PANTAZIS Pericles (1849-1884) “Street Urchin Eating Watermelon”

Street Urchin Eating Watermelon

Pantazis subscribed to and assimilated the innovative views of his time to emerge as an important figure in 19th century painting. Living in Belgium, he was able to condense the artistic issues of modernism, and through his frequent exhibitions in Athens, he could offer his compatriots some contact with the great changes taking place in the European centers. During his stay in Athens from 1880 to early 1881, he painted a series of works that he showed in a benefit exhibition for the Red Cross organized at the Melas Mansion. Among these was the painting titled “Athenian Street Urchin Eating Watermelon,” which belongs to the Averoff Museum. The reference in the title to the city of Athens as well as the characteristic topography of the Plaka district, clearly distinguished by the narrow streets with the steps of Our Lady of Chrysokastriotisa in the background and the ancient column embedded in the wall on the left, leaves no doubt that the painting was made in Athens. This work is exemplary of the painting style in which the human figure is fully merged with the space, since the blinding Mediterranean light acts catalytically, unifying the palette in such a way that it ends up in a virtual monochrome of blues and ochres. At the same time, Pantazis departed from the idealized depiction of the subject, striving to portray not only the child’s facial features but also the mood of the moment – elements one encounters in the art of realist painters.