YorgoThe Great Master who added prestige and prominence to American modern art.
Yorgo – 1929
‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’ – that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.
John Keats – 1819
“Ode on a Grecian Urn”
The words of the poet John Keats, echoing through more than 150 years of artistic evolution, have found fresh meaning in the paintings of a remarkable man, Yorgo, - truly one of the world’s greatest masters of visual expression. For Yorgo has accomplished something that Picasso and other front – rank artists of this century have failed almost completely to achieve. Yorgo has managed originality without sacrificing clarity; he has created beauty without distorting reality. He has given the public exactly that truth is beautiful.
“So many artists in this century,” Yorgo points out, “ have gained their fame by distorting reality. The public becomes confused, and the end result is that only a small clique of people are actually please by what they see in these deformed works. But this is wrong. I feel very strongly that it is the firm duty of a true artist to please the majority of the public not just a minority of trend-followers. A great number of our so-called artists today, following their apparently successful leader, Picasso, have clearly lost touch not only with reality but, more importantly, with their public.”
To realize the truth of Yorgo’s words, one need only recall that al of the great masters of ages past have had a virtually unanimous public which stood in strong support of the artists’ accomplishments. From the anonymous Greek artists of 3,000 years ago, in the celebration of whom Keats penned his famous lines about their immortal creations (and to whom we owe the very foundation of our civilization), and on down through the artistic eras that stand as signposts along the development of our culture-the Renaissance age of Michelangelo, the great portrait-painting of the seventeenth century Rembrandt era, the remarkable landscape painters of the eighteenth century, and the nineteenth-century realists who paved the way for famous impressionists at the end of the century. Renoir, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Lautrec, and the others whose names slip so easily off the tongue now, but who, ironically, signaled the beginning of an epoch in which few artists were to earn popular recognition during their lifetimes-throughout all recorded history, in fact, until the onset of the present century, all successful art has shared two attributes in common. It has been original, and it has satisfied the public. In short, great art has always been created by masters, by aesthetic geniuses who worked not for themselves and for personal profit but for their public and for the profit of civilization.
If you move in the art circles with the great painters of the world today, or if you are an American or European art dealer, or if you are among the wealthy art collectors who proudly display his works in their homes and private galleries, you already know Yorgo –his works and his genius.
Yorgo was born in Cairo, Egypt, of Hellenic parentage and was early educated at the Hellenic High School, before earning an engineering scholarship to the Italian Institute of Technology. His engineering education was later to prove invaluable, enabling Yorgo to develop many technological innovations; however, ultimately, the engineering world’s loss became the art world’s gain, and by the time he was nineteen, Yorgo’s lifetime career in art was firmly established when he was chosen from among stiff competition as the illustrator for a leading Egyptian newspaper, Al-Ahram. Within four years, Yorgo’s creative talent had earned him first place in illustration competition.
The following year, 1953, Yorgo’s original oil paintings were on display at the Rembrandt Gallery in Cairo, and in 1954, the Art Dessin Gallery sponsored a one-man show for the young master. Recognition from this show resulted in an unprecedented scholarship from five different Hellenic organizations, enabling Yorgo to further his studies at the exclusive Academy of Fine Arts in Paris. Three years later, his works having been exhibited at numerous Parisian galleries, Yorgo swept all competition aside by capturing not just one but two first prizes, for portraits and for composition, at the Raymond Duncan Gallery. And the following year he completed a coveted triumvirate of honor and recognition unequaled by any young artist in this century. Yorgo was only twenty-nine years old when he won the First International Grand Prize for his landscape painting. To put this award into proper perspective, it should be noted that Yorgo’s work was chosen by judges as the best among more than 1,000 artists representing eighteen nations at the Deauville International Art Exhibition.
