This Week in Armenian History

Birth of Nevart Zarian (August 6, 1917)

Nevart Zarian was one of the best Armenian female sculptors of the Diaspora, and made a name for herself in Italy, where she was born and lived most of her life. 

She was born on August 6, 1917, in Florence. She was the third child of famous writer Kostan Zarian (1885-1969) and pianist Takouhi Shahnazarian (1887-1962). She followed the itinerant life of her family (Constantinople, 1920-1922; Yerevan, 1922-1924; Paris, 1924-1925; Venice, 1926-1931). They settled in Milan in 1931, and young Nevart developed an interest in painting at the age of seventeen. In 1934-1935 she studied at the Scuola di Brera in Milan, where she had sculptor Adolf Wildt as teacher, who advised her to leave painting for sculpture. She continued her studies at Liceo Artistico in Venice (1935-1940) with Bruno Saetti as her teacher, and then graduated from the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome, with sculptor Angelo Zanelli as teacher. 

She debuted as an artist in 1938, participating at the Quadrennial Exhibition of Rome, where she also appeared in 1942, 1948, and 1952. Her first solo exhibition was in 1945 at the Italian capital. 

During World War II, Nevart Zarian participated in the anti-fascist resistance as a member of the Italian partisan movement until 1943. Starting in 1944-1945, she devoted herself to sculpture with works of big dimensions. She privileged female subjects, which expressed “a poetic and real world.” Her women expressed the subjects of solitude, existential hardship, and motherhood, which the use of a material like cement made even more intense, along with the massive volume of her works. 

In 1950 she participated in the Grand Prix organized by the Italian government for the In 1951 Zarian opened the La Cassapanca Gallery in Rome, which she headed for 30 years. She organized five personal exhibitions there between the 1950s and the 1970s. She had exhibitions in Rome, Modena, Yerevan (1964 and 1970), Milan, Copenhagen, Vienna, Oslo, and other cities. In 1951 she was commissioned by the government of Iran to create the portrait of the late Reza Shah Pahlevi (1917-1941) for his tomb. She visited Armenia in 1961 with her father Kostan Zarian. She started teaching sculpture at the Liceo Artistico (Rome) in 1965. 

In the late 1980s she moved to Santa Marinella, a town 37 miles northwest of Rome, on the Tyrrhenian Sea, with her husband Mario Cimara (1913-1992), a fellow sculptor and journalist. She continued working and organizing cultural events. Her sculpture “Dance of the Children around a Dead Tree” was placed in a specially planned square of the town, where she passed away on January 31, 2005.