Portraits:
In Pursuit of Lost Instances

Pèretextat, No. 19
1973
Oil on canvas
130 x 97 cm.
FNAC 35330
Centre national des arts plastiques
Portrait of a Woman 1944 Oil on canvas 35 x 27 cm. Private Collection

Portrait of a Woman
1944
Oil on canvas
35 x 27 cm.
Private Collection

Untitled 3 April 1944 Ink on paper 31.7 x 24.6 cm. Private Collection

Untitled
3 April 1944
Ink on paper
31.7 x 24.6 cm.
Private
Collection

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.

Bessie’s Grave 1963 Oil on canvas 145 x 113 cm. FNAC 35320 Centre national des arts plastiques

Bessie’s Grave
1963
Oil on canvas
145 x 113 cm.
FNAC 35320
Centre national des arts plastiques

“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)

Prétextat 1965 Eygalières 65-26 Oil on canvas 92 x 73 cm. FNAC 35326 Centre national des arts plastiques

Prétextat
1965
Eygalières 65-26
Oil on canvas
92 x 73 cm.
FNAC 35326
Centre national des arts plastiques

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.

Pèretextat, No. 19 1973 Oil on canvas 130 x 97 cm. FNAC 35330 Centre national des arts plastiques

Pèretextat, No. 19
1973
Oil on canvas
130 x 97 cm.
FNAC 35330
Centre national des arts plastiques

Mario Prassinos, In Pursuit of an Artist: Istanbul-Paris-Istanbul” exhibition can be seen until August 14!

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