Yorgo Envisions the Future Of Art
The sun was really shining on Yorgo during that momentous year of 1958. In addition to the almost overnight fame, which he achieved through the newspaper, magazine, and broadcast publicity that followed his ubiquitous achievements in the world of art, Yorgo met, fell in love with, and married a young German student who was studying in Paris. “Siegi had modeled for me from time to time; she has been my inspiration, my beacon, my devoted colleague through all our years together.” The charming couple, became permanent residents of the United States in 1967, now live in Glendale, California, with their three children, Patricia, Christine and Angelo.
But before bringing his family and his magnificent talent to the American shores, Yorgo’s fame was destined to spread even more rapidly and without ebb throughout Europe, as honor after honor sought him out with an inexorable force akin to magnetism. One-Man shows, the epitome of artistic recognition, came in rapid-fire succession, too many to even remember much less to list. His moody reflections of the Parisian café districts, his somber images of bleak countrysides gray with rain or snow, swept by by cold aesthetic winds, yet evoking in brilliant flashes of color the human warmth that pierces through the chill of nature-appeared before the startled eyes of a thoroughly appreciative public in galleries stretching from Paris to New York. Montmartre Galerie 102, the Galerie Paul Cezanne, the Galerie Isidore, the Royal Gallery in Montreal, Canada, all presented Yorgo to a growing and enthusiastic art public-each famous gallery a Mecca in itself for a modern artist. Then, three years later, standing out as a bench mark during these important years of Yorgo’s fertile career, the Chicago Americana Art Gallery invited the artist to display his works in his first important United States exhibition.
And still more awards were heaped upon this twentieth-century master: the Medaille de Vermeil des Arts, Sciences, Lettres, the Medaille de la Rose d’Or, and the Diploma de la Courtoisie Francaise standing out among many. Personal recognition from the Greek ambassador to France, the Hellenic Gerneral Consul, the French Ministry of Education, and, yes, even from President Charles De Gaulle himself, accompanied the shows, the awards, the mounting fame. And in 1961, recognition from his art peers, perhaps the greatest recognition any artist can hope for, when Yorgo was named President of the International Art Exhibition of Modern Art of Paris, and organization comprising 1,500 exhibitors from twenty five nations-a stunning accomplishment fro a man who was still several months away from celebrating his thirty-second year on this planet.
In retrospect, however, Yorgo sees one event among all the incredible accomplishments of his artistic life as perhaps rising above the rest, a seemingly minor event comparatively, but one which was destined to shape the next several years of both his personal and his creative lives. Following a personally conducted exhibition of his paintings in Canada, Yorgo received an invitation from the American consul in Athens to tour the Untied States. Yorgo graciously accepted the offer, and the following year, having been impressed by numerous features he observed in this country, and having envisioned the future of art, Yorgo brought his family to Southern California. Although continuing to tour the world, displayed, Yorgo has decided to make the sunny, palm-lined West Coast of the Untied States his permanent base of operations.
Although tempted undoubtedly by the lures of fame in the land of his birth and the country in which his genius grew to maturity-Yorgo says he is determined to remain in Southern California-a valiant choice for an artist whose fame has made his ame virtual household word among the art-appreciative public of Europe. Yorgo’s paintings have sold so well even in this country that he remains amoung the few artists todaywhose art is also his livelihood. The knowledgeable and wealthy collectors, from Princess Faisal of Saudi Arabia to the wealthy Greek ship owners, who regularly tour the galleries of Europe, know Yorgo and display his unique work prominently on their walls; and the signals are clear that Yorgo will soon emerge as the greatest creative genius of this century. Nonetheless, there must be a very good reason for an artist to step even momentarily from the spotlight of worldwide recognition which he so richly deserves. And there is.
“The signs are quite evident,” Yorgo explains with a simplicity that defines his basic nature and personality. “Within the next few years, everyone will be aware of a geographical shift in the art world that its leaders already recognize; and the shift is most definitely westward. This is nothing new, of course; we have witnessed the shift historically: from Athens to Rome to Versailles and to Paris. And I predict Los Angeles, California, will become a great international art center. Already, some of the world’s finest artists have shifted their attentions towards Los Angeles; and already, some of the most important art collectors have emerged within a fifty-mile radium of this California city. Los Angeles is now undergoing a great cultural renaissance, and I would like to contribute as an artist and to see this city attain its rightful place in history of art”
“ All Successful Art Has Been Original, And It Has Pleased The Public”
And Yorgo, although too modest to admit the obvious, as those who know him will tell you, is now ready to take his rightful place in the history of art-as the unequaled master and aesthetic leader of international art in the latter half of this century.
