Sarian, Martiros Sergeevich

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Sar’ian, Martiros Sergeevich


Born Feb. 16 (28), 1880, in Nakhichevan’-na-Donu, now within the city of Rostov-on-Don; died May 5, 1972, in Yerevan. Soviet painter. People’s Artist of the USSR (1960); Hero of Socialist Labor (1965). Member of the Academy of Arts of the USSR (1947); member of the Academy of Sciences of the Armenian SSR (1956). President of the Artists’ Union of the Armenian SSR (1947–51).

Sar’ian studied at the Moscow School of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture from 1897 to 1904. During his last two years there he refined his skills in the studios of V. A. Serov and K. A. Korovin. He showed his works in the exhibitions of the Blue Rose, the Union of Russian Artists, the World of Art, and the Four Arts.

In his early works Sar’ian combined fantastic oriental motifs with strong rhythmic composition and bold, ornamental color. Toward 1910 he attempted to make ornamental devices an integral part of his manner of depiction (Self-portrait, tempera, 1909, Tret’iakov Gallery). This tendency is even more evident in the works he painted from 1910 to 1913, during his travels to Turkey, Egypt, and Iran. Sar’ian captured the sensuousness of the Orient in his large-scale fresco-like paintings by juxtaposing patches of contrasting pure colors in simple yet expressive composition (Date Palm, tempera, 1911, Tret’iakov Gallery). The influence of P. Gauguin and H. Matisse is evident in these works, as well as in the still lifes and portraits that Sar’ian painted between 1910 and 1920.

After the October Revolution of 1917, Sar’ian devoted his art mainly to the life and nature of Armenia, where he settled in 1921. Beginning in the 1920’s he worked mainly in oils, at first continuing to use flat areas of decorative color (Armenia, 1923, Yerevan Art Gallery), but later employing complex tonal relationships. He frequently used very small brushstrokes, showing the influence of impressionism. Sar’ian was quite strongly affected by impressionism during his stay in Paris from 1926 to 1928. In the 1930’s, Sar’ian developed various techniques that helped him to depict the natural features of his homeland. He also painted many portraits, characterizing his subjects in a bold, sometimes almost grotesque, manner and stressing their typical inner states. Examples include R. N. Simonov (1940, Museum of Art of the Oriental Peoples, Moscow), A. Isaakian(1940, Yerevan Art Gallery), and Self-portrait With Palette (1942, Yerevan Art Gallery). Sar’ian also painted brightly colored still lifes, for example, Autumn Still Life (1961).

From the 1940’s through the 1960’s, Sar’ian painted mostly landscapes. He most frequently depicted mountains reflecting the summer sun, so that the eye is blinded to individual details and one sees only large expanses of space and the contrasting play of light and air on color. Sar’ian’s landscapes combine the artist’s generalized heroic vision of Armenia and his strong patriotism with the immediacy of modern life. Nature, despite its grandeur, cannot be perceived apart from the life and work of the people. An example is Sar’ian’s cycle of seven paintings My Homeland, especially The Kolkhoz of the Village of Karindzh in the Mountains of Tumanian (1952–58, Yerevan Art Gallery; Lenin Prize, 1961).

Sar’ian illustrated books, for example, Armenian Folk Tales (1933). He also designed sets and costumes for the theater; his designs were used in the staging of Spendiarov’s opera Almast in the A. A. Spendiarov Theater of Opera and Ballet (1938–39, Yerevan; State Prize of the USSR, 1941). Sar’ian’s works were influential in the formation of the national school of Soviet Armenian painting. Sar’ian was a deputy to the second through fourth convocations of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. He received three orders of Lenin, two other orders, and various medals.


In Russian translation:
Iz moei zhizni, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1971.


Voloshin, M. “Sar’ian.” Apollon, 1913, no. 9.
Mikhailov, A. I. Martiros Sergeevich Sar’ian. Moscow, 1958.
Drampian, R. Sar’ian. [Moscow] 1964.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.