I have selected Nikolaos Lytras, the son of Nikiforos Lytras as the artist who portrayed “Light House” in ca. 1923 – 1927.
One of the prominent reasons for my selecting this work of art is because it captures the Mediterranean ‘light’. My first viewing of the painting was in fact in the classroom, on slide, but even so, I felt a sense of spirit within the composition as a whole.
The difference between viewing a work of art in its physical form and that of a photo print can be rather miraculous. For instance, when viewing the painting “Light House” by Nikolaos Lytras, as per the photo print, followed by a reality visit to the Alexandros Souzos National Gallery in Athens: a greater aesthetic response is certainly triggered.
Lytras renders a representation of a seascape towards abstraction, yet he still manages to stay faithful to nature and its environment. He has the ability to economize his use of color without losing its extrinsic value, thus serving as a means of expression. Its’ mustard yellow ochre’s in the background fulfills the idea of a foothill of a mountain breaching its shore. A cobalt-blue sea plane complements the earthly elements with its embrace in a deeper blue-black division creating depth through color.
Equally powerful is the foreground. It is as if we have taken a walk on a Greek coastline and have just reached the edge of the rocks – stumbling across a familiar view – that of a hot summers’ day stroll in the Cyclades. The opaque whiteness of the outcropping rocks is rendered as if it were the moment of direct sunlight hitting the rock, which accentuates the jagged and stark contrasts of light and shade between the crevices.
The diagonal pier running into the sea, acts as the dividing axis to the painting with the hint of its subject matter, being the light house towards the edge. Although toned with a blotch of red, our eye tends to jump to the cubed white building adjacent to its plane. Possibly a Cycladic home or church isolated from the nearby villages of the island.
What gives the painting greater value in all respects, is its material presents – not just in its canvas form, but within itself revealing the style of the artist. The theoretical descriptions are somehow subjugated with the artists flowing hand of the brush. We can sense the meltemi winds blowing across the surface of the cobalt blue rapids through its texture, not in the rendering of line, but in the movement of his brushstroke with paste. The same pertains to the rendering of the hills, rocks and crevices, as they appear juxtaposed, not just in color, but once again in the hand of the creator which offers volume and mass to our belief.
Further startling, is the size, a mere 52 cm x 42 cm. Even though Lytras is confined to the 2-dimensional canvas, the severe cropping of the horizontal background along with the verticality of the canvas with its flat blue plane – allows for the sea to flow off the canvas allowing for an intrinsic freedom of space. Within these compositional elements of space, we can see the artists artful architectural structuring of the planes of color in living form.
Nikolaos Lytras can be said to have portrayed his Greek cultural identity, and most importantly, capturing a moment in time, a spirit which speaks to us in both mind and spirit. The vibrance in color can really best be viewed in its physical presence. This carries a further essence to the work, a reflection of the light of the Aegean, and most importantly, we can view the work as a whole, in both theoretical and practical terms and thereby are able to synthesize the ‘genius’ within Nikoloas Lytras.
‘Light House’ by Lytras, Nikolaos
By Demetrios Voulgarellis, The American College of Greece, DEREE, Athens, Greece, 02 June 2010.