July 27 to August 4, 2016, an exhibition at the National Gallery of
Armenia, in Yerevan, commemorated the 130th anniversary of the birth of
painter Sarkis Katchadourian. His name is barely known in the homeland,
although he is buried there. New York Armenians of a certain age may
remember his wife, Vava Sarkis Katchadourian (née Sarian, 1895-1984),
also a painter.
Katchadourian was born in Malatia (Western Armenia) on December 8,
1886. After his elementary studies in his hometown, he went to Erzerum,
where he studied at the Sanasarian School. Here he developed his
interests in the arts, which would lead him to go to Europe and pursue
his artistic studies in such prestigious institutions like the Academy
of Fine Arts of Rome (1908-1911) and the National School of Decorative
Arts of Paris (1912-1914).
the age of 28, he returned to Erzerum. But soon World War I would
start, followed by the catastrophe of the Armenian Genocide. The young
painter managed to survive and find refuge in the Caucasus. He lived in
Tiflis until 1921. He was a witness of the tragedy of his people,
becoming the “singer of Armenian grief” in his paintings, as Hovhannes
Toumanian called him. He entered the Society of Armenian Artists of
Tiflis in 1917.
moved to Yerevan in 1921. The newly established Soviet regime
commissioned the design of the first stamps of Soviet Armenia to him.
His works reflected life and nature of Armenia, the refugees, national
feasts. He also excelled in portraiture. His paintings tended to
combined classical principles, especially from Italian art, with the
aesthetics of impressionism.
the painter could not fit into the political environment and soon left
Armenia. He settled in Vienna (Austria), where he became
a member of the Society of Artists of Vienna. After moving to Paris, he
was the founding secretary of the Society of Armenian Artists “Ani.” He
would have exhibitions in France, Italy, Great Britain, Egypt, Turkey,
the Netherlands, and the United States.
became particularly famous after 1931, when he was selected by the
government of Iran to restore the frescoes of the mosques and churches
of the former capital of the Safavid dynasty, Ispahan. The artist
achieved his mission after a detailed study, with amazing results. In
1934 he founded the museum of Armenian art in New Julfa, the Armenian
suburb of Ispahan. He produced copies of his work in Ispahan, which were
exhibited in Paris (1932 and 1934) and other European cities, as well
as in New York (1932).
1937 Katchadourian went to India to study the famous temple caves of
Ajanda (fifth-sixth centuries A.D.), and worked for the next four years
to copy the frescoes that remained unknown and inaccessible to art
scholars both there and in the island of Ceylon (nowadays Sri-Lanka).
The exhibition of his work in Paris, New York, and other cities in 1942
opened a new page in the study of ancient Asiatic art.
and Vava Katchadourian moved from Paris to New York in 1940. He
illustrated Edward Fitzgerald’s English translation of poet Omar
Khayyam’s Rubaiyat (1946), with six pictures and 101 drawings. He passed
away in Paris on March 4, 1947, after complications from a hernia
surgery. In 1971 a cultural agreement was signed between France and
Armenia. On the occasion, a series of 37 Indian and Sri Lankan copies by
Katchadourian, acquired by the Guimet Museum of Paris, was donated to
the National Gallery of Armenia and exhibited in the same year in
Yerevan. Through the efforts of his widow, Sarkis Katchadourian’s ashes
were moved to Armenia and reburied in Yerevan on December 28, 1977.