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Artist and Revolutionary: Panos Terlemezian as an Ottoman Armenian Painter

L’artiste et le révolutionnaire : Panos Terlemezian, un peintre arménien ottoman
Gizem Tongo
p. 111-153

Résumés

Rares sont les peintres ottomans qui se sont autant opposés aux autorités de leur pays que l’artiste arménien ottoman Panos Terlemezian (1865-1941). Terlemezian s’est engagé politiquement contre les répressions menées par l’État ottoman contre ses sujets arméniens sous le règne d’Abdülhamid II (1876-1909), et de nouveau pendant le génocide de 1915. De sorte que sa jeunesse fut marquée par la prison et l’exil. Pourtant, ni ses engagements politiques ni ses déplacements incessants ne l’ont empêché de devenir l’un des peintres ottomans et arméniens les plus talentueux de son époque. Centrés sur la période des années 1885 à 1915, cet article tente de mettre en lumière « l’identité première » de Terlemezian en tant qu’artiste arménien ottoman modelé par le cosmopolitisme d’Istanbul, en situant son parcours et son œuvre à la fois dans le contexte de l’Empire ottoman tardif, au sein duquel il se mua en révolutionnaire, et dans le contexte international dans lequel il s’affirma comme un artiste.

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Notes de l’auteur

Note: The research for this paper has been generously funded by the Hrant Dink Foundation and the Khalili Research Centre, who enabled my research trip to Armenia in the summer of 2014. I am also thankful to the Lord Dulverton Trust at the University of Oxford and Orient Institut Istanbul who have supported the research and writing process. I would like to thank the following colleagues and friends for their help, suggestions, and critiques: Ari Şekeryan, Meri Kirakosyan, and Yan Overfield Shaw were absolutely crucial to the successful outcome of this paper. I am also thankful to Laurent Mignon, Theo van Lint, Boris Adjemian, David Zakarian, Rouben Galichian, Irvin Cemil Schick, Barış Zeren, Akif Ercihan Yerlioğlu, Eda Özel, Melissa Bilal, and Burcu Yıldız. I also thank the anonymous reviewers for insightful and detailed comments. All remaining errors are mine.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Terlemezian’s name also appears as “Fanos Pogosovich Terlemezian” in Russian sources. See, for exam (...)
  • 2 H. F. B. Lynch, 1901, p. 33. Lynch visited Armenia twice, first in 1893-1894 and later in 1898.

1In 1915, the Ottoman Armenian artist Panos Terlemezian1 painted a remarkable landscape known as Sipan Mountain from Ktuts Island (Սիփան Սարը Կտուց Կղզուց) [see figure 1]. Long before Terlemezian painted the work, the British traveller H.F.B. Lynch (1862-1913) wrote of the same scenery: “nature alone has made the most of exceptional opportunities; and Sipan, with this plain on one flank and the lake of Van upon the other, is worthy to rank among the most beautiful objects in the natural world.”2 To convey a sense of this beauty, Terlemezian has placed the highest mountain of his birthplace, Van, firmly in the background of the canvas lending a rigid symmetry to his composition. The gigantic snow-topped mountain dominates the canvas, cleaving the cloudy blue skies, and tracing a line atop the deep azure of Lake Van and the rocky shore on which he stood to paint. The serenity of the cerulean sky and the translucent turquoise lake contrast with the greens, browns, and creams of the shore’s uneven forms. Although Ktuts Island was home to a fifteenth-century Armenian Monastery, Terlemezian chose to omit both this and the island’s regular inhabitants, the seagulls. In fact, the only moving or ephemeral thing in the entire composition is a little white boat on the horizon, formed with a short, controlled flick of the palette knife. Terlemezian’s 1915 Sipan Mountain is a perfect and peaceful landscape in which none of the “fragments” of the on-going war appear on the canvas; on the contrary, it depicts a moment of stillness and tranquillity in which Van appears as a paradise, devoid of signs of war. For a modern viewer, the painting arouses ambivalent feelings, as we imagine Terlemezian looking at this beloved landscape for perhaps the last time, presenting posterity and his future self with an ever-so-beautiful moment of his lost or unachieved homeland.

Figure 1 Panos Terlemezian, Sipan Mountain from Ktuts Island
[Սիփան սարը Կտուց կղզուց], 1915
Oil on canvas, 70 x 90 cm, image courtesy of National Gallery of Armenia

  • 3 G. Steiner, 1971.
  • 4 M. Saris, 2005, p. 65.
  • 5 “կերպարվեստի ռեալիստական ուղղության ականավոր ներկայացուցիչ Փանոս”. M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 4.
  • 6 G. Kürkman, 2004, p. 804.
  • 7 S. Khachatryan, 2010, p. 20.

2Born in the Ottoman city of Van in 1865, Terlemezian became both an important political figure and a noted painter. He was exiled and imprisoned in the empire and abroad for his activities as an Armenian revolutionary against the absolutist regime of Sultan Abdulhamid II (r. 1876-1909). In exile, at the late age of thirty, Terlemezian received academic art training in St. Petersburg, continuing later in Paris at the Académie Julian. Whilst most Ottoman Armenian painters were familiar with one “home” (Istanbul) and two cultural centres at most (Istanbul and Paris, or Rome), Terlemezian would eventually exhibit works in cities as diverse as Paris, Tbilisi, Munich, Istanbul, New York, and Yerevan. In fact, in exile and perhaps because of exile, Terlemezian seems at times like what George Steiner calls an “extraterritorial” artist; an artist who was “unhoused” and “a wanderer.”3 Initially a committed Realist painter, he travelled and painted extensively in Anatolia, the Caucasus, and Europe, recording landscapes, rural scenes, and the life of ordinary people. During the Armenian Genocide of 1915, Terlemezian was one of the military leaders of the Van Uprising against the Ottoman army. Having survived the genocide, he retreated to the Caucasus until the end of the war. He returned to Istanbul during the Armistice Period, and later stayed briefly in New York. Terlemezian eventually settled in Soviet Armenia in 1928, and there became one of the most celebrated painters in Armenian history. When he died in 1941 in Yerevan, he left behind more than a thousand paintings, drawings, and sketches including landscapes, portraits, and still lifes, most of which he donated to the National Gallery of Armenia. Today, Terlemezian is remembered among Armenian art historians as “a master of landscape,”4 and “one of the most prominent representatives of the realistic direction in Armenian art,”5 a revolutionist “against the absolutist regime of Sultan Abdülhamid II,”6 and a “participant in the heroic self-defence of Van.”7

  • 8 In this study, I refer to two memoirs by the artist: his memoirs about his friend Gomidas, publishe (...)

3This paper explores Terlemezian’s “initial identity” as an Ottoman Armenian painter, situating him within both the history of the late-Ottoman Empire in which he became a revolutionary, and within the international art world of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth century with which he interacted as he was developing as an artist. For an art historian, Termezian’s life, art, and politics raise absorbing and challenging questions about the complex relationship between his political and aesthetic positions; in other words, how Terlemezian’s revolutionary politics shaped the development of his art. Focusing on the period 1885-1915, this paper draws on readings of his early artworks supplemented by memoirs8 and contemporary accounts to situate Terlemezian in a broad cultural and historical matrix. This context is understood as non-linear, complex, and fragile, and, hence, seeks to go beyond the so-called Ottoman/Armenian divide to understand the artist and his art as an integral part of a turbulent period in modern Ottoman art, in the cultural history of the late-Ottoman Empire, and in world art history.

4I start by engaging the respective marginalisation and canonization of Terlemezian’s work in Turkish and Armenian art history writing. I then introduce Terlemezian’s trajectories as a revolutionary and as an artist: his engagement with the Armenakan movement in the city of Van; his imprisonment and exile under the regime of Sultan Abdülhamid II; his art training in St. Petersburg and Paris; and his ties with prevailing artistic traditions. In the third part, I explore Terlemezian’s transformation into a popular and established painter in the Istanbul art world: his contributions to local and international art exhibitions and his relationship with the Ottoman cultural elite and the art market in the imperial capital between the Second Constitutional Revolution and the First World War. The fourth section takes up the complex relationship between art and politics, and I read a selection of Terlemezian’s paintings for their articulations of the contested meanings of identity, the other, and war. The paper ends where it began, reading his 1915 work Sipan Mountain from Ktuts Island; a deep breath before the storm of events that would finally shake apart the artist’s identity as an Ottoman Armenian painter.

5Terlemezian’s story points to a cosmopolitan and integrated art world in Ottoman Istanbul, but only in brief periods of historical opportunity, suggesting how the political agendas of a state can create extraordinary circumstance in an artist’s life. Perhaps Terlemezian’s story can also encourage fresh insights, without prejudices, into what has been either misunderstood or deliberately distorted on the pages of Turkish and Armenian (art) history.

Silencing the Past: (Re)Writing Terlemezian in Turkey and Armenia

  • 9 Z. Yasa-Yaman, 2011, p. 43.