What makes a great master? What takes a talented artist out of the ranks of other talented artist and projects him far above their level? Some say it is simply genius-a quality of creative endeavor that defies classification and definition. When a particular artist captures this elusive quality, as Picasso did in his early works (although he later lost his grasp on it), the public recognizes it; and other, less-creative artists hook their own wagons onto the rising star. Imitation results; however, the true artistic genius can sometimes be copied, but never really imitated. Such is quality of genius. And such quality is eternal. The quality outlives the artist. Today, we praise the genius of Michelangelo; the works of his would-be imitators have collapsed into dust.
During the epiphany of his genius, a master’s work always appears unique, like nothing that has gone before it; the style, the technique, the creation apparent in the work of a master always defy immediate classification. It is left to later critics to apply the terms by which a master’s work will be determined historically. Viewing the paintings, hedged at first, then replied with a slight shrug, “Well, if pressed for a definition, one might call the style modern figurative; however, I would have to say, and my colleagues agree, it is such a unique style that it really evades classification.” Such is the quality of genius.
Yorgo was once quoted in a newspaper article as saying, “I see my task as providing originality, when I can, but only the sort of originality that pleases my public. My duty, I feel, is not to myself but to my public; and I must please the majority-or I will have failed as an artist.” This is why Yorgo refused always to be a trend-follower, a mere imitator of another’s style; and in the modern world of art, there are only two types of artists: those who follow and those who set the trends; in other words, those who imitate and those who innovate. By this yardstick, Yorgo’s position is apparent.
“And a painting must stand on its own,” according to Yorgo, who laments the fact that so much of what is called “modern art” must be explained or interpreted for the audience. “A painting should communicate directly to the audience, breaching all language and cultural barriers-or else it is not art; it is merely a passing fad that ill be depreciated and lost in time.”
Yorgo Swept All Competition Aside
Ironically, Yorgo’s strong feeling that art must serve the public-at-large, the majority, led him to a disturbing discovery and ultimately to and important decision. “I discovered,” explained Yorgo, “that my art public was being limited unfairly-not by my intentions, of course, but by the high prices that the galleries were putting on my original oil paintings. I saw finally that only the very wealthy could possibly afford to hand my paintings in their homes, and I felt that something had to be done immediately to correct this injustice.” Yorgo began producing limited original graphic editions or his paintings.
Original graphics are just that-they are original works by the artist, who creates the original painting, then performs or supervises every step in the duplication process. The artist, therefore, has personally created each graphic; no mass production techniques are employed, and the artist handles each graphic with all the personal care due an original painting. The very exacting “rules” set down and agreed upon by the art community are never violated, and each original graphic produced has a definite value upon completion-a value that will increase in time exactly proportional to the original oil paintings themselves.
Yorgo Constantly Innovates……
Yorgo added prestige and prominence to American modern art with his numerous innovations in fine art.
In 1972, Yorgo revived an art form unknown since the days of Michelangelo when he introduced his suspended art at the American Fine Arts Gallery. Beautiful canvases literally floated in the air above our heads on the momentous occasion. The Suspended Space Art consists of paintings take your view upwards not just to the ceiling but to the wonders of the Universe itself. Simple? Perhaps. But, before Yorgo, not one single artist thought of doing it since Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling more than 400 years ago.
