Elena Akopyan
Doctor, Editor-in-Chief of the Heritage and Progress Foundation
Martiros Sarian
"From the distant prairie his
Orange-blue, his Blue bird called for him..."
He was born on February 28th in 1880. Three eights. Three times repeated horizontal line of infinity. Raised vertically by unbroken fate. "Color - is a miracle, in combination with sunlight it expresses the essence of being!" Oh, this sunshine! It is impregnated, permeated with it, it blinds through the half rings of eights, it floods childhood with hot until sweat. Even at the word root of his name there are these sunlit letters from "ARev".

He was born in a patriarchal Armenian family in Nakhichevan on Don; the family was large, with 8 children. Their life was hard. All his childhood was spent at the foot of a mountain on the bank of a river overgrown with reeds. Ahead, there laid a prairie with distant villages, with a lonely gazelle leashed at the neighbor's, with blue horizons, with an opaque stagnant air and the spicy aromas of prairie winds. There, far, far away at the junction of earth and sky in blue mirages, a boy from a poor Armenian family dreamed of a wonderful world...

At the age of 7 he learned to read, at the age of 15 he graduated from the city school, worked at the post office. Once I accidentally sketched the old stripe hound who soon fell ill and begged to tear up the portrait (everything happened because of it!). The portrait was destroyed, painting was forbidden. But the older brother, loving, who replaced father, sends the boy to Moscow. And soon, he is a graduate of the School of Painting and Sculpture (now - Surikovskoe), then studies in the workshops of Serov and Korovin. This is, perhaps, his whole school.

But the innate oriental instinct, the call of the blood to the fundamental principle and purity rushes, requires an exit, like a flame in an ancient jug. And not yet found, but his, only his own Color lures and attracts him to distant countries and wanderings. He tries to understand himself, to find his own special technique, where the naiveté of perception and the apparent simplicity of language brings a complex color-light image. From a simple touch it launches a mosaic of association in the fan of the neural arc, like a neurological circuit.

He goes on a journey. "The South Caucasus fascinated me, here I saw the sun for the first time and experienced the heat. I felt that nature is my home, my only consolation. The nature is multifaceted, multicolored, my only teacher". 1910 - Constantinople, 1911 - Egypt, 1913 - Persia. Simple shapes, pure colors. No iridescent overflows. No pastel halftones on boundaries and merges. Not the rainbow circles of a migraine behind the eyes half-closed with pain, but a clear beating blinding blast of sunstroke. "My goal is to achieve the most of expressiveness by simple means, avoiding pile-ups...." His simplification is without primitivism, simplicity without plasticity. He writes in the highest amplitude from Michelangelo to Chekhov: a talent for brevity in cutting off what is excessive. The less surplus is, the deeper content is. The fewer words – the stronger is the feeling, the fewer colors – the brighter is the color.

Therefore, he chooses tempera. The material is dense, opaque, one layer of paint tightly covers the other, therefore it requires the artist to have a mathematically verified, pre-realized idea. Compared to oil paints, no smudges or shimmers. Large spots. Large surfaces filled with one paint at a geometrically calculated jointing edge. The light removes the plane, the line creates an image, the stroke gives the volume. Only tempera and only white linen! Here it is! Found it! And the newborn orange-blue world sang, sounded, laughed, where, blessing the son of the East, the Blue Bird dropped its orange-tinted feather. One stroke of the brush and a bouquet of wildflowers is picked off and stupefies. The barely outlined stems of prairie grasses flutter flat (tempera!), a brown glimpse of big-eyed Armenian women sparkles, the outlines of female figures float slightly swaying in the midday heat, in the paradoxical blue (not cold, but heat) streets and shops, Egyptian masks and bazaars of Cairo melt, jugs call with inviting coolness, steep-sided pomegranates are shot with black patina, oranges dazzle, peaches are juiced with the merciless sun, packs of stray dogs bristle in the melting red of the Constantinople sun, buffaloes roare purple from the sun. The luxury of the East in a song of color. This is not a dream, but an orange-violet hallucination in the thin outline of the Western school.

"His buffaloes are painted in a big black spot, bathed in blue. Inside there is a shapeless block, but from the distance the eye recalled a picture .. a sultry road, two plum-colored heavy buffaloes, bearded gadmen"
(M. Voloshin)

"I had a goal - to understand the east, to find convincing ways of this world". Later, upon returning from Constantinople, after the exhibition of the Moscow Association of Artists, the works "Wisterias", "Fruit Shop", "Street. Noon" were acquired by the Tretyakov Gallery. It was the first time a museum bought paintings by a young innovator. Success! But ... "I didn't like my success, I was afraid to become a fashionable artist. I felt the need to update ... to prevent the repetitions".

Dreams of traveling to China, Japan, India were stopped by the First World War. He worked tirelessly. He founds the Armenian Ethnographic Society in Tiflis. New works in Moscow, Baltic exhibition in Sweden. "But in 1915 I learned about the troubles that had again fallen to Armenia, dropped everything and left for my motherland. In Echmiadzin I met crowds of people running from the genocide. People were dying before my eyes; There was nothing I could do to help them".

