French Armenian Artist Jean Jansem Dies at 93

Jean Jansem in his studio (Photo by Yerevan Magazine)

PARIS—Acclaimed French Armenian artist Jean Jansem (Hovhannes Semerdjian) died on August 27 in a Paris suburb at the age of 93, his family told the Armenian Embassy in France, reported the ITAR-TASS news agency.

Born in 1920 in Bursa, Turkey, Jansem spent his childhood in Thessaloniki, Greece, and left for France when he was 11.

In 1973 he visited Armenia for the first time. In 2001, thirty-four of his paintings were donated to the Armenian Genocide Museum Institute.

In 2010 Jansem was awarded with an Order of Honor of the Republic of Armenia for his contribution to the development of the Armenian-French relations.

Although the early chapters of his artistic life were difficult, in fact up to the war his most lucrative work was in the decorative arts – producing designs for fabrics and designing furniture, he never lost sight of his real passion, namely painting.

From 1934 – 1936 he attended a variety of evening classes in Montparnasse and the Marais. He met fellow Armenian teacher, Ariel, who taught him to draw, but it was in the works of Picasso that he found his grand revelation.

Before he was sixteen he had been admitted to the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs (1936 – 1938) where Beianchon, Leguelt and Oudet exercised a silent and unobtrusive influence on the young artist. During 1937 he completed a training course at the Beaux-Arts and at Atelier Sabatier.

In 1950 he went to Greece and it was in the Mediterranean that he discovered light, until then his painting had been sombre.

Then followed a period of activity in which he won many awards, in 1951 the Prix Populiste, 1953 the Prix Antral, 1954 the Bourse Natioale, in 1958 Prix Comparaison in Mexico.

In 1959 he participated in the Biennale de Bruges. He is a member of the Salon d’Automne and has participated in: Salons des Independents, Salon des Tuileries, Salon d’Art Sacre, Salon de l,’Ecole de Paris, Salon des Peintres temoins de leur temps. His paintings appear in Museums at Ville de Paris, Ennery de Paris, Poitiers and several Art Museums in the US.


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  1. Perouz said:

    What a profound loss to the visual art world and to all Armenians everywhere. Jansen may have been influenced by Picasso, but he very quickly far exceeded him. Every Armenian should go to our memorial in Yerevan for the privilege of standing in front of this man’s astonishing work. How fortunate we are to have it. I know of no other artist who draws with paint the way he did. His canvases hold the narrative of the Genocide between the brush strokes in a way that no one else has ever been able to do. I am deeply grieved at his passing.

    I plead with the book store at the memorial to have the catalogue of the work translated into English. What nonsense to have it only available in French. Visitors from around the world stand in front of those works, and English is the more common language. All the murals should be reproduced in a large format book with English text. The book store sales help to support the Tsitsernakaberd, and this would be additional revenue.

    My condolences to his family.

    • Sylva-MD-Poetry said:

      Dear Perouz…You are correct …
      His artistic unusual paintings nothing to do with Picasso …
      Every creator has his own genes…
      Unless they are identical twins…
      If you look at Jansem’s face …
      you can see all his paintings presents
      his spirit, his soul,
      through his heart, mind and hands…!

      October 27, 2014