Painter Sarkis Katchadourian, besides his place in Armenian art, should also be remembered for rediscovering for the Western world the art of Safavid Iran, India and Sri-Lanka.
He was born in Malatia (Western Armenia) on August 8, 1886. After elementary studies in his hometown, he studied at the Sanasarian School of Erzerum. Upon graduation, he pursued his artistic studies in the Academy of Fine Arts of Rome (1908-1911) and the National School of Decorative Arts of Paris (1912-1914).
He returned to Erzerum in 1914, but soon World War I would start. The young painter managed to survive the Armenian genocide and find refuge in the Caucasus. He became the “singer of Armenian grief” in his paintings, as Hovhannes Toumanian called him, and entered the Society of Armenian Artists of Tiflis in 1917.
Katchadourian moved to Yerevan in 1921, where he designed the first stamps of Soviet Armenia. His works reflected life and nature of Armenia, the refugees, national feasts. However, the painter could not fit into the political environment and soon left. 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 had exhibitions in France, Italy, Great Britain, Egypt, Turkey, the Netherlands, and the United States.
In 1931, Katchadourian 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. 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, other cities of Europe, and New York.
In 1937, he went to India to study the famous temple caves of Ajanda (fifth-sixth centuries A.D.), and worked for the next five years to copy the frescoes that remained unknown and inaccessible to art scholars both there and in 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.
Sarkis Katchadourian passed away in Paris on March 4, 1947, after complications from a hernia surgery. After a cultural agreement between France and Armenia was signed in 1971, a series of 37 Indian and Sri Lankan copies by him, acquired by the Guimet Museum of Paris, was donated to the National Gallery of Armenia and exhibited the same year in Yerevan. Through the efforts of his widow, Vava Sarkis Katchadourian (1895-1984), a painter well-known in Armenian circles of New York, Katchadourian’s ashes were moved to Armenia and reburied in Yerevan on December 28, 1977.
Previous entries in “This Week in Armenian History” are on the Prelacy’s web site (www.armenianprelacy.org).