The Art of Edgar Chahine

Local gallery will exhibit and sell rare artwork of classic Armenian artist who depicted Parisian and Venetian streetlife. Most of the artist’s works were destroyed in a studio fire, and later in a flood. Edgar Chahine (1874-1947) was born in Venice in 1874 to Armenian parents, and was taken as a child to Constantinople, where he lived until he was eighteen. Determined to take-up art, he traveled to Venice to study under A. Paoletti. In 1895 he went to Paris, where he briefly studied at the Acadmie. In the years between 1898 and 1910 Chahine depicted an absolute cross-section of Parisian life. He devoted many works to the poor, the dispossessed and the street entertainers but he also devoted many works to the half-world of the theatre, late-night cafs and the dance halls. With almost cruel accuracy he captured the brief moment of youthful beauty of models and prostitutes: momen’s of coquettishness, triumph, flirtation; but also momen’s of sadness, defeat and despair. In 1900, he exhibited his art for the first time and was highly acclaimed by French art critics for his ability to capture Parisian streets and lifestyles. His French exhibition was followed by series of international exhibitions in major European capitals. He received numerous awards and gold medals at almost all the exhibitions in which he took part. In 1928, Edgar Chahine became extremely popular in France. By the end of that year, a museum in Crouttes-Vimoutiers in the Orn region, France was named after him, "Musee Chahine." With personal success came misfortune when his longtime fianc died of tuberculosis in 1906. His personal tragedy was compounded by the horrifying genocide of Armenia’s by the Turks in 1908 and again in 1915. The outbreak of war in Europe in 1914 made any attempt at normal life impossible. In fact, Chahine hardly executed any prints between 1911 and 1921. In 1921, Chahine married Simone Julia Gaumet, a young art student from Paris. Their son, Pierre, was born in 1930. The year of his marriage was to mark the date of his return to graphics, with a series of prints of Venice, which he revisited. A retrospective exhibition of his works in 1923 in Milan led to a revival of interest in him by the critics. The following year an entire room was devoted to his works at the Venice Biennale. In 1925 he became a naturalized Frenchman and later became a successful book illustrator for famous authors including Anatole France and Gustave Flaubert. Nearly two-thirds of Chahine’s prints were destroyed in 1926 when his studio burned down. More were destroyed in 1942 in a flood. While some had been sold earlier, many were lost; this only adds to the rarity of this artist’s work. Edgar Chahine died in 1947. The catalogue raisonn of his graphic work, established by M.R. Tabanelli, lists four hundred twenty-nine original prints. At a 2002 opening of Chahine’s works at the Louvre, his son Pierre said that Venetians admit that no other painter has felt the illumination of the city as strongly as Edgar Chahine. "My father used to spend long months in Venice and was very much fond of it. Had he not met my mother in Paris and married her he would have gone back to spend the rest of his life there." Stephanie’s art gallery will be hosting a special opening reception on Thursday, March 29, 2007, 7:00PM to 10:00PM The exhibit will run through April 30 between 10AM. to 5:00PM, Monday thruSaturday. The gallery will remain open on Sunday April 1, 12:00 to 5:00PM. Sale of Edgar Chahine’s artworks will begin at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, March 29. More information is available by calling Stepanies’s Gallery (818) 790-4905 – 466 Foothill Blvd. La Canada, California.


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