stability in a family. In 1945, Constant visited for the first time Shinnecock Hills in Long Island, an area which he later chose for his holiday home. Up until the 1950s, a circle of artists of Greek origin who were active in this area and called themselves the “Koumbaroi” (best men) formed around him. His main thematic axis has been man and human relations almost throughout his entire work. Since the mid-1940s, he gradually abandoned tender depictions of female and child figures and began introducing robust forms structured within an irregular grid. The bodies in the tightly hugged men, women, children and animals clusters depicted in his mature work are only chromatically separated, without any space between them, and cover the entire surface of the canvas. As it is evident from the only monograph of his work publish in 1961, Constant's artworks have been in collections of major US museums, such as the Walker art center, the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He participated in numerous group exhibitions in museums and other spaces such as the Art Institute of Chicago (1940, 1941, 1942, 1943, 1946), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (1941, 1942, 1952), the Whitney Museum of American Art (1946, 1948, 1949). He died in Long Island in 1978.