Seaman's family, 1930-1940
Emmanouil Zaïris, a pupil of Nikolaos Ghyzis in Munich, where he settled and remained until 1932, in spite of his academic training, turned at an early stage towards the progressive principles of the painting of the early decades of the twentieth century, as those took shape in the Bavarian capital, with the rendering of the visual image by the use of broad brush-strokes of thick paint. In spite of the fact that Zaïris retained the heavy, dark colour of the Academy, he accepted the power of expression which Expressionism established for the conveying of subjective truth and emotions. He selected from his model in nature whatever corresponded to his own inner life, which was none other than a love for mankind and his daily toil. Apart from portraits, he was involved particularly in the depiction of human labour and the struggle for survival. Even the most lowly job acquired sanctity in his hands and the human figure is established through the dynamic intervention of colour and its dominance as a means of expression.
In Seaman's Family, a scene of departure or return of a sailor who spends long periods away from home is depicted. The people in the composition are modelled by broad, thick brush-strokes which activate the space and define the human figure as an imposing shape which takes on the form of a sculptured mass. Painting 'into the light', in which the sharp contrast of shaded and bright surfaces, with the stressing of the outlines at points on which the light falls, contributes considerably to this. The areas in the shade are shown in dull colours, and so the figures stand out in all the physical mass and stability which the diffuse natural light lends them.