Yervant Osgan, sculptor and painter, is considered the first sculptor of Turkey.
He was born in Samatya (Constantinople) in 1855. His father was a minor poet, Hagop Vosgan (1824-1908), After studying at the Armenian Catholic Makruhian School in the neighborhood of Beshiktash, he followed his father’s trail and continued his studies in Italy, at the Mourad-Raphaelian School of Venice, owned by the Mekhitarist fathers. He graduated in 1872 and then moved to Rome, where he graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts in 1877. In 1878 he went to Paris for postgraduate studies, where he participated in an international exhibition of art, earning two silver medals. He returned to Constantinople in 1881.
Two years later, Turkish painter and archaeologist Osman Hamdi Bey (1842-1910) founded the Academy of Fine Arts of Constantinople (now Istanbul State Academy of Fine Arts) and Osgan created the section of sculpture, where he taught until 1908. Osman Hamdi and Yervant Osgan created the first archaeological team of Turkey and together made excavations in Nemrut Dagh, the location of the mausoleum-sanctuary built by King Antiochus I of Commagene (69-34 B.C.), the monarch of this small state to the southwest of Western Armenia, whose rulers belonged to the Armenian Yervanduni royal family.
They executed this excavation in the middle of an archaeological campaign in Sidon (nowadays Saida, in Lebanon) from 1878-1887, during which they found the so-called Alexander’s Sarcophagus, a very valuable finding, which Osgan restored, as collaborator of the Archaeological Museum of Istanbul, also directed by Osman Hamdi.
Yervant Osgan was the first Armenian professional sculptor in Constantinople and in the modern period. Among his students were famous Turkish sculptors M. Ihsan Ozsoy (1867-1944) and M. Mahir Tomruk (1884-1949). He was the recipient of imperial medals in 1885 and 1904, and received a medal from the German government in 1885.
His realist sculptures are characterized by psychological depth. His works essentially focused on sculptures with special subjects (“Daphne,” “Warriors and Goddesses,” “The Servant,” “The Dance of the Zeybek Woman,” “The Zeybek’s Sword Dance”) and busts (“Osman Hamdi Bey,” “Dikran Chuhajian,” “Self-Portrait”). Some of these works are kept in the National Gallery of Armenia and the Museum of Literature and Art of Yerevan.
Osgan was also a painter. Two of his works, “Father’s Portrait” and “Zeybek Making Sharpen His Sword,” are also in the National Gallery of Armenia.
He passed away in his birthplace on June 10, 1914.