And the very next year, yorgo brought out his unique and patented concept of electronic art, combining for the first time aural and stationary-visual media. Did you ever look at a painting of the sea-shore with the surf crashing across jumbled rocks and spewing wet foam across the sand – so realistic you could almost hear the sound of the waves? Yorgo has come up with a new artistic concept that takes a bold new step into the realm of realism in painting. Because, when you look at a Yorgo seascape, you don’t have to stretch your imagination, - you do hear the surf sounds. The rhythmic, throbbing, surging sounds of the sea come at you – right out of the canvas. And when you look and listen long enough, the painted canvas isn’t static anymore. You begin to see the pigment waves rolling into the shore and the fine sea spray misting from the ocean wind. The effect then is realism, total involving realism – the ultimate in painted art.
“I just wanted to create paintings which would best illustrate the age in witch we live – the electronic age.” Says Yorgo in describing the thought behind his electronic art.
Many of Yorgo’s painting are abstracts, with vivid, pulsing colors that interweave with carefully placed radio components, so that when you turn on a switch on the face the painting, music swirls out through the pigments from the speakers fastened discreetly on the back of the canvas. Tape players are also built into the canvas so that virtually any type of sound desired can be made to emit from any painting, as is the case with the seascape described above.
The possibilities for his electronic art concept are endless. And, as Yorgo notes, the loss we now re-realize from the sad fact that the technique wasn’t even possible before this century is even more notice-able. “Think”, says Yorgo, “if the painters of the past had been able to utilize this concept we could look at a portrait of George Washington or Napoleon and actually hear their voices coming from the canvas.”
On both occasions, suspended and electronic art, television cameramen and newspaper reporters almost crowded everyone else out of the gallery. And, as I recall, on those nights several Hollywood celebrities and area politicians decided to add immediately to their personal art collections.
The following year, Yorgo astonished everyone with a display of his newest creation, scientific art. Canvases swirled and came alive with all the mysteries of the cosmos seemingly hidden within them. Why, not only was the artistic accomplishment alone extraordinary beyond belief, but each painting also embodied a revolutionary theory of galactic motion discovered and advanced by Yorgo himself. And during this show something else became apparent to everyone: Even Yorgo’s abstracts are meaningful. The rest of us can only wait and continue to ask ourselves, what will Yorgo bring us tomorrow? What will be the next artistic milepost that will flow from his inspired brush? Jean Diwo, one of France’s most respect art critics, devoted a seven-page article to Yorgo, which was published in the Leading Parisian art magazine, Jardin Des Arts, and which described Yorgo as “one of the world’s greatest masters.” In words echoed by all who are familiar with Yorgo’s works, and with praise reminiscent of the earliest accolades accorded this outstanding artist, Diwo said, “Yorgo’s paintings catch the viewer’s eye because they have a unique style of their own, which no other artist has presented before.” And an infamous art forger, who has mad a dubious living copying almost exactly the works of other artists, including all of the famous master of the past, in a recent interview directed an ironic compliment toward this modern master: “Yorgo”, he said, “is the only artist whose works I can never copy; they are original, and nobody can imitate them.”
So this, in so many words, is Yorgo. But words alone can never capture either the elusive quality of his art or the quietly and unpretentiously sincere quality of the man himself. It can only be said finally that upon walking into the American Fine Arts Gallery, or into any of a number of fine arts galleries throughout the North American continent and Europe, one will be immediately struck by a few paintings displayed among the many others. And upon closer inspection, one will notice a handwritten name scrawled humbly in a bottom corner of each of these few astounding canvases, and the name will read simply, “Yorgo.” Asked why these works stand out among the rest, the viewer might shrug his shoulders and reply, “I don’t really know, but they have something… something you can’t put into words, something that makes each of them appear to leap at your eyes-and into your mind.” That “something” is genius.
And while the viewer is still standing there awestruck, if a rather unassuming man of modest stature and in his middle years should appear by the man’s shoulder and smile almost reticently and ask, “Do you like them? Do they please you, sir?” and then grin broadly with obvious satisfaction when the viewer answers, “They are extraordinary!” then the fortunate viewer just might have been honored by the presence of the artist himself. Because genius, in its true guise, forms exactly such a presence, and an artist genius lives only in the pleasure of his public. And such is Yorgo. Text By John Hall 1975
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