Unable to bear what he saw, he became seriously ill, and was taken to Tiflis with obvious signs of mental illness. But the first thing that appears after the recovery is a bouquet of red flowers. This is the way of salvation! "The art should call a person to life, to fight, inspire faith and hope, and not suppress by the description of tragic plots. There would be no me as an artist, as a person, if this feeling of motherland had not grown in me". He's engrossed in his work yet again. Founds the Association of Armenian Artists in Tiflis, illustrates Bryusov's "Poetry of Armenia". Creates the Armenian Museum of Local History in Rostov. After moving to Yerevan, he founds the State Museum of Archeology, Ethnography and Fine Arts; according to his sketches, the crest and flag of Soviet Armenia were created. That's where that orange-blue two-tone jointing edge comes from! During countless trips, an attempt to snatch in the open air the colors that are rapidly changing under the sun. Valley of Armenia, burnt by the sun (sketch). Low mud dwellings with flat roofs (Yerevan, sketch), Shady Garden (Courtyard in Yerevan). Bypassing, or maybe even going through impressionism, he melts like a glassblower, an object into color, and blowing, playing with a color film, he breathes life into it through the line and forms.

His sketches are not a passive shot, not a reflection on the retina of an indifferent hunter for inspiration. This is the blood of his ancestral home, pulsating in the vessels of ancient Armenian miniature. "Yerevan", "Midday Silence", "Mottled Landscape". He exhibits his new works at the Biennale di Venezia. Overwhelming success again! "Both his colors and his drawing deserve a lot of attention from the point of view of the quest for contemporary art" – this is a menace of European critics of Sprovieri.

Year 1925. For the first time in the Soviet years, Saryan's paintings are exhibited in Moscow. In the summer, Grabar sends his works to the exhibition of Russian art in Los Angeles Museum. After a great success, he was given the opportunity to travel abroad "I certainly wanted to visit the capital of artists – Paris". And in January 1928, his personal exhibition took place in the most famous salon of Girard. There were about 40 paintings: Armenian themes, embankments of the Seine, Marne. Success again, enthusiastic criticism, but disaster happens.

"The French steamboat Firzhi, which was carrying my paintings, was supposed to load eggs in Novorossiysk, and for this purpose it took sawdust. Boxes with paintings were stacked on these sawdust. In Constantinople, accidently or deliberately, a fire broke out, sawdust were caught in fire, and only a small piece of canvas remained from 40 of my paintings". Only a few sketches survived: "Geghama Mountains", "Towards the Spring", "On Marna", "Gazelle". A shock, but he rises again. As Efros wrote, "It was not enough to bring with you a reserve of strength and heightened skill. It was necessary to find in them the correspondence to what was being done around". And around there was the construction of a new Yerevan. And he finds himself again. The favorite genre is the urban landscape. Laconicism, again simplicity in solving the figures, again the color filling of the image. "Yard in Yerevan", "Old Yerevan" (Tretyakov Gallery), "Old and Newest (Russian Museum). Stockholm, Vienna, Berlin, Zurich, Venice - the geography of his exhibitions. And also sketches for theatrical performances (Spendiarov, Rimsky - Korsakov), illustrations for the translations of Ferdowsi Charents. But the thirties come, stuffy for the artist, with prohibitions and regulations. Saryan responds to the demand to paint a portrait of Stalin with a refusal (he is used to painting from life). This was not forgiven. In 1937, 12 of his portraits of representatives of the Armenian clerisy, who overnight became enemies of the people, were burned. But one portrait, the portrait of Yeghishe Charents, hidden by the museum workers, miraculously survived. Unbreakable, fearless, he creates a large panel for the Armenian pavilion of the agricultural exhibition in Moscow and again without a portrait of the leader against the background of Armenia (they urgently looked for and installed a sculpture against the background of the panel).

During the World War II, the youngest son volunteered for the battlefield. And Saryan becomes a portraitist, but an innovative portraitist. In the portrait of his wife Lusik Saryan, the mandarin in her hand is reflected in the mirror as a letter from her son from the battlefield, in the famous self-portrait "Three Ages" through the three hypostases of his life Grandson-Father-Grandfather he paints the history of his motherland. There will be many more. And the greatest happiness is the return of his son, and the largest canvas "For the Armenians-fighters, Veterans of World War II", and the most terrible accusation for the artist of formalism, the cut canvas saved by the students (the scars remained), hospitals, hospitals, awards, and again the struggle , and again this eternal orange-blue color...

February 28, 1880. Three eights, three signs of infinity, three raised verticals of birth triumphant over the horizontal of departure. Through them, as through the ancient weaving of Armenian baskets, this invincible eternal Saryan's sun beats, heats. Maiden eyes and mud roofs peep through the willow branches of eights, pulp ripe fruit and dog tongues sticking out from the heat, the hard skin of oxen gets wet, the coolness of old Yerevan courtyards cools down, the streets intertwist, the bazaars rustle, and in the orange-blue whirls the roaring with laughter black-eyed world flies, which was once dreamed by a little Armenian boy sitting on the threshold of a poor house, and for whom called the Orange-blue, his Blue Bird from the distant blue prairie...
3 Dnepropetrovskaya Str., Moscow, Russia, 117525
Heritage and Progress Foundation for the Development and Support of Russian-Armenian Humanitarian Initiatives