6After the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923, the first generation of Turkish art historians wrote the history of modern Ottoman/Turkish art during the one-party government (1925-45). They were mostly painters who had themselves been through the change of regime from an officially multicultural empire to a purportedly mono-cultural republic. Their studies were based on biographical facts and sketches and also on direct experience of the art world they represented. Writing in a country which adamantly constructed itself as a counter-model to the Ottoman Empire, the challenge for early-Republican art historians was to write about the art of a “tainted” and “un-Modern” empire using the ruthlessly homogenising and modernising terminologies and ideologies of the new nation-state. The new patriotic canons and narratives they constructed excluded the contributions of non-Turkish and non-Muslim Ottomans, many of whom had been considered enemy combatants during the cataclysms leading to the formation of the Republic. The second generation were active between the 1950s and 1970s. Their work on Ottoman painters (whom they ahistorically called “Turkish”) was utterly dependant on sources published by the first generation, as most writers could not work with materials written before the alphabet reform of 1928, when the Arabic script was replaced by the Latin alphabet. It is true that the studies of the second generation, like those of the first, aimed to present the development of modern art in Turkey. Nonetheless, like the previous generation, their reaction against exclusivist Eurocentric (mostly Franco-centric) modern art historiography led them to create an equally exclusivist nationalist discourse. Riots against non-Muslims also took place in this period, including the pogroms of 6-7 September 1955 against the Greek population of Istanbul, leading to a massive wave of emigration for many non-Muslims in Turkey. As Zeynep Yasa-Yaman describes, in this repressive environment, the small number of remaining non-Muslim artists “gradually disappeared from the stage of art; entirely Turkified, the history of modern art thus took on a sterile, national appearance.”9 The political imperative to “Turkify” left a visible impact on art history writing, which could then not go far from these “sterile” exclusions. Reacting against a repressive atmosphere of nationalism and militarism, the generation of art historians writing in the 1980s and 1990s took an interest in the Ottoman past denied by early-Republican historiography. These studies explored how local Westernisation programmes in the empire created and later affected “modern” Ottoman visual culture. Though non-Muslim names started to be mentioned now and then, most scholarship focussed on revising views of Osman Hamdi Bey (1842-1910), Şeker Ahmed Paşa (1841-1907), and the “Turkish Impressionists”. These were indeed significant figures deserving close attention, but their milieu included many other important artists, among them a considerable number of Ottoman Armenian and Ottoman Greek artists who contributed much to the artistic life at the time and to the development of modern art in the empire.

  • 10 Publications on modern Ottoman painting by Wendy Shaw and Mary Roberts are examples of contribution (...)
  • 11 On the problem of Turkish art history writing and how it has marginalised Ottoman Armenian painters (...)
  • 12 G. Kürkman, 2004.
  • 13 M. Saris, 2005; and, also, M. Saris, 2010.
  • 14 V.K. Davidian, 2014, pp. 11-54.
  • 15 Ibid., p. 14.

7Our current writing on modern Ottoman/Turkish art is obliged to confront new questions about visual culture posed in the aftermath of postmodern, feminist, and postcolonial theory.10 In recent years, critical attention has focused on how nationalist thinking in Turkish history has been supported and promoted by official policies, cultural institutions, and nationally-oriented art histories.11 As such, studies on Ottoman Armenian painters by scholars like Garo Kürkman12 and Mayda Saris,13 and art historians like Vazken Khatchig Davidian14 are examples of the move towards inclusive modern art histories. Yet, as Davidian has remarked, “the introduction of the voices of other Ottoman artists, such as Greeks, Levantines, Jews etc., into the discourse is still lacking.”15 Of course, the question is not one about which non-Muslim artist should be added to the canon but about canon formation per se and its political determinants. The case of Terlemezian – sine qua non of art history in Armenia but anathema to it in Turkey – brings us face to face with these determinants.

  • 16 For a recent and comprehensive study on the impact of nationalist ideologies on the practice of art (...)
  • 17 E. Martikyan, 1964.
  • 18 R.G. Suny, 1997, pp. 376, 378.
  • 19 Mahari’s novel was first published in Yerevan in 1967, but later had to be rewritten due to censors (...)
  • 20 G. Mahari, 2007, p. 457.
  • 21 Nevertheless, he is sometimes still regarded as a “Russian” artist in the West, as in the Sotheby’s (...)
  • 22 M.Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 167. Emphasis is mine.

8In Armenia, another country formed after the convulsions of the First World War, art historians were also of great importance in the construction of a national identity.16 Yet, unlike in Turkey where Republicanism relied upon ethno-nationalism, the long period of Soviet rule in Armenia from 1920 to 1991 meant that Armenian art historians could not describe artists born as Ottoman Armenians or Russian Armenians as “Armenian” tout court, or even mention the genocide, without arousing suspicions of separatism. After he moved to Soviet Armenia in 1928, art historians classified Terlemezian as a Russian Armenian artist, or even as a Russian one. Eghishe Martikyan’s 1964 monograph, for instance, divides his œuvre into two periods, pre-Soviet and Soviet, and praises his contribution to the development of Soviet art.17 A turning point for Soviet Armenia came on 24 April 1965, when thousands in Yerevan gathered to demonstrate the fiftieth anniversary of the 1915 deportations and mass murders. As Ronald Grigor Suny argues, the demonstration itself was the “first major outbreak of dissident nationalism within Soviet Armenia,” after a long period of “forced Russification” under Stalin.18 As one of the leaders of the Van uprising, Terlemezian was a key figure in this burgeoning national narrative. He is, for example, one of the central characters in the second edition of Gurgen Mahari’s 1967 novel Burning Orchards (Ayrvogh Aygestanner),19 which relates the 1915 uprising in Van and its subsequent evacuation. As the fighting intensifies, one officer admonishes an intellectual young man aspiring to serve the rebellion with his pen: “Panos Terlemezian is a painter, but he’s put his paintbrush aside and taken up arms and is fighting heroically.”20 With regard to art history writing, however, it was only after the foundation of the Republic of Armenia in 1991 that Terlemezian, like many other Ottoman Armenian and Russian Armenian painters, was retrospectively described as an “Armenian” artist and canonised in modern Armenian art.21 Meri Kirakosyan’s comprehensive 2014 monograph establishes Terlemezian as one of the most important artists of “Armenian art.”22 In 2015, Terlemezian’s 1915 painting Sipan Mountain from the Ktuts Island and his 1930 self-portrait broke out of the sanctity of the National Art Gallery and into the stores in mass-reproduced copies: the works were reproduced on a memorial stamp and coins in the Republic of Armenia on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of his birth.

  • 23 U. Üngör, 2008, p. 26.
  • 24 Here I use the word “silence” as defined by Michel-Rolph Trouillot: “an active and transitive proce (...)
  • 25 Y. Sarınay, 2001, p. 93.

9In Turkey, however, Terlemezian’s life and identity remain a challenge to both “Turkified” institutional art history and the official narrative of the First World War. As historian Uğur Üngör puts it, “Armenians wish to remember a history that Turks would like to forget.”23 Thus, the uneasy relationship between Terlemezian and the Armenian genocide of 1915 (and also the Hamidian period) paved the way to the complete “silence” 24 around his story in Turkish art historiography and to the misinterpretation – indeed, the deliberate distortion – of his political activities in Turkish historiography. In fact, in 2001, the Directorate-General of the State Archives in Turkey published a large collection of documents, each of which was carefully selected to prove the accepted thesis, in which Panos Terlemezian, together with other “outlawed” Armenians, was indexed as “an Armenian plotter, engaged with murders in Van” (“Van’da cinayetlere karışan Ermeni fesatçı”).25 Nevertheless, the historian Edhem Eldem very rightly warns Turkish scholars against the moral implications of doing work only on “good Armenians” who were active or tacit supporters of the Ottoman state:

  • 26 E. Eldem, 2015, p. 76.

Sometimes, the best-intentioned use of this cliché of the “good Armenian” actually becomes a concept tacitly comprising all the ingredients of factionalism […] What to call the Armenians who were not “good”, and who were not useful to the state and to the nation? […] What about the organized and rebellious ones? Should their deportation and eradication be excused?26

10Thus, as much as this study focuses on Terlemezian as an artist, it is also an attempt to challenge the hegemonic strategies of nationalist (art) history writing by looking again at a figure who oscillates between two controversial roles: the artist as “plotter” versus the artist as “hero.”

The Making of a Revolutionary and an Artist

From Van to Saint Petersburg

  • 27 Van was one of the six vilayets (provinces) alongside Erzurum, Diyarbekir, Bitlis, Sivas, and Mamür (...)
  • 28 Zaruhi Kalemkiarian wrote in 1920 that Terlemezian was the son of Boghos Agha (landlord). According (...)

11Panos Terlemezian was born in Aygestan (The Garden District) on 11 March 1865 in the city of Van.27 Aygestan, which residents referred to as the “real Van”, was less congested than the walled city, with most houses enjoying a vineyard and garden. The child of a large well-to-do family, Terlemezian nevertheless worked sometimes to support his family financially, assisting in a tailor’s shop.28

  • 29 G.J. Libaridian defined Portukalian as “a pivotal figure in the transition from a middle class libe (...)
  • 30 Quoted in M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 14.
  • 31 R. Panossian, 2006, p. 201. The name of the society Armenakan came from the newspaper Armenia, Port (...)
  • 32 L. Nalbandian, 1963, p. 205, en. 42.
  • 33 Ibid.
  • 34 R. Panossian, 2006, p. 202.
  • 35 A. Ter Minassian, 1994, p. 112.
  • 36 M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 15
  • 37 A.J. Hacikyan, 2005, pp. 346-347.
  • 38 Teotig, 1912.
  • 39 M. Varandian, 1970, pp. 3-21

12The year 1881 was a turning point in Terlemezian’s political education as he started at the newly-opened school founded by the Istanbul-born Armenian educator and intellectual Mkrtich Portukalian (1848-1921). Portukalian was a prolific writer, editor, and political figure who aimed to mobilise Armenian people around liberal and progressive ideas.29 As such, he travelled extensively in the provinces to set up schools and educational organisations, all of which were closed by the Ottoman state when it exiled him in 1885. Terlemezian would later write that Portukalian’s school “illuminated its vast neighbouring areas”, and was “a luminous lighthouse which the sultan’s government turned off.”30 In 1885, inspired by Portukalian’s revolutionary views, a group of his Van students, Terlemezian among them, founded the Armenakan Party.31 Terlemezian’s cousin, Mkrtich Terlemezian, also known as Avetisian, was a key leader of the movement.32 The Armenakans believed in the “political and cultural education of the masses, propaganda, teaching of military discipline etc.”33 Yet the movement was “more of a response to local conditions in line with Portukalian’s thought.” 34 It was a “liberal and democratic” formation, and different from succeeding socialist inclined formations – the Hnchakian Party, founded in Geneva in 1887 and the Dashnaktzutiun (Armenian Revolutionary Federation) founded in Tbilisi in 1890 by Russian Armenian activists – their recruitment and influence was limited to the Van region.35 One year later, in 1886, Terlemezian started teaching geometry, aesthetics, and technical drawing in a local school; three years later, however, the discovery of his political activities against Sultan Abdülhamid’s regime led to the loss of his job and forced him to leave Van; the first in a lifelong series of forced departures and exiles.36 Another key influence on Terlemezian’s political views was the great nineteenth century novelist Hakob Melik Hakobian (1835-1888), known by his penname Raffi. Born in the city of Salmast in Persia, Raffi was known as the “precursor or ideologist of the revolution”37 whose novels and short stories were concerned with the economic, social, and political plight of the Armenian people. In 1890, Terlemezian was caught red-handed whilst conveying revolutionary literature – most likely including some of Raffi’s works – to Van through Iran and was imprisoned for five weeks.38 After his release, he returned to political involvement immediately and, one year later in 1891, was sentenced to death in absentia for an armed clash in which he and his friends engaged a group of Kurds and the Ottoman gendarmerie.39 In order to escape the death penalty, Terlemezian fled Van via Persia to Tbilisi, then the most significant cultural centre for Russian Armenians.

