Thanassis Tsingos

Thanassis Tsingos

1914 - 1965


Thanassis Tsingos was born in Elefsina in 1914. From 1931 to 1936, he studied architecture at the National Technical University of Athens and, until 1939, he worked as an architect. During World War II, he served in the Greek army initially in Macedonia and then in the Middle East, where he was imprisoned and sentenced to death in Cairo for his involvement in the “April movement”. Eventually, with the Treaty of Lebanon, his sentence was converted to life imprisonment and Tsingos was transferred to the prison of Gebeit in Sudan. There, he spent two years during which he gave drawing lessons and wrote poems and plays, until the Middle East issue was settled and he was eventually released. In 1947, he worked as an architect in Brazil, having been recommended by Le Corbusier, alongside Oscar Niemeyer, Lúcio Costa and Palumbo who produced designs of the new capital city of Brasilia. In the same year, he worked on the planning of Saint-Cloud in Paris, alongside Le Corbusier. In 1948, he permanently settled in Paris and met his future wife Christina Mavroidi, an actress and theater director. For the following four years, he devoted himself to theater and painting, and worked as a stage and costume designer for the small theater he founded with his wife, presenting plays by Jean Cocteau, George Bernard Shaw, August Strindberg and others. This is when he came in contact with personalities such as Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Jacques Prévert and Jean-Paul Sartre. His first exhibition was held at the Galerie du Siècle in Paris in 1950. In 1953, after his separation with Christina, he retired from the theater and held a solo show at the Studio Facchetti in Paris with paintings depicting strange abstract formations and explosions shaped with his fingers; the catalog’s preface was written by Charles Estienne. The unconventional and frantic life he was living in Paris was linked to the emotional immediacy of his work and did not affect his endless productivity. In 1954, he participated in the Salon des Réalités Nouvelles and, in 1955, he had a solo exhibition at the Klemper gallery. The artworks on display where then acquired by the Kunstmuseum Bern. His compositions, neither entirely figurative nor entirely abstract, depict forests, craters, fantastic animals and seabeds. He then developed his gestural vocabulary and embossed technique by painting his first flowers on which he focused for the next 6 years. Since then, he started producing monochrome paintings, trying out unrealistic color combinations and putting more emphasis on the spontaneous handling of the thick paste on the canvas, creating suggestive images of his themes. In 1956, he exhibited at the then newly established Iris Clert Gallery  in Paris along with artists such as Yannis Gaitis, Pablo Picasso, Max Ernst and Jean Fautrier and, in 1959, he exhibited at Gallery 65 in Cannes. During the same period, his paintings were acquired by collectors in Europe, America and Canada, while galleries such as Tooth & Son, Hannover and Gallery One constantly promoted his work. In 1961, he returned to Athens and exhibited at the Club of Elefsina’s Educational and Cultural Association, at the Architecture Hall (Galerie of the permanent exhibition of building and decoration materials) in Athens and in Mykonos. Then, he started a new series of projects with boats, ports and cruises. In 1961, he created the work Hiroshima, a politicized allegory of the Middle East state of war. He later produced pieces depicting human figures and still life with fruits, tree seeds and shellfish. In 1962, while in Milan, his health began to deteriorate due to excessive alcohol consumption. His last solo exhibition was held at the Zygos Gallery of Athens in 1963. He died of liver cirrhosis in Athens in 1965. His retrospective exhibition was organized at the Architectural Technological Institute of Athens the same year. Despite the fact that during his stay abroad the exuberance and vitality of his work received widespread recognition, during his lifetime he was one of the most underrated painters in Greece. After his death, many of his exhibitions in Greece took place. Retrospective exhibitions have been held by the National Gallery – Alexandros Soutsos Museum (1980) in Athens, the Centre Pompidou (1980) in Paris, and the Cultural Center of the Municipality of Elefsina (2005).