Martiros Saryan (1880-1972)

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Martiros Saryan was an Armenian painter, known for his involvement with the Russian symbolist group, Golubaya Roza (Blue Rose). Saryan was born in Nor Nakhichevan (modern-day Rostov-on-Don) Russia to Armenian parents.

Saryan, Lusik Saryan, 1941

Lusik Saryan, 1941

Saryan, Sketch for book cover

Sketch for book cover

As a child in Nor Nakhichevan, Saryan excelled in school and showed an early talent in drawing. In 1897 Saryan began studying painting formally at the Moscow School of Arts. Saryan exhibited regularly in Moscow and apprenticed under Valentin Serov and Konstantin Korovin, reputable names in Russian art.

Saryan, Lake of Fairies, 1905

Lake of Fairies, 1905

After completing his studies, Saryan began to travel frequently, visiting Turkey, Egypt, Iran, Georgia and Southern Armenia (modern-day Azerbaijan). Saryan tried to aid Armenian refugees who were fleeing from political unrest and genocide in Echmiadzin.

Saryan, Armenia landscape

Armenia landscape

In 1916 Saryan married Lusik Agayan, who he met while travelling in Tiflis. Eventually, Saryan returned to his family in Nor Nakhichevan, where he started a museum of Armenian Local Lore.

Saryan, Armenia landscape, 1959

Armenia landscape, 1959

Saryan received a lot of attention after displaying forty-five paintings at the Lotus exhibition, featuring Armenian and Russian painters. Saryan used the exhibition to show both old and new work that reflected his travels and Armenian culture. Saryan also created G. Chalkhushyan’s Red Book, in response to the Armenian Genocide.

Saryan, Self-portrait


In 1921 Saryan decided to move to Soviet Armenia, as most of his work responded to the Armenian landscape. Saryan became known as an Armenian artist, and was asked to design the National Emblem and flag for Soviet Armenia. In addition, Saryan designed an image of his re-born homeland for the curtain of First Drama Theater in Yerevan.

Saryan, Summer Heat, Running Dog

Summer Heat, Running Dog

Later in Saryan’s career, he designed several opera sets for the Odessa Opera House and in the Moscow Stanislavski Theater. Saryan continued to travel while he painted, designed sets and illustrated Armenian and Persian publications.

Saryan, Still-Life


Unfortunately during the 1930s, many of Saryan’s paintings were destroyed during times of political unrest. After World War II the Academy of artists of the USSR was established, which claimed Saryan’s work could not be considered national, because of its formalism. In essence, Saryan’s work was compared to an Armenian version of the French bourgeois.

Saryan, Lotus


Saryan, Woman with Mask

Woman with Mask

Saryan, Green Grocer

Green Grocer

Saryan, Flowers for the Armenian Soldiers of the Great Patriotic War

Flowers for the Armenian Soldiers of the Great Patriotic War

Saryan, Ararat Valley: Picking Cotton, 1945

Ararat Valley: Picking Cotton, 1945

Saryan, Steppe Flowers, Still Life

Steppe Flowers, Still Life

It was not until the 1950s that regional standards concerning art changed, and Saryan was again revered as an artist. Saryan continued to travel and paint the Armenian landscape included in the series ‘My Motherland’, which was awarded the Lenin prize in 1961.

After Saryan’s death in 1972, his home in Yerevan was converted into a museum of his work. Saryan’s work is now in museums and private collections internationally. Do you think you own a painting by Martiros Saryan? Contact us. We are the experts on Martiros Saryan.