  • 40 Quoted in Revue des études géorgiennes et caucasiennes, 1987.
  • 41 M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 16.

13Effectively in exile for his politics, Terlemezian now turned in earnest towards his art. Like Istanbul, Tbilisi had undergone considerable political, cultural, and social transformations starting from the late eighteenth century. After the mid-nineteenth century, the city became a provincial centre for the Russian Empire and home to many artists and cultural events. The city also took on a distinctly European flavour. In 1847, one journalist wrote that Tbilisi was “a kind of Janus: one face towards Asia, and the other towards Europe.”40 Throughout his lifetime, Terlemezian visited Tbilisi on many occasions. On this, his first visit, he met the famous Russian Armenian artist Gevorg Bashinjaghian (1857-1925) and was deeply impressed by his paintings. Unlike the romantic-historicism of the Russian Armenian painter Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky (1817-1900), Bashinjaghian was a Realist painter specializing in scenes of rural life. His landscapes of Armenia’s landmarks, like Mount Ararat and Lake Sevan, palpable in their simplicity and veracity, appealed to Terlemezian both aesthetically and for their national subjects, inspiring him to become a professional painter. With the help of the letter Bashinjaghian wrote to his brother in St. Petersburg,41 Terlemezian was able to enter the famous painting school of the Imperial Society for the Encouragement of the Arts in the capital of the Russian Empire in 1895. His education was funded by the Catholicos, Mkrtich Khrimian (1820-1907), also a native of Van.

  • 42 M. Sarkisian, 1960, pp. 42-47.
  • 43 M. Kirakosyan, 2014, pp. 17-18.

14Terlemezian’s education in St. Petersburg involved a full academic training, and also meant living in the same city as many brilliant Russian painters, like Ilya Repin (1844-1930) and Ivan Shishkin (1832-1898), who formed the prestigious society of Peredvizhniki (The Wanderers or Itinerants). The Peredvizhniki were Realist and self-consciously Russian painters who believed in conveying social and political critique via art, protesting academic restrictions and purveyors of “art for art’s sake.” The painters were strongly drawn to the common people and their way of life; perhaps one reason that later critics would describe Terlemezian as “influenced more by the Eastern than by the Western school of thought and style.”42 His art education in Russia, however, came to an abrupt end in 1897, when he was taken into custody by the Tsarist police during an art trip to Estonia on the orders of the Ottoman Government.43

  • 44 Teotig, 1912.
  • 45 S. Deringil, 2009, pp. 348-349.
  • 46 For a comprehensive study on Hamidiye Light Cavalry Regiments and the relation between the Kurdish (...)
  • 47 J. Klein, 2011; S. Deringil, 2009, p. 351.

15The reason for his arrest was the political letters he had been sending back to Van, under his revolutionary moniker “Minas”,44 most likely protesting the terrible plight of the Anatolian Armenians at this time. Even against the persistent background of social and economic problems in the eastern provinces in the late nineteenth-century, the 1890s were dark times for the Armenian population in the margins of the empire. As Selim Deringil explains, due to the centralisation reforms, started in the mid-nineteenth century but felt most acutely in the eastern provinces by the 1870s, the “Armenians of Anatolia had suffered two main ills: double taxation and the depredations of the Kurdish tribes. Even after they had paid their taxes to the state, the Kurdish şeyhs of the area would demand further payment.”45 Then, between 1894 and 1897, whilst Terlemezian was studying in St. Petersburg, there were organized mass killings of Armenians across Anatolia; what became known as the Hamidian massacres. The Sasun massacres in 1894 were a bloody response to an Armenian uprising against unfair taxes, and similar massacres occurred across Ottoman Armenia between 1895 and 1896 including in Terlemezian’s birthplace, Van. In 1890, perceiving a threat to his absolute rule from Armenian nationalist revolutionaries, Sultan Abdülhamid II formed the notorious Hamidiye Light Cavalry Regiments (Hamidiye Hafif Süvari Alayları), an irregular unit of loyal Kurdish tribes,46 giving them license to reduce the majority of Ottoman Armenians to “a state of terror.”47

  • 48 M. Kirakosyan, 2014, pp. 17-18.
  • 49 I will further explore this image in the fourth part of my paper.

16After six months in the Estonian prison at Ottoman behest, Terlemezian underwent an arduous transfer to a prison in Tbilisi, where he was kept for another seven months.48 The earliest surviving works by him, in fact, are the two letter-sized pen drawings he created in 1897, while in prison: My Feet (Իմ Ոտքերը) and Self-Portrait (Ինքնադիմանկար) [see figure 2].49

Figure 2 Panos Terlemezian, Self-Portrait (Ինքնադիմանկար), 1897
Pencil on paper, 27 x 22 cm
Image courtesy of the National Gallery of Armenia

In the Académie Julian, Paris

17After Tbilisi, thanks to his Persian passport (most likely obtained from the Persian Consulate then in Aygestan), Terlemezian was exiled to Persia. Looking to continue his art education, he secretly fled to Paris through Georgia, and like many international students, registered at the privately operated Académie Julian in Paris, where he studied between 1899 and 1904.

  • 50 It is important to note that many other Ottoman painters were educated at the Académie Julian in th (...)
  • 51 A. Cole, 1976, pp. 112, 114. The American artist Alphaeus Cole was a contemporary of Terlemezian in (...)
  • 52 See, for example, the special issue of Review of National Literatures, 1984. See, also, K.B. Bardak (...)

18In Académie Julian, Terlemezian’s tutors were well-respected painters of the Parisian art world; the Orientalist painter Benjamin Constant was attracted to exotic subjects, and the master of the French academic style Jean-Paul Laurens specialized in grandiose historical murals.50 In Paris, Terlemezian also studied the great masters at the galleries of the Louvre, making copies of old masters such as Titian (ca. 1488-1579). Like all Académie Julian students, Terlemezian was taught to perfect his anatomical drawing and modelling, and to create a highly finished surface, virtually bereft of impasto. Indeed, Constant was hostile to any style outside the beaux-arts tradition, referring to the Impressionists as “those ‘sal [sic] con’” who “only exist to destroy the young.”51 Unlike his academic tutors, however, Terlemezian remained committed to painting the contemporary and everyday world, observing the charm of nature as well as the realities of lower class life. In the Paris art world, “Realism” was an established position, associated with the socially committed painting of Gustave Courbet (1819-1877) and the injunction of Honoré Daumier (1808-1879) that “il faut être de son temps” (one must be of one’s times). For Terlemezian, this resonated with the Realist tendency in both Western and Eastern Armenian literature, particularly in novels and short stories since the early 1870s,52 and in Russian Armenian painting like Bashinjaghian’s, which inspired his early work.

  • 53 The Armenian title of the picture is [Woman] Worker Next to the Well (Աշխատավորուհին Աղբյուրի Մոտ).
  • 54 For a comprehensive study on Gauguin’s iconography and symbolism, see H. Dorra, 2007. For an art hi (...)
  • 55 It is listed in the exhibition catalogue as Près de la Fontaine. “Terlémezian (Panos), né à Van (Tu (...)

19Terlemezian’s art education thus took place not only in the dark studios of the Académie Julian, but also during his spare time when he could work in plein air and the bright sunshine of France, observing the lives of ordinary people. He travelled around France, sketching the picturesque towns and people of the western peninsula of Brittany, at that time a poor and isolated region of France. In Brittany, Terlemezian produced his first major work in 1900 Next to the Well (Près de la Fontaine)53 [see figure 3]. The painting portrays a peasant woman, in a traditional black costume with white head cover, resting beside a well on a sunny day. The composition sets up a lyrical synthesis between the relatively small figure, offset to the right, and the surrounding poor brick houses, the texture and details of which are central. The villages and people of Brittany were a favourite theme for many French artists in the late-nineteenth century: before Terlemezian, the painters of the Pont-Aven School (École de Pont-Aven), including Paul Gauguin (1848-1903), had painted farmlands and marketplaces peopled with Bretons in traditional peasant costumes.54 Yet, different from the Pont-Aven painters, who worked with pure colours and often sought to convey elements of symbolism in their art, Terlemezian’s Brittany is depicted in naturalistic colour and with stark realism. The picture was first exhibited at the annual Salon exhibition organized by the Société des artistes français in 1901.55

Figure 3 Panos Terlemezian, Worker Next to the Well
[Աշխատավորուհին աղբյուրի մոտ], 1900
Oil on canvas, 73 x 90 cm, image courtesy of National Gallery of Armenia

  • 56 M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 22.
  • 57 Ibid., p. 23.

20While living in Paris, Terlemezian was also able to visit Russian Armenia under the protection of Catholicos Khrimian, visiting Etchmiadzin, Sevan, and Ani.56 On finishing his training in 1904, he returned directly again to Russian Armenia, setting himself to paint its landscapes and scenes of rural life. The same year, Khrimian commissioned a portrait from the artist, which the Catholicos later donated to the Monastery of Varag in Van57 (the work was most likely destroyed when the Monastery was raided in 1915).

  • 58 “Terlémezian (Panos), né à Van (Turquie d’Asie), élève de Benjamin-Constant et de M. Jean-Paul Laur (...)
  • 59 Teotig, 1912. Today, this work belongs to the collection of the National Gallery of Armenia (Դեկորա (...)

