Yannis Tsarouchis

Yannis Tsarouchis

1910 - 1989


Yannis Tsarouchis was born in Piraeus in 1910. Since the age of 7, he began painting on large sheets of paper with pastels and observing interior decorations of the buildings of which he visited. In 1925, he moved with his parents to Athens and the following year he began working intensively on painting and stage design, while testing his potential in post-Cubist art. In 1927, he met Sotiris Spatharis and attended shadow play shows. In 1928, he began studying at the Athens School of Fine Arts under Dimitrios Biskinis, Dimitrios Geraniotis, Georgios Iakovidis, Konstantinos Parthenis, Thomas Thomopoulos and Yannis Kefallinos. He then enrolled in Spyros Vikatos's painting workshop and simultaneously undertook his first job in theater for the play Princess Maleine by Maurice Maeterlinck, directed by Fotos Politis. In 1929, he learned more about the program of the Lyceum Club of Greek Women and the shop “Folk Arts” that emphasized on creations dealing with traditional subjects. Having the need to study folk applied arts and traditional clothing, he began a tour across Greece. During this period, he reproduced Byzantine painting techniques, initially as a student and assistant to Fotis Kontoglou and then autonomously. In 1934, while his designs, paintings and writing had shifted to surrealist and abstract fields, he visited Istanbul and Izmir where he learned about the culture of the Zeybeks. In 1935, he traveled to Paris, where he stayed for a year to attend engraving classes, he also discovered the work of contemporary European artists together with Laurens, Matisse, Giacometti and the Greek folk artist Theophilos (Kefalas – Hatzimihail). During this time, the multitude of his influences began to emerge as well as a tendency to blend West & East in his works. In 1938, he held his first solo exhibition of his artworks and stage designs from the period 1929 to 1937, in an empty shop in the center of Athens, by courtesy of Theofanis Alexopoulos. During the Occupation of Greece by the Axis Powers, he organized an amateur painting school and worked as a conservator, stage designer and decorator in order to survive. In 1947, he created a series of works on Memorials and, in 1948, he created the painting Seated Sailor and lying nude. In 1949, he became a founding member of the Armos art group, along with Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika, Yannis Moralis, Nicos Engonopoulos and Nikos Nikolaou, among other artists. His first solo exhibition was held at the Galerie d'Art du Faubourg St. Honoré in Paris in 1951. A few months later, the exhibition was presented at the Redfern Gallery in London. In 1952, with the intervention of the police, his work Seated Sailor and lying nude was removed from an exhibition at the Zappeion Megaron exhibition hall in Athens, as it was considered to be offensive to the Greek Army. In 1953, he collaborated with the Alexander Iolas Gallery in New York and produced major works such as the Sailor (winter) with a pink background, the Sacrifice of the Iphigenia, the Forgotten Guard and a series of works depicting Greek cafes. Four years later, he was nominated for the Guggenheim Prize and, in 1958, he represented Greece at the Venice Biennale along with Yannis Moralis and Antonios Sochos. Moreover in 1960, he taught stage design at the Doxiadis School. In 1967, he settled in France, studying French and Dutch painting of the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. A year later, he founded a painting academy in Paris with Lila de Nobili. In 1969, he painted The Four Seasons, a characteristic example of his figurative painting and a forerunner of the allegorical and religious themes that followed. In 1972, he bought a house in Villeneuve-les-Sablons, where he resided. This is where he grew his garden and at the same time painted pieces such as Saint Sebastian in white background (1972) and Twelve Months in a gold background (1973). After the fall of the military Junta in Greece, he mainly worked in Paris but also traveled to Greece, working on the series Zeibekika, which referred to the folk haunts he frequented. Pieces from this series were exhibited for the first time at the Zygos Gallery in Athens in 1978. In 1980, he returned to Greece and the following year he founded the Yannis Tsarouchis Foundation to which he donated all his work. In 1982, the Yannis Tsarouchis Museum was inaugurated at his residence in Marousi. The same year, he participated in Europalia in Brussels. In 1988, he painted the roof of the Rex Theater in Athens and the Museum of Cycladic Art organized an exhibition dedicated to his stage design work. He passed away in Athens in 1989. Yannis Tsarouchis is one of the artists who set forth fragments of modern Greek culture, while experimenting with the color tones and formats that composed his particular expressive style. He often depicted landscapes, shops, still life, paradigms of ancient Greek art and the Renaissance, as well as allegorical forms. His interest in the human form and in particular that of the petit bourgeois and of young men was often characteristic, usually with obvious or concealed references to homoerotic desire. Major retrospective exhibitions have been organized in Athens by the British Council (1952), the Astor Gallery (1966), the Iolas-Zoumboulakis Gallery (1972), the National Museum of Contemporary Art (2000), the Benaki Museum (2009), and in Thessaloniki by the Macedonian Museum of Contemporary Art (1981). Apart from his work in the field of visual arts and his participation in solo and group exhibitions, Yannis Tsarouchis is also well known for his many stage designs. Among his collaborations are: the Kotopouli troupe, the Katerina Andreadi troupe, the Kyriazis Haratsaris Artistic Company, the National Theater of Greece, the Art Theater (Theatro Technis), the Fotopoulos and Lambeti-Horn troupes, the Greek Theater Company (Elliniki Etaireia Theatrou), the Greek Scene (Elliniki Skini), Michael Cacoyannis, Christina Tsigou, Jules Dassin, the Dallas Civic Opera, Vincenzo Bellini, Franco Zeffirelli, Karolos Koun and many others.