Collection's title

The battle of Farsala, before 1901

The battle of Farsala, before 1901
The battle of Farsala, before 1901
Roïlos, Georgios
(Athens 1867 - Athens 1928)
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Oil on canvas

The Battle of Pharsala and two other works by Roïlos, Gentzelia and Deleria, make up a trilogy characteristic of this kind of historiography. Painting inspired by the classical ideal of the Greco-Roman era ceased to attract the attention of the public, who, because of the awakening of national consciousness and the search for supporting documentation for its own history, gained more satisfaction from modern wartime events and the remorselessness - so close to it - of the fearful reality of conflicts in the field of battle. Artists demythologised warriors, treating them as ordinary people rather than battling heroes, and turned their attention to the common soldier who shouldered the burden of battle and underwent the hardships of war. These historical compositions, which record in detail the sufferings of simple people, were produced by artists who were themselves in the vortex of war. Sometimes as observers and sometimes as fighting men, they recorded events as eye-witnesses, and made this 'reportage' painting a document of real happenings, playing the role which is today occupied by photography, journalistic reporting, or television. Roïlos, who took part as a private soldier in this war, did not content himself with innumerable sketches from battlefields which he carried with him. In order to render the exact and recognisable characteristics of the Crown Prince and the staff officers, he asked them to attend his studio and to pose. He even spent months in the military stables, drawing and fixing the movements of horses. In The Battle of Pharsala, the panoramic view of the field of battle, the large number of figures arranged in groups, the narrative character of the work, the emphasis on movement by which the artist attempts to capture the action and the flaring-up of the conflict are features which give expression both to dynamism and truth. The picture is organised in parallel zones: it brings the wounded into the foreground, in the background the battle rages, while in between the Crown Prince moves with his staff. More than half the picture is devoted to the depiction of the sky, with the contrasts of blue and ochre, while the vigorous nature of the colour on the bright green of the plain and on the grass which is disturbed by the intensity of the battle add naturalness and vibrancy to the work. A painter with many interests and a wealth of subject-matter, Roïlos, in spite of his academic training, concerned himself with the depiction of landscape in the early twentieth century, as did most Greek artists. His many visits to Europe broadened his horizons, with the result that he arrived at a sui generis exploration of nature characterised by a boldness in the use of colour and an approach to composition which bring him close to the post-Impressionist trends of his time, as well as to Expressionist endeavours.