21Between 1904 and 1908, Terlemezian took trips to Egypt and Algeria, but mostly travelled in the Caucasus; devoting his time to painting and also exhibiting in Tbilisi. With the death of Catholicos Khrimian in 1907, Terlemezian lost both a friend and a patron. Terlemezian initially returned to Paris and began to experiment with new ways of depicting his surroundings, rather than striving for photographic realism. He started to capture his own perception of light and shadows, and paint Parisian city life in impressionistic brushstrokes. He painted the Fontaine de l’Observatoire and particularly of the horses designed by the French sculptor Emmanuel Frémiet (1824-1910). In 1910, he participated, again, in the annual Salon exhibition organized by the Société des Artistes Français, not with an impressionist landscape, but with a decorative panel “projetLa Charité rendered in “vieux style arménien.”58 Yet Terlemezian does not seem to have found a buyer for this work in Paris; the artwork, which would later hang on the walls of Terlemezian’s Istanbul atelier, depicted the medieval king of Armenia “Ashot III (Աշոտ Ողորմած)” and was, for Teotig, a brilliant example “to rejuvenate the Armenian style.”59 When Terlemezian left Paris for Istanbul in 1910, he was a forty five year old man and something of a technical virtuoso, capable of painting with neutral observation and technical proficiency, and, while adapt of the conventional smooth finish he learned from his Russian and French academic tutors, was also a master of creating occasional spontaneous studies, capturing the colours and lights of his surroundings with thick impastos influenced by Impressionists.

22Yet how would Terlemezian’s previous political stance against the Abdülhamid regime shape (or preclude) his artistic career among the Istanbul cultural elite? Answering – or even asking – this question involves clarifying what is meant by “revolutionary” and “anti-establishment” movements before and during the Second Constitutional Period, which turns out to involve complex, often conflicting, issues in the Ottoman past. Turkish historians’ attitudes to rebellions which occurred in the empire have been ambivalent: whilst the anti-Hamidian Young Turk leaders (and among them only the Muslim Turks) have been celebrated by emphasizing the role they played in the Constitutional Revolution, the anti-Hamidian movements led by Ottoman Arabs or Ottoman Armenians have been despised and stigmatized as treacherous. In this particular kind of narrative, a figure like Terlemezian has inevitably suffered from prejudices and distortions in Turkish historiography. It is the very teleology of this position – searching for “revolutionaries” whom later (art) historians have accepted or rejected – which makes this reductionist hypothesis about late Ottoman history misleading. Quite the contrary, when we attempt to understand this period on its own terms, with all its non-linearity and contradictions, we achieve a more sophisticated approach to a moment of which a political figure and an artist like Terlemezian was an integral part. In the following section, I aim to focus on Terlemezian’s contribution to the Istanbul art world and his journey to official favour after 1910, before he once again found himself an exile in 1915.

From Official Favour to Exile (Again)

“In the Capital of the Sultans”

  • 60 The “Turk” in the “Young Turks” implies, prima facie, an ethnic definition. Hasan Kayalı has convin (...)
  • 61 Of the deputies elected to the Parliament in 1908, 142 were Turks, sixty Arabs, twenty-five Albania (...)

23Terlemezian arrived in the Ottoman capital in 1910; two years after the Constitutional Revolution, and one year after the dethronement of Sultan Abdülhamid II and his replacement by Sultan Mehmed V Reşad (r. 1909-1918). Through the revolution, led by the Western-educated “Young Turks” and their Committee of Union and Progress (CUP),60 the Ottoman people had regained their parliament and constitution, suspended some thirty years earlier by Abdülhamid II.61 The revolution ended Abdülhamid’s absolutist regime, with its atmosphere of paranoia, surveillance, and censorship. With the newfound freedoms of assembly and expression came an infectious atmosphere of enthusiasm in the entire city. As the revolution had proclaimed “Liberty, Equality, Freedom, and Justice”, Istanbul now welcomed back many political exiles like Terlemezian. The Armenian feminist writer and activist, Yevpime Avetisian (1871-1950), also known as Anaïs, wrote in her memoirs of this new atmosphere of freedom for Armenian intellectuals and revolutionaries:

  • 62 Y. Avetisian, 1949. This section together with other few pages from My Recollections were translate (...)

All the intellectuals and revolutionaries who had been sent into exile were gradually returning. They received special treatment and recognition from Armenians, as if their names were surmounted with halos, followed by crowns of thorns. They gave lectures and speeches in Armenian, and the public lapped up their words. There were many likable figures among these revolutionaries in addition to the ones we had known previously. It was a real treat to associate with them, listen to the details of what they had done, get excited by their expectations, and be reinvigorated by their mission. Those who were leading intellectuals greeted the Armenian intellectuals of Istanbul like real brothers, appreciating everyone according to his true merit.62

  • 63 A. Thalasso, 1911.
  • 64 N. Terzi, 1979, p. 14. For the Ottoman Society of Painters, see for example, A.S. Güler, 1994; G. T (...)

24For the Istanbul-born Levantine art critic, Adolphe Thalasso, the eruption of the Constitutional Revolution was a ground breaking artistic progress in the empire: With “the constitutional regime in Turkey” wrote Thalasso in his L’Art ottoman: les peintres de Turquie “all the arts in this country are about to undergo a development unknown until today.”63 Thalasso was right to be optimistic; in 1909, the “Ottoman Society of Painters” was formed to publicize “love of the fine arts” and “progress the art of painting in the Ottoman State.”64 The Society, founded mostly by the graduates and students of the Academy of Fine Arts (Sanayi-i Nefise Mektebi) in Istanbul, published the first art journal between 1911 and 1914 and contributed to developing the art market by opening regular exhibitions in its centre. Unlike many other Ottoman artists of the era, Terlemezian did not receive his art training at the Academy of Fine Arts, and his political commitments had prevented him from being a painter under the regime of Sultan Abdülhamid II. Though we don’t know whether he joined the Society or not (the inaugural membership registration notebook has apparently not survived until today), Terlemezian became part of the vivid Istanbul cultural milieu with many other professional painters, and, like most of them, had to rely on giving private painting classes and the increasingly differentiated patronage of the art market to support himself.

  • 65 R. Soulahian Kuyumjian, 2001, p. 72.

25Terlemezian rented an apartment at the Pangaltı Street of the Şişli district within walking distance of the lively European cultural centre, Pera. He shared the apartment with his old friend, the Ottoman Armenian priest, composer and musicologist, Soghomon Soghomonian, known as Gomidas.65 They immediately turned the spacious apartment into a studio for private students of painting and music. Terlemezian would later write that:

  • 66 Quoted in M. Bilal and B. Yıldız, 2015.

We met once again in the capital of the sultans, ate together at the same table, and lived together with memories of centuries-old cultural traditions in our hearts. Our house became a cultural centre for intellectuals and artists from different nationalities. There were Greek thinkers coming for Gomidas to talk about the birth of Church music, and Turks to chat about starting a conservatory and an opera.66

  • 67 İsmail Cenani Bey was quite an important figure in Istanbul. He was the second president of the Ist (...)
  • 68 For a photo of these students in Terlemezian’s studio, see M. Saris, 2005, p. 151.

26The house Terlemezian remembered was a microcosm of the multicultural “city of the sultans” in which different nations and religions intermingled and, in this case at least, cooperated. Terlemezian also seems to have had good networks of private patronage in the city. As he wrote in his memoirs, important Ottoman bureaucrats like İsmail Cenani Bey, Chief of the Bureau of Protocol of the Imperial Council (Teşrifat-ı Umumiye Nazırı), visited their house to see his paintings.67 Another successful way of attracting clientele in the city was certainly offering painting and drawing lessons to affluent members of the Ottoman middle class. Indeed, Terlemezian’s students included well-to-do Ottoman Armenian women like Shoushan Boshnakian and Adrine Donelian.68

  • 69 Halil Edhem, who served as director of the Academy of Fine Arts and of the Imperial Museum, refers (...)
  • 70 Ö.F. Şerifoğlu and İ. Baytar, 2005, p. 90.
  • 71 Teotig, 1912.

27Terlemezian was also active in the Istanbul art market. In 1911, he participated in an exhibition organized at the famous club of La Società Operaia (a club which had been founded in 1863 as an association for workers in Pera). The exhibition also hosted works by Istanbul-based painters like Müfide Hanım (1890-1912),69 a Muslim woman painter, and Leonardo de Mango (1843-1930),70 the popular Italian orientalist artist. Terlemezian’s technique was something of a novelty for the Ottoman audience. Though he was faithful to the old tradition of depicting a beautiful object (mostly landscape), his free and spontaneous painting technique and particularly the impasto application of colour was different from most contemporary Ottoman painters (though similar techniques would later be popularized by the Turkish Impressionists). In 1912, a short biography and photograph of the increasingly famous Terlemezian were published in Teotig’s Everyone’s Almanac. After briefly mentioning his life, revolutionary activities, and exile, the article refers to Terlemezian’s “fearless” return to Istanbul and gives an overview of his participation in the Pera exhibition. Teotig wrote that Terlemezian’s landscapes, portraits, and interior scenes were “realist, but also had their own novel sense of line, and a sincerity [սէնսէռթէ] noticeable above all else.”71

28During his time in Istanbul, Terlemezian produced a series of paintings of the Bosphorus, palaces, kiosks, and castles. Terlemezian scoured Istanbul in search of perfect places to paint. The best views of the city were available from the hills of the Beşiktaş district, whose shores glittered with luxurious yalıs (waterfront mansions) and imperial palaces. In her memoirs, Anaïs describes Terlemezian visiting her house in the Beşiktaş hills to paint her view after snowfall:

  • 72 Y. Avetisian, 1949, p. 193. I would like to thank Vazken Davidian for introducing me to Anaïs and s (...)

The likeable painter came to ask for permission to paint the remarkable view […]. When painting, he was serious, sullen and quiet, but I would talk to him occasionally, and he would nod his head. That dignified artist had an austere personality. When he was not painting, he was not very talkative, but what he said was interesting, though sometimes raw.72

  • 73 P. Loti, 1894, p. 132.

