Street Market, one of Panayiotis Tetsis’ most popular works, is an excellent example of the artist’s rich painterly language and formal explorations. Tetsis, charmed by the challenge of painting the open-air market which took place every Friday outside his studio on Xenokratous Street, embarked on a study, through drawings and sketches, which after almost four years, in 1982, led the painter to the realisation of a monumental series of works with a total length of 58 metres.
The diptych presented here is but a small section of this frieze, in which Tetsis, with great directorial mastery, managed to depict the chaotic crowds in a truly colourful extravaganza, while the almost life-size figures become the main protagonists, inviting us all to participate in this social commotion.
Panayiotis Tetsis was born in 1925 on the island of Hydra, where he spent his childhood before moving with his family to Piraeus in 1937. He spent the summers painting on Hydra and, aged only 14, acquired his first admirers, namely Dimitris Pikionis, Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghika and the German painter Klaus Frieslander, who played an important role in his evolution as an artist. He studied at the ASFA with Constantinos Parthenis and continued his studies on a scholarship in Paris.
He had already conquered the simplicity of drawing, organised composition and geometry from a young age, but never ceased to exercise his gaze in order to depict what he saw in his art. He was not interested in what cannot be seen. He sought his personal path through a painting tradition which began with the 16th century Venetians, through El Greco, Rubens and Delacroix to Matisse, Bonnard and Rothko. He was not ignorant of the movements current in Europe and America at the time, but insisted on serving the painting of the gaze. He returned to Greece in 1956 and was confronted, once again, by the Greek light, which, as he ascertained, “democratically flattened” the tones he so admired in the French Impressionist and post-Impressionist painters. Nevertheless, he persevered and, given his stubbornness, managed to translate the permeating Greek light into a unique pallet, so dynamic it vindicates the painter.