The Forgotten Guard, Diptych (1956)
Yiannis Tsarouchis (1910-1989)
It’s Greek to me. Tsarouchis was born in Pireaus in 1910. In the 1930s, he lived in Istanbul, Paris and Italy. In the 1960s, he lived and worked in Paris. He is one of Greece’s most important 20th century artists.
Even though he experimented in assorted styles, ranging from Byzantine inspired lives of the saints to pure Modernism, he was mainly influenced by ancient painting, like the murals of Pompeii. This style gave his work a monumental, timeless quality that is quintessentially Hellenic.
Even though he lived in an era when being openly gay was the ultimate taboo, his work is permeated with a hot homoeroticism that can literally take your breath away.
Tsarouchis had a lifelong love of theater and frequently worked as a set and costume designer. In exile in Paris in the 1960s, waiting out the years of military dictatorship in Greece, he designed sets for productions at Milan’s La Scala and London’s Covent Garden. After his return to Greece in the mid-1970s, he designed an acclaimed opera set for Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Cherubini’s Médée at the ancient amphitheater at Epidauros. Opera fans still talk about it to this day.
In 1982, the Yannis Tsarouchis Museum opened in a building that was his former house and studio.
He died in Athens in 1989.
A grand retrospective of his work ran at the new Benaki Museum in Athens in 2010 where his work was much celebrated. He is a sort of hero in Greece. His work is in private collections and major museums around our pretty planet.