29The elevated viewpoint must have been tempting for Terlemezian, as his various paintings of the shoreline reveal. Among these, his 1911 work Dolmabahçe Palace in Constantinople (Դոլմա-Բախչա Պալատը Կոստանդնուպոլսում) depicts the palace of Sultan Abdülmecid I [see figure 4]. In 1894, the French writer Pierre Loti described Dolmabahçe as: “a line of palaces as white as snow, rising from marble quays at the very edge of the sea.”73 Upon its completion in 1856, the Palace became one of the major landmarks of Istanbul situated outside the old-walled city, and was a popular subject for both painters and photographers. In an earlier and smaller study of the same scene, painted in darker tones and thicker brushstrokes, Terlemezian does not include the entire building of the Main Palace. In Dolmabahçe Palace in Constantinople, however, Terlemezian obtained the best point of view of the palace buildings, a view also chosen by other artists, including the Istanbul-based photography studio Sébah and Joaillier. Painted from the top of the hill and from the west, one can see the entire façade of the Ceremonial Hall and the Administrative section (Mabeyn-i Hümayun) rising up behind the Treasury Gate, white against the green and sienna hills of the Asian side and the blue Bosphorus, on which pass a pleasure boat and an imperial frigate, decked out in celebration.

Figure 4 Panos Terlemezian, Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul
[Դոլմա-Բախչա պալատը Կոստանդնուպոլսում], 1911
Oil on canvas, 48 x 79 cm, image courtesy of National Gallery of Armenia

  • 74 Adolphe Thalasso writes about an Ottoman Paşa who negotiates for the price of a Bosphorus view in a (...)
  • 75 On the history of the Balian family of architects and their remarkable contribution to the silhouet (...)
  • 76 M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 125.
  • 77 The building Terlemezian refers to here is the Holy Cross Church on Aghtamar Island. Quoted in M. K (...)

30The beauty and also popularity of the Bosphorus appear to have influenced Terlemezian’s choice of subjects as he painted many local city views. Indeed, there was an interest in landscape painting in the expanding art market; unlike historical paintings or mythological subjects, landscapes were understandable and affordable. Moreover, traditional norms of taste for non-figurative painting were most likely prevalent among sections of the Empire’s ruling elites who were particularly interested in Bosphorus views in Istanbul Salon exhibitions.74 Terlemezian’s entrepreneurial savvy in depicting the city’s attractions and pleasant scenery must have brought him some modest prosperity. Yet, Terlemezian was also highly interested in Armenian architecture. In addition to creating many works specially featuring buildings designed by Ottoman Armenian architects (such as Dolmabahçe Palace and Küçüksu Palace, both designed by the members of the Balian family),75 he also wrote about them. His article on Hovsep Aznavour (1853-1935) and Leon Nafilian (1877-1937), focusing on their talent in designing, was published in Shant, a contemporary Western Armenian journal.76 Describing the “fabulous structure” of another Armenian building, Terlemezian would later write thatwe, indeed, can be as proud of this architecture as the Greeks are of their classical art.”77

  • 78 For the influence of European Romantics on Armenian writers, see, for example, V. Oshagan, 1984, pp (...)

31In the summer of 1912, Terlemezian travelled with Gomidas to the latter’s homeland, Kütahya, on a journey of discovery, artistic creation, and seclusion – a semi-sacred journey in the Romantic tradition of nature worship popularized by Rousseau and Goethe, whose translated works were popular among contemporary Armenian intellectuals.78 As Terlemezian described it:

  • 79 Quoted in M. Bilal and B. Yıldız, 2015.

After travelling in Kütahya and the region for a while, we went to a mineral spring, founded by the Romans for its healing properties, which was far from the city. Armenians and Turks were staying there in tents, yet we set up our tent in the forest on the top of the hill and went into seclusion for around one and a half months.79

32These days in Kütahya were productive ones for Terlemezian:

  • 80 Ibid.

I painted Gomidas there. And a small painting of two goats; this work is now with an American collector. I also did a painting of a farmer. When we came back to Kütahya from the spring, Gomidas went immediately to Istanbul, but I stayed on a little longer to paint the beautiful scenery. There, I also painted a work depicting a carpet-waving woman, which was sold at my exhibition in Istanbul.80

  • 81 M. Roberts, 2015, pp. 122-125. For the most recent and comprehensive study on Osman Hamdi, see E. E (...)
  • 82 Djagadamard, 15 April 1920. I would like to thank Ari Şekeryan once again for sharing his Turkish t (...)
  • 83 Djagadamard, 15 April 1920.

33One year later, in 1913, Terlemezian went on another journey in Anatolia to the city of Bursa; the aim was to paint the old capital of the Ottoman Empire. The 1913 painting of The Tomb of Sultan Çelebi, Bursa (Սուլթան Ջելաբիի Դամբարանը Բրուսայում) [see figure 5] is proof of his technical proficiency and meticulous attention to architectural detail: the muqarnas niche of the mihrab, the blue-green tiles forming the dado, and the golden calligraphy around the tomb in the Green Tomb (Yeşil Türbe) are all rendered in refined brushwork and careful blending of shadows and lights, reminiscent of Orientalist masters like his tutor Constant and Jean-Léon Gérôme (1824-1904). The city of Bursa and particularly the Green Tomb were popular destinations for painters and also a desirable subject for the Ottoman as well as the international art market. The prominent Ottoman painter, intellectual, and public figure Osman Hamdi Bey (1841-1910), for instance, had created a number of paintings of the Tomb in the 1880s, in which the Austrian Art Museum expressed an interest.81 Exactly how many paintings Terlemezian created in the Green Tomb is unclear, but when one of them went on show in Istanbul in 1920, it was praised for its “remarkable light harmony”.82 The Green Tomb was a popular subject in exhibitions, and a version in which Terlemezian depicted “a hoja reads the Kor’an”83 appears to have been sold.

Figure 5 Panos Terlemezian, The Tomb of Sultan Çelebi, Bursa
[Սուլթան Ջելաբիի դամբարանը Բրուսայում], 1913
Oil on canvas, 65 x 100 cm, image courtesy of National Gallery of Armenia

  • 84 Illustrierter Katalog, 1913.
  • 85 In the German catalogue, the names of his paintings were: “Inneres einer armenischen Kirche in Lori(...)

34The year 1913 marked an increasing recognition of Terlemezian’s talent by the Ottoman cultural establishment. Chosen as one of only five artists to represent the empire, he sent three works to the International Munich exhibition. Terlemezian’s paintings were exhibited along with those of other Istanbul-based artists like Joseph Warnia, the Polish instructor of the Academy of Fine Arts, Jean Vakalapoulos, most likely an Ottoman-Greek artist, and two Muslim-Ottoman painters, Ali Fuad Bey and Şevket Bey.84 Terlemezian sent three works to the exhibition: an interior painting of an Armenian church, a portrait of Gomidas titled An Armenian Priest, and a landscape of the Bosphorus around ruined Rumeli Hisari fortress [see figure 6].85

Figure 6 Panos Terlemezian, The Bosphorus, 1913(?)
Navasart, 1914; exhibited at the International Munich Exhibition in 1913
Current location unknown, image courtesy of AGBU Nubar Library, Paris

  • 86 Medaillen II. Klasse. Ibid, p. xxii.

35Terlemezian received a medal for his paintings,86 an academic honour he relates in characteristically taciturn style.

  • 87 Quoted in M. Bilal and B. Yıldız, 2015. In 1924 whilst in New York Terlemezian wrote in his will th (...)

In the exhibition of 1913, the German jury awarded my paintings with golden medal. The Bosphorus landscape was sold immediately; the portrait was lost in Odessa; I donated the interior painting to the National Gallery of Armenia.87

  • 88 Navasart, 1914, p. 271. Terlemezian would later write of the exhibition that there were only “three (...)

36One year later, the Istanbul Armenian journal Navasart published a short article about the exhibition together with a reproduction of his paintings. The article announces that Terlemezian’s “Church Interior” was awarded with a “golden” medal.88

37Terlemezian was now clearly an officially-favoured and respectable artist who could be chosen to represent the Ottoman Empire in modern international art exhibitions. Then, in July 1914, probably due to his participation in the Munich exhibition and also on the recommendation of Gomidas, Terlemezian was introduced to Prince Abdülmecid Efendi, one of the sons of Sultan Abdülaziz (r. 1861-1876), and a talented painter of historical scenes, a great patron of art, and the honorary president of the Ottoman Society of Painters:

Gomidas had been giving Prince Abdülmecid’s wife music classes […] he told me that the Prince would like to receive me in his palace and show me his paintings. He had been taking painting classes for fifteen years […]. He welcomed us with great kindness, after coffee he brought out one of his paintings to ask my opinion.

38Abdülmecid showed Terlemezian a large historical painting depicting an Ottoman sultan sitting with a young prince in a room decorated with valuable Eastern textiles. No flatterer, Terlemezian began to harshly criticize the picture:

  • 89 Quoted in M. Bilal and B. Yıldız, 2015.

The figure was one of their old sultans with a valuable Lahore scarf on his shoulder, sitting on a cushion and leaning his back on a pillow. Both the cushion and the pillow were positioned on a dirty wooden floor. As though the Sultan in the painting would have had no carpet in his house […] Whilst I was slowly explaining my opinions, I came to the issue of the curtain. I told him that the main motif seemed to be the curtain and all the other objects gave the impression of being there to fill up the painting.89

  • 90 Ibid.
  • 91 For a reproduction of Abdülmecid Efendi’s painting, see the book, Hanedandan Bir Ressam, 2004, p. 7 (...)

