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 Nassos Daphnis  (1914 - 2010)

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Lived/Active: New York/Massachusetts      Known for: geometric abstraction, sculpture

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Ad Code: 3
Nassos Daphnis
from Auction House Records.
© 2001 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
This biography from the Archives of AskART:

Nassos Daphnis was born in Krockeai, Greece on July 23, 1914.  He came to the United States in 1930.  Self-taught, he had his first one-man exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Gallery, New York, in 1938 and in 1969 he had retrospectives at Albright-Knox in Buffalo, New York and the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York.  He is represented at the Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art. 

He is best known as a member of a group of young painters who, in the late 1950s,  broke away from abstract expressionism with its emphasis on gestural and expressive brushstrokes and explored the hard edge color image.  He favored clear and sharp images which formed an incomplete gestalt, carrying the eye outside the limits of the canvas.  He taught at Horace Mann School, New York

Daphnis continued to pursue  the intricacies of geometric painting with undiminished fervor and his own enviable energy until well over the age of eighty.

Sources include:
The Oxford Companion to 20th Century Art, edited by Harold Osborne
Mantle Fielding's Dictionary of American Painters, Sculptors and Engravers

Written and compiled by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California.

This biography from the Archives of AskART:
Nassos Daphnis is known for geometric abstractions, especially colorful, precisely crafted, space-craft like discs.  He works with enamel on canvas and one of his series of this type was titled E.M.E. for Electromagnetic Energy.

He was born in Greece in a village near Sparta and came to New York as a youngster. He took up painting, while working in a florist shop. During World War II, he was in the Camouflage Corps in Italy.

Art in America
Collectors of American Art, Inc., Annual Bulletin, December 1947

Biography from Anita Shapolsky Gallery:
Nassos Daphnis, born in 1914 in the village of Krokeai near Sparta, arrived in the United States in January 1930.  He had been drawing and carving since childhood, and getting beaten for it by the village schoolmaster.  In Manhattan he went to work in his uncle's flower shop, and attended night school to learn English.  He worked at his drawings during odd hours until a chance meeting in the New York City flower market with another florist's assistant, Michael Lekakis, turned his life around.  When Lekakis saw some of Daphnis's drawings, he offered him the use of his studio and a model for a few days each week until Daphnis could find a space for himself.

Eventually, Daphnis bought paints and rented a studio for ten dollars a month. His uncle exclaimed, "Whoever heard of an artist from Krokeai?"

His early paintings, based on memories of Greece, were naive in style and characterized by a strong feeling for color and form.  They led to a sale to William Gratwick and to a job crossbreeding tree peonies on the Gratwick estate for many years.  Daphnis liked to say that he had two real careers, painting and horticulture. He returned from World War II deeply affected by Europe's devastation.  In a studio he shared with Theodoros Stamos, Daphnis began to paint surreal landscapes, laying on images of ruin with a palette knife.

In time, his shapes grew less tortured and more biomorphic-plants and sea creatures-his paint thinner, his colors brighter.  And from painting camouflage in the Italian campaign, he "had learned to paint flat".  Now he combined that lesson with the lesson he had learned from his horticultural experience: "nature works in order to create a form in an orderly fashion."

Those two lessons he combined with a third, learned on a 1950 visit to Greece, where he re-experienced the sunlight rejecting from landscape and from the white houses with such intensity that it appeared to dissolve everything but shape. Geometric shapes in primary colors and black and white took over Daphnis's work. He sold nothing for years, until in 1958 a powerful new dealer, Leo Castelli, was struck by the simplicity of these paintings and gave him a show the next year from which Daphnis sold several works, including one to the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

In the mid-1960s, he began to work with spherical shapes; in the mid-1970s he created an environment with a series of modules linked together to form The Continuous Painting (1975), which is 10 feet high and 86 feet long.  In the 1980s and 90s, he applied jewellike enamels to canvas to produce the Minoan series, and at about the same time he lightened his palette for another series in which "curvilinear trellises" formed by parallel lines of black, red, blue and yellow appear to shift across a white field.

Permanent Collections
Akron Art Institute, Akron, Ohio
Albany Mall, Albany, New York
Aldrich Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut
Ann Arbor Art Museum, Ann Arbor, Michigan
Baltimore Museum, Baltimore, Maryland
Basil Goulandris Museum, Andros, Greece
Boca Raton Museum or Art, Boca Raton, Florida
Chrysler Museum, Norfolk, Virginia
Guggenhiem Museum, New York City
Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC
Ian Vores Museum, Peonia, Athens, Greece
Munson-Willliams-Proctor Museum, Utica, New York
Museum of Modern Art, New York City
Pittsburgh Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Providence Museum, Reading, Pennsylvania
Tel Aviv Museum, Tel Aviv, Israel
Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio
Utah Museum of Fine Arts, Salt Lake City, Utah
Whitney Museum of Art, New York City

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