Dimitri Hadzi, Centaurs and Lapiths

Dimitri Hadzi

Centaurs and Lapiths

The Greek sculptor Dimitri Hadzi was born in New York in 1921. He studied at Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute, at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and the Art and took painting lessons at Brooklyn Museum Art School. In 1950 he traveled to Greece with the Fulbright scholarship and joined the Sculpture department of the School of Fine Arts. One year later with the assistance of the G. I. Bill program, he settled in Rome continuing his studies at Studio Hinna and the Museo Artistico e Industrial. He remained in Rome for 25 years in total holding exhibitions, utilising scholarships (Guggenheim Foundation 1957), performing important public orders, while maintaining a remarkable international presence (MoMA, Venice Biennale 1956, 1958, 1962, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum). He taught sculpture and engraving at Harvard University since 1975, while in 1983 he was elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in New York. He created sculptures from bronze and various rocks, in expressionist and abstract style, engravings, ceramics and paintings, but also monumental sculptures integrated in architectural and natural environments. He died in 2006 in Boston.

According to Greek mythology, during the marriage of king of Lapiths Peirithos with Hippodameia, the Centaur Evrytionas got drunk and tried to kidnap the bride. The brutal fight that followed between the Centaurs and the Lapithes, is the subject of a series of works that Dimitris Hatzis edited for the first time in 1951. The young sculptor had just settled in Rome, after one year in Greece, where he re-evaluated the classic and archaic sculpture and reconnected with its roots.

Half people and half horses, unruly and aggressive, Centaurs gallop on their front legs grabbing men and women, motivated by violent sexual impulse and bestial desire for enforcement. The energy of the battle is reflected in the complicated movement of the characters, fighting in different directions, giving unexpected aspects on each side of the sculptures.

The fluidity of organic shapes, the extended and sometimes sharp limbs, as well as the skillful integration of the gaps in the composition, create a baroque sense of imbalance. The support of the sculptures is based on the hind legs and the tail of the Centaurs, while their physical nature is highlighted by the management of texture, sometimes smooth and sometimes rough with obvious signs of processing.

These are works with a clear expressionist mood, which strongly attribute the instinctive cruelty with lyrical forms and the intensity of the fight with a sequence of rhythmic movements, almost like dancing. Dimitris Hatzis will explore variations of the same theme on a different scale, almost around the end of ‘50s, when he will turn decisively to abstraction, captivated by the creative freedom of Italian artists and the possibilities of development in Rome’s international artistic environment.

Hellenic Diaspora Foundation has 37 artworks by Dimitris Hatzis, which represent all the different creation periods of the artist and each visual medium that he used. It is a unique collection of artworks in its kind and size, which provides the ability to form an integrated view of sculptor’s work.

Xenia Giannouli
Art Historian