39Neither Abdülmecid Efendi nor Gomidas were happy with Terlemezian’s “unfiltered” criticism. As Terlemezian also added in his memoirs, according to the rumour, Prince Abdülmecid Efendi was so furious after their meeting that he left the Palace immediately and stayed in his other residence in Üsküdar for 8 days.90 Yet the meeting itself is significant as it reveals something of Terlemezian’s character; his “raw” and frank attitude, a little anti-authoritarian recklessness, but also his faithfulness to empirical accuracy and emotional truth in art. It also illustrates the influence Terlemezian, a provincial Ottoman Armenian by birth, had on an aristocrat like Abdülmecid Efendi, simply by dint of his technical expertise. Indeed, it seems the Prince never completed the painting Terlemezian criticized (now held in a private collection).91

  • 92 P. Mansel, 1995, p. 362.
  • 93 Z. Toprak, 2002, pp. 45-46.
  • 94 “Tovmas Efendi,” Osmanlı Ressamlar Cemiyeti Gazetesi, 1914.
  • 95 Quoted in M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 32.

40Terlemezian’s meeting with a prince and his participation in the Ottoman section of Munich exhibition are also interesting snapshots of the changing social dynamics of the art world Terlemezian was now part of. Both events demonstrate the liberal atmosphere of the Constitutional era, in which a previous exile like Terlemezian could represent the empire in an international exhibition and in which these two “political” figures, who had suffered under the old regime in different ways, could meet to discuss (and disagree about) art (Prince Abdülmecid once told Pierre Loti that he had spent Sultan Abdülhamid’s twenty-eight year reign “in a tomb”).92 Yet, on the other hand, both events also took place just after the Balkan Wars (1912-13), when the empire lost 83 per cent of its European territory,93 which altered the balance of its multi-ethnic and multi-religious population. The Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) immediately seized power in January 1913 with a military coup d’État headed by Lieutenant-Colonel Enver Bey, marking the beginning of the five-year “dictatorial triumvirate” of Enver, Talat, and Cemal Paşas until the end of the First World War. After the loss of the Balkans, the CUP also moved rapidly to institute a ruthlessly anti non-Muslim Turkification policy, adopting Turkish ethno-nationalism as its official ideology at its 1913 Congress. The new political situation was broached in contemporary art discussions, which begun to revolve around the question of “national art”. Yet, to dismiss these debates as xenophobic propaganda against non-Turkish artists would be a mistake. The front cover of the seventeenth issue of the Journal of the Ottoman Society of Painters, for instance, featured an Ottoman Armenian painter: the chief painter of the Hereke Factory (Hereke Fabrika-i Hümayunu), Tovmas Efendi. The article inside described Tovmas Efendi as an artist working “with national and harmonious colours and lines.”94 Indeed, for most non-Turkish artists, the feeling of belonging to the “Ottoman” cultural identity, or, in contemporary terminology, Ottoman “national” identity, was neither a matter of race, nor of religion, nor of language. On the contrary, the “national” character of an artist was more a matter of an ability or willingness to represent “national” character in his or her art. Terlemezian would reiterate a similar message at a speech he gave in Paris in 1921, combining an appeal to universal humanity with attention to its authentic local and national manifestations: “art is for man, therefore the artist must bring his own environment to life, otherwise he becomes one who lives on the crumbs from foreign tables.”95 This is not, however, to deny Terlemezian’s involvement in Armenian revolutionary movement nor his strong identification with Armenian culture, but only to resist the idea of reducing him to an Armenian painter whose identity was defined negatively against the Ottoman one. That is to say, Terlemezian’s emphasis on bringing the artist’s “own environment to life” was as much about “his own” Armenian culture as it was about “his own” Ottoman environment and identity.

41Yet a short time after the Munich exhibition and Terlemezian’s meeting with Abdülmecid Efendi, the historical course of both his life and of the Ottoman Empire were to change dramatically.

1915 and After: Van, Tbilisi, and Occupied Istanbul

  • 96 Quoted in M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 29. Armenians referred to the province of Van as Vaspurakan.

42When the First World War started in late July 1914, Terlemezian was in Van after a long absence from his birthplace: As he wrote in his memoirs, “after becoming a painter, I wanted very much to see my beloved Vaspurakan [Van] and to create new works of art about its unrivalled beauty.”96 During the three months when the Ottoman Empire was still ostensibly neutral, before it entered the war on 29 October 1914, Terlemezian stayed on Aghtamar Island:

  • 97 Quoted in ibid., p. 30.

Before Turkey joined the war, I rushed to enter the Island of Aghtamar in order to paint. I have to say that I was filled with pleasure and fervent hope about the tremendous beauty of these places, and that I would be able to win something for Armenian art.97

  • 98 E. Rogan, 2015, p. 169.
  • 99 There are a number of studies on the uprising in Van. See, for example, R. Hovannisian, 1967, parti (...)
  • 100 Gomidas was rescued through the intervention of influential friends, but he suffered a psychologica (...)

43We don’t know exactly whether Terlemezian was producing his sketches of manuscripts at the Holy Cross Church on Aghtamar or working on his painting Sipan Mountain in Ktuts Island when things began to change for the Armenian population of Van. In March 1915, Cevdet Paşa, then the governor of Van and a fervent Unionist and the brother-in-law of Enver Paşa (The War Minister), ordered the gendarmes to search Armenian villages for hidden arms and arrest anyone suspected of carrying weapons against the Ottoman army. Upon the murder of the two Armenian leaders, Arshak Vramian (a member of the Ottoman parliament) and Nikoghayos Mikaelian (also known as Ishkhan), the Armenians of Van begun to prepare under Aram Manukian to “resist immanent massacre.”98 The initial armed uprising lasted for a period of less than a month from 19 April to 17 May 1915.99 A week after the uprising began, Terlemezian’s friend Gomidas was arrested along with other Armenian political and intellectual leaders purged from Istanbul on 24 April 1915;100 an event which initiated the Ottoman government’s campaign against the Anatolian Armenians.

  • 101 “Van: Narrative by Mr. Y.K. Rushdouni,” 1916, p. 65.

44In Van itself, Terlemezian rose to become one of the best known military leaders of the uprising. As reported by Y.K. Rushdouni, the most able leaders of the resistance were “Armenag Yegarian, with his cool and able leadership; Aram, with his constant presence and advice; P. Terlemezian, with his great heart; Krikor of Bulgaria with his indefatigable industry and inventive genius.”101 Terlemezian would also later write of the uprising:

  • 102 Quoted in M. Kirakosyan, 2014, pp. 126-127.

In the most violent days of clashes, villagers were digging trenches and labouring day and night. I could see that some villagers were fighting at the frontlines, tiny children aged four and five were crawling on the ground and removing the enemy shells and bringing them to us.102

  • 103 E. Rogan, 2015, p. 171.

45Terlemezian most likely left Van just after 31 July 1915 alongside the approximately 100,000 other Armenians who withdrew with the Russian forces in what came to be known as the Great Retreat.103 Terlemezian would lose many of his art works in the fire and turmoil, and this was the last time he would see his “beloved Vaspurakan”.

46In 1916, Terlemezian was in Tbilisi to form the “Society of Armenian Painters,” with Russian Armenian painters including Martiros Sarian, Yeghishe Tadevosyan, and Vardges Sureniants. Until the end of the First World War, he mostly travelled in the Caucasus, including Batum, Bjni, and Yerevan. He created many paintings featuring Lake Sevan, buildings in Yerevan, Mountain Ararat, as well as portraits and still lifes.

  • 104 M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 32.
  • 105 For Galatasary exhibitions, see Ö.F. Şerifoğlu, 2003.
  • 106 Jennifer Manoukian, “Armenian Intellectual Life in Constantinople during the Armistice Period.” htt (...)
  • 107 For further information on Kurkciyan, see M. Saris, 2005, pp. 77-78.
  • 108 Djagadamard, 6 May 1920.
  • 109 Verchin Lur, 28 April 1920.
  • 110 Ibid.

47Terlemezian came back to Istanbul twice during the Armistice Period; the first time between 1919-1920 and the second in 1922.104 While the city Terlemezian returned to in 1919 was politically very different from the one he had lived in with Gomidas until 1914, the occupation did not restrict cultural activities in Pera or the art market, and there were regular exhibitions organised at Lycée de Galata-Sérai (first organised in 1916).105 Like Terlemezian, a few Ottoman Armenian writers and intellectuals also returned to the city aiming to renew “Armenian literary and intellectual life.”106 During his stay, Terlemezian created a varied body of paintings depicting his favourite scenes of the city, including the Bosphorus and the Rumeli Hisari Castle. In 1920, Terlemezian and another Ottoman Armenian painter, Levon Serovpe Kurkciyan (1872-1924),107 held an art exhibition at the Armenian Association in Pera. According to a contemporary Istanbul-based Armenian newspaper, the exhibition was well-visited by many important figures, including the famous painters Halil Paşa, Namık Bey, Şevket Bey, Feyhaman Bey, İbrahim Çallı, and Sami Bey.108 Terlemezian himself exhibited around ninety works in the exhibition, including his landscapes of Lake Sevan and Mount Ararat, the 1913 painting of The Tomb of Sultan Çelebi, and his 1913 painting of the now traumatized Gomidas in Kütahya.109 Of this last, Hovhannes Asbed reported that it was “less impressive than upsetting, leaving us to reflect on the fate of this great master.”110 After the 1920 exhibition, Terlemezian left Istanbul for Italy and Paris in 1921. In 1922, he returned to Istanbul for a short and final visit. As the allies’ occupation of Istanbul began to look increasingly untenable in the face of the Turkish nationalist forces’ defeat of the Greek army, he began to look abroad once more.

  • 111 I am referring here to Linda Nochlin’s 1989 book The Politics of Vision which deals “with the issue (...)

48The changing historical factors in Terlemezian’s life – from a political exile to an established painter then to an internal enemy during the First World War and a survivor of the genocide during the Armistice Period – immediately raise the question of the politics of his vision.111 In the following section, I turn to the questions of the extent to which Terlemezian’s choice of subjects related to his politics, whether his political position can be recovered from his art, and whether the experiences of war and genocide affected his art.

The Politics of Terlemezian’s Vision

  • 112 M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 18.

49Terlemezian produced only two important works directly related to his resistance to the Hamidian regime: Self-Portrait and My Feet, created in 1897 during his imprisonment. Perhaps alone in a solitary cell, the aim of the artist was probably to practise painting the human figure for lack of another model. Terlemezian would later write in his memoirs that he had requested paints from the authorities in prison yet he could only receive pens, paper, and ink.112 Whatever the practical intentions or the conditions of production, it seems clear that the particular choice of body parts and the (lack of) setting has broader significance for the artist. His feet and face are real but also simultaneously allegorical. My Feet shows these agents of travel and freedom propped uselessly on a bed-head, while Self-Portrait [see figure 2] gazes dispassionately at the aging artist’s dark thinning hair, bushy facial hair, and darkly purposeful face. Despite the fact that Terlemezian played an active political role against the Hamidian regime, he chose to depict a moment of defeat, yet without acknowledging the interior setting of his prison cell: a form of resistance without any sign of fighting. Of the many self-portraits Terlemezian would later produce, his 1897 self-portrait is also unique in several ways: this is the first surviving artwork we have by the artist and the only prison self-portrait, to my knowledge, by an artist from the Ottoman Empire. Yet what we intimate from these pictures can be used to make a more general claim about the works that Terlemezian produced during his period of political activity, and even after the dethronement of Sultan Abdülhamid II in 1909; that, despite their clearly passionate commitment to Realist methods, they can hardly be considered as directly engaging with political subjects, at least in an explicitly “propagandistic” sense.

  • 113 For the representation of the Hamidian massacres and the genocide in Armenian art, see, S. Khachatr (...)
  • 114 Братская помощь пострадавшим в Турции армянам (1898), p. xxxvii.
  • 115 Born in Trabzon, Arshag Fetvadjian was one of the first graduates of the Academy of Fine Arts in Is (...)

50If one compares his paintings to those by contemporary Armenian artists, the lack of a propagandistic message in Terlemezian’s works becomes more apparent.113 The Hamidian massacres were a turning point for Aivazovksy’s relation to Abdülhamid. Like Sultan Abdülmecid (r. 1839-1861) and Sultan Abdülaziz (r. 1861-1876), Abdülhamid had previously commissioned a number of the artist’s distinctive marine landscapes. After 1895, however, as a reaction to the Hamidian massacres, Aivazovsky produced a series of paintings and sketches depicting the horror of the events, such as The Massacre of Armenians in Trebizond in 1895 (place, unknown) [see figure 7]. Aivazovsky’s work was later reproduced in a propagandistic Russian publication with the title Fraternal Help for the Suffering of the Armenians in Turkey.”114 Here Aivazovsky depicts a beach scene in which Ottoman troops arrive by boat, butchering Armenian men on the shore and carrying off an Armenian woman. Like Aivazovsky, Arshag Fetvadjian (1866-1947) conveys a strong political message in his 1903 watercolour The Woman of Sasun.115 It portrays a sturdy woman, with a fierce expression, perched on the top of a rocky hill watching out enemies with one hand on her rifle and the other supporting the baby she is nursing. The heroic depiction of the woman’s motherhood and determination arguably symbolize Armenia’s ability to both confront Kurdish attackers and endure into the next generation.

Figure 7 Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky, The Massacre of Armenians in Trebizond in 1895
Current location unknown, published in Братская помощь пострадавшим в Турции армянам [Fraternal Help for the Suffering of the Armenians in Turkey], Moscow: Tipolitogr. T-va I.N. Kushnerev, 1898, p. xxxvii

51In this context, the lack of overt propagandistic sentiments in Terlemezian’s art is remarkable. The dehumanization of the “enemy” and Romantic idealisation of Armenians we see in Aivazovsky and Fetvadjian respectively, are not present in Terlemezian’s palette of imagery. On the contrary, Terlemezian’s art seems to have been free of explicit scenes of heroism or aestheticization of fighting for the fatherland.

  • 116 Quoted in M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 32. Terlemezian would later emphasize that “art should serve the (...)
  • 117 G.J. Libaridian, 2004, p. 59.
  • 118 Ibid., p. 62.
  • 119 M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 23.

52Yet it would be wrong to maintain for this reason that Terlemezian’s art lacked a political meaning. “Art is for man,”116 he declared in a speech in Paris, and this universalism drove both his Realist and nationalist commitments. These humanist impulses were encouraged by his relationship with Catholicos Khrimian, his patron and close friend. Khrimian, affectionately known as “Hayrik” (father), was a fervent advocate of reform for the political and social rights of Armenian people, particularly the peasantry. Khrimian was a great educator, and his Van-based printing press produced the first Armenian-language periodical in Ottoman Armenia (Artsiv Vaspurakani or Eagle of Van). For Khrimian, the reformation and welfare of the people were above all other considerations,117 and he identified himself with the interests of the provincial masses. As such, he was often at odds with the imperial regimes of Sultan Abdülhamid II and Tsar Nicholas II, and also with many influential Istanbul Armenians.118 Terlemezian had a strong relationship with Khrimian. What Khrimian did with his publications and long service in the highest positions of the Armenian Church, Terlemezian attempted to do with his life and art; by his endless effort to continue his education, in spite of imprisonments and exiles, and by focusing attention on the ordinary lives of peasants and common people: “I loved to watch the struggle of those sun-burned faces with the earth, to walk next to them as they ploughed their furrows, to listen to them sing their horovels, and to bear witness their lives” he later wrote in his memoirs.119 Optimism and serenity distinguish Terlemezian’s work from most of his Russian and French counterparts. His common people are neither as oppressed as the workers in Ilya Repin’s paintings (such as his famous Barge Haulers on the Volga) nor as tired as the peasants of Jean-François Millet (1814-1875), who bear the stigmata of hard physical labour. Instead of revealing the stark misery of lower classes, Terlemezian often chose to depict ordinary people posing in harmony and accommodation with their surroundings, as in his 1900 Next to the Well (Près de la Fontaine) [see figure 3].

Figure 8 Panos Terlemezian, Kurd (Քուրդ), undated

Oil on canvas, 91 x 70 cm, image courtesy of National Gallery of Armenia

53Terlemezian’s Kurd (Քուրդ) [see figure 8] demonstrates his commitment to optimism and his extension of it to every man. Unlike his portrayals of other common people in their landscapes, however, Terlemezian’s depiction of the Kurd without a setting seems at once ethnographic, but at the same time humane – recalling his prison self-portrait. Here, Terlemezian had the Kurd wear his traditional headgear and what looks like a cavalry uniform and ammunition belt, poking out of which we see the hilt of a heavy dagger. He dwells on the details of the man’s costume and the gun he grips tightly in his hands; he applies his brush patiently and persistently to his Kurdish figure, whilst leaving the plain and empty background to his quick and free brushstrokes. The seated figure faces slightly away from us, gazing soulfully towards the floor, past the nozzle of his rifle, which we cannot see. The choice of subject also strikes us for what we know about the relations between Kurds and Armenians in the Ottoman East: after all, the two communities were often engaged in severe political, economic, and social conflict, and Terlemezian himself had had armed clashes with Kurdish tribes early in his life in Van. Yet lest we reach the conclusion that Terlemezian was much less sympathetic to his Kurdish subjects than the Trabzon-born Fetvadjian, who most likely had little personal encounter with Kurds, we must understand both Terlemezian and his politics better.

  • 120 G.J. Libaridian, 2004, pp. 175-176.
  • 121 Ibid., p. 176.
  • 122 Ibid.

54As Gerard Libaridian explains, Kurdish-Armenian relations before 1915 were not only coloured by suspicion and hatred due to the plunder and looting of the settled Armenian societies by the Kurdish tribes, but there was also “a genuine feeling of kinship in some areas.”120 Indeed, the most important leader of the Armenakans, Avetisian (Terlemezian’s cousin), “could not leave the Kurds from his worldview.” Though Avetisian’s ideas were not ultimately realised, he advocated a “common political” programme between Kurds and Armenians.121 In a similar vein, Khrimian, who was highly concerned with self-defence against Kurdish tribes, also “sought to reach out to them by understanding their socio-political structure and advocating agrarian settlements.”122 So it is not too surprising that, after all, Terlemezian represents a Kurd objectively, neutrally, and even sympathetically. The invisible, rapacious enemy in Fetvadjian’s The Woman of Sasun, becomes with Terlemezian a common man like the artist himself, without any attempt at dehumanization or “othering,” and if we are looking for a strong political and social opinion in this portrait, it is perhaps the old humanist credo that, “nothing human is alien to me.”

Figure 9 Panos Terlemezian, A Mother Looking for Her Son Among the Corpses [Մայրը որոնում է դիակների մեջ իր որդուն], undated

Oil on canvas, 40 x 32.5 cm, image courtesy of National Gallery of Armenia

  • 123 Z. Kalemkiarian, 1920.
  • 124 Ibid.
  • 125 The very few war paintings by Terlemezian in the collection of the National Gallery of Armenia are (...)

55As an artist, Terlemezian records his subjects and landscapes in a pure, unadulterated and unfiltered present, recording what is in front of him as he sees it. But what, then, are we to make of the undated painting titled A Mother Looking for Her Son Among the Corpses (Մայրը Որոնում է Դիակների Մեջ Իր Որդուն) (undated) [see figure 9]? The subject matter and style are uncharacteristic of the artist, to say the least. In the 1920 Istanbul exhibition, Terlemezian exhibited a war painting called Bloody Feast (Արիւնոտ Խրախճանք), which, in the words of the famous Ottoman Armenian essayist Zaruhi Kalemkiarian (1874-1971), depicted the infernal character of the war the morning after; “the dead bodies on the floor, the bushes still burning, not yet sending up smoke.”123 For Kalemkiarian, the picture proved that Terlemezian “was influenced by his environment and time.”124 We don’t know if Terlemezian also exhibited A Mother Looking for Her Son among the Corpses in this exhibition, but what is clear is that this specific painting is one of the few works in his oeuvre to explicitly thematise the events of the genocide, and it is a disturbingly bleak and ambivalent response.125 We see an indistinct mass of corpses piled in the shadow of jagged, white rocks and circling crows, stretching out towards two heads and a corpse impaled on spikes in the top right of the composition. The black-clad female figure in the foreground seems to clasp one of the corpse’s hands to her face as its head hangs limply towards the earth, but whether in grief or prayer is unclear. Terlemezian does not paint the faces of the naked people, who have been stripped of their identity. Though the mother searches, nothing can single these figures out them as the unique human beings they once were. Terlemezian haunts us with an image of a pile of naked corpses filling a barren and hostile landscape from which they are almost indistinguishable. It can certainly be read as an anti-war painting: its intention is not to express a triumphant heroism, as it would be if he had painted the uprising in Van as he remembered it in his memoirs, but to show us an apocalyptic setting ruled by chaos and bitter agony. Even in this, his most explicit reference to events during the war, we don’t see expressions of heroism, or idealised or glorified images of fighting and battle. Despite its nightmarish and disturbing power, the piece seems sketched, rushed or unfinished, as if Terlemezian were unsure of or unsatisfied with its effect.

  • 126 A.S. Blackwell, 1917, p. 245.

56The representation of war and the exploration of memory and remembrance invite us to look again at the painting Terlemezian created in the midst of the war; his 1915 Sipan Mountain from Ktuts Island [see figure 1]. Probably no other painting by Terlemezian captures such a private and delicate moment of his life. In Sipan Mountain, Terlemezian conjures up its distant vastness through a play of light, colour, and perspective between the shore in the foreground and that incongruous little white sail, glinting across the horizon. In his poem The Lake of Van, Terlemezian’s favourite writer Raffi had written: “Upon the lake there shone a sudden light;
 A graceful maid rose from the waters there;
 A lighted lantern in one hand she bore; In one a shining lyre of ivory fair.”126 And here again we sense the covert sentiment and inwardness of Terlemezian’s Realism. Writing his memoirs in Soviet Armenia after 1935, Terlemezian wrote about his feelings when he had first seen Van again after long years of absence:

  • 127 Quoted in M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 29.

My soul was gently shivering with an inexplicable feeling when I saw my so much missed fatherland; I was unable to speak or breathe. The extraordinary beauty of the surrounding area and the proximity of the places where I lived in my childhood and youth further increased the constantly smouldering, deep anguish that was enclosed in my heart.127

  • 128 Some sections from Khrimian’s Papké psak i dasht (Crowned by Grandpa in the Field) were translated (...)

57Terlemezian had been forced for years to leave his family, home, and land, and obliged to be content with a life in which he knew that everything around him was temporary and provisional. Terlemezian’s landscapes are responses to his sense of belonging to the land and its people, but his belonging did not involve a sense of ownership of everything that was Armenian or a rejection of anything which was not. His attachment to and almost obsessive representation of the land seemed to answer a spiritual need in him. As Catholicos Khrimian had one of his characters say, “from the day he is born a man needs land, and when he dies he still needs a piece of land to lie under. That is how it is grandson: land is a matter of life and death.”128 Terlemezian’s was a life of strenuous exiles; the accumulation of its emotional and physical difficulties, the unhealable anguish of being far away from home and his native land, all profoundly disrupted his soul, but also gave him another, permanently estranged way of seeing the land. Edward Said has eloquently explained this dilemma:

  • 129 E. Said, 2000, p. 173.

While it is true that literature and history contain heroic, romantic, glorious, even triumphant episodes in an exile’s life, these are not mere efforts meant to overcome the crippling sorrow of estrangement. The achievements of exile are permanently undermined by the loss of something left behind forever.129

58Sipan Mountain perhaps does not depart sharply in appearance or style from Terlemezian’s earlier landscapes; a picturesque scenery without humans to capture and emphasize the pure beauty of what stands in front of him (like his 1911 work Dolmabahçe Palace in Constantinople). And he, again, records the view straightforwardly and directly. But a closer look reveals a much more complex and fragile “present” in the eyes of Terlemezian: indeed, what he omitted is as important as what he chose to represent. Even before the war started, Terlemezian had already been shocked by the distraction he saw in his hometown. In late summer 1914, he was in Aghtamar Island, and wrote of the “lamentable” condition of the place:

  • 130 Quoted in M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 30.

The current condition of the island is lamentable […] 30 years ago during my pilgrimage here, the island was undoubtedly in a much better condition, and most importantly there was a great congregation, a community; there was no lack of visitors and the monastery had a thriving dining hall […] Yet, alas, sculptures were targeted and completely destroyed.130

59The war brought destruction not only in people’s lives, but also in culture and art. Terlemezian, who always had a keen eye for architecture, does not choose to look at St. John’s Monastery behind him; most likely already in a “lamentable” condition. In concentrating on creating a vigorous and vividly coloured Sipan Mountain, he obscures and omits any “fragments” of the war from the view; his desire to preserve and memorialize the life he enjoyed in the past and to exalt the “extraordinary beauty” of his homeland occludes any image which might aggrieve posterity or his future self. This is clearly Realism, but it is Realism of a sentimental disposition. Significantly, this was one of the few artworks Terlemezian managed to protect as he fled his homeland that summer.

*

60Terlemezian’s was a life spent between political exile and painting, and between many precarious identities, some hyphenated some not. Yet neither his political commitments nor his constant displacements prevented him from becoming the most talented of painters, first, of modern Ottoman art, and then, of modern Armenian art. Terlemezian’s life and art are of great importance, both as an artistic expression and a historical source. As we have seen, his story points to a more cosmopolitan and integrated art world in the city of Istanbul particularly after the 1908 Second Constitutional Revolution and to a lesser extent during the Armistice Period (1918-1923), where Ottoman Armenians and many other non-Muslim artists were part of the vibrant art scene. Yet, on the other hand, this chapter of Terlemezian’s story ends with an irreparable rupture from his homeland.

61Classifications of Terlemezian as an “Armenian plotter” or “Armenian patriot” are only starting-points, any of which, if taken for granted, may easily lead us to an already-assumed story of national becoming. Yet it is essential to remember that neither Terlemezian’s political nor artistic identity was ever purely one thing, as Turkish and Armenian nationalist (art) historiographies seek to claim. His Ottoman Armenian, Diaspora-Armenian, and Soviet-Armenian identities call into question clear-cut cultural boundaries, posing challenges to nationalist art histories in the countries formed after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in 1918. One value of examining a story and an oeuvre like Terlemezian’s is that it allows us to raise questions about the categories, histories, and silences we take for granted in the present.

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Sarinay Yusuf, Necati Aktaş, Necati Gültepe and Mustafa Kaplan (eds.), Ermeni Komiteleri [Armenian Committees], 1891-1895, Ankara: T.C. Başbakanlık Devlet Arşivleri Genel Müdürlüğü, 2001.

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Notes

1 Terlemezian’s name also appears as “Fanos Pogosovich Terlemezian” in Russian sources. See, for example, Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1980, p. 524. In this paper, Armenian names are translated based on Eastern Armenian phonetics, unless the names of people, newspapers, or places are accepted with their traditional Western Armenian names.

2 H. F. B. Lynch, 1901, p. 33. Lynch visited Armenia twice, first in 1893-1894 and later in 1898.

3 G. Steiner, 1971.

4 M. Saris, 2005, p. 65.

5 “կերպարվեստի ռեալիստական ուղղության ականավոր ներկայացուցիչ Փանոս”. M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 4.

6 G. Kürkman, 2004, p. 804.

7 S. Khachatryan, 2010, p. 20.

8 In this study, I refer to two memoirs by the artist: his memoirs about his friend Gomidas, published in Yerevan in 1930 as part of a collection of memoirs for Gomidas, which has been translated from Eastern Armenian to Turkish by Melissa Bilal and Burcu Yıldız. I have also consulted Terlemezian’s personal memoirs as they appear in Meri Kirakosyan’s comprehensive 2014 monograph, based on her PhD thesis, a remarkable piece of archival research. Terlemezian started to write his memoirs as late as 1935, when he was 70 years old; sadly, he had not finished them when he died in 1941. Terlemezian’s memoirs are kept at the National Gallery of Armenia.

9 Z. Yasa-Yaman, 2011, p. 43.

10 Publications on modern Ottoman painting by Wendy Shaw and Mary Roberts are examples of contributions informed by recent critical insights offered by postcolonial theory. W. Shaw, 2011; M. Roberts, 2015.

11 On the problem of Turkish art history writing and how it has marginalised Ottoman Armenian painters, see, B. Kum, 2015, pp. 258-286.

12 G. Kürkman, 2004.

13 M. Saris, 2005; and, also, M. Saris, 2010.

14 V.K. Davidian, 2014, pp. 11-54.

15 Ibid., p. 14.

16 For a recent and comprehensive study on the impact of nationalist ideologies on the practice of art history, see M. Rampley, 2012.

17 E. Martikyan, 1964.

18 R.G. Suny, 1997, pp. 376, 378.

19 Mahari’s novel was first published in Yerevan in 1967, but later had to be rewritten due to censorship, and was only republished posthumously in 1979, ten years after the death of the author. For a comprehensive discussion on Mahari’s novel, the harsh criticisms it received from nationalists, and the extent to which he had to rewrite it, see, M. Nichanian, 2002.

20 G. Mahari, 2007, p. 457.

21 Nevertheless, he is sometimes still regarded as a “Russian” artist in the West, as in the Sotheby’s “Russian Sale” in 2006 http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/ecatalogue/2006/the-russian-sale-l06110/lot.66.html (accessed 30 Aug. 2015).

22 M.Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 167. Emphasis is mine.

23 U. Üngör, 2008, p. 26.

24 Here I use the word “silence” as defined by Michel-Rolph Trouillot: “an active and transitive process: one ‘silences’ a fact or an individual as a silencer silences a gun. One engages in the practice of silencing. Mentions and silences are thus active, dialectical counterparts of which history is the synthesis.” M.R. Trouillot, 1995, p. 48.

25 Y. Sarınay, 2001, p. 93.

26 E. Eldem, 2015, p. 76.

27 Van was one of the six vilayets (provinces) alongside Erzurum, Diyarbekir, Bitlis, Sivas, and Mamüretülaziz. The great majority of Ottoman Armenians lived in these provinces