Portrait of a Woman
Portraits held a special place in the career of Mario Prassinos, who considered memory as the source of his creativity. Prassinos often said that physical resemblance was not his objective in painting someone’s portrait; instead, he often referred to the memories he had of that person. In a unique approach, as he worked on Bessie Smith, whom he never met, he first learned everything he could about this jazz singer to conjure up a Bessie image in his mind, then he carried this image onto the canvas.
“I had not considered any physical resemblance, as the photos I had collected each showed me a different personality. (…) I was painting Bessie. More precisely, I was trying to put myself in a position to do it. These portraits are the kind of works that a damaged memory could create – as if I am still trying to remember.” (Prassinos – 1973)
His grandfather Prétextat Lecomte, on the other hand, was recognized in the cosmopolitan Pera of the period not only for his paintings and mosaics, but his essays on art published in newspapers of the period. A colorful character, he was friends with the intellectuals of the period including and Alexandre Vallaury, Şeker Ahmet and Osman Hamdi. For Prassinos, he was primarily a figure that came alive in the décor of their house in İstanbul through the eyes of his childhood.
A teacher of literature and a painting and photography enthusiast, his father Lysandre’s revolutionist stance that advocated the vernacular Greek language and his forced exile certainly had a significant impact on Prassinos. It was; however, only years later that he admitted to depicting his father as a powerful, patriarchal figure.
“Mario Prassinos, In Pursuit of an Artist: Istanbul-Paris-Istanbul” exhibition can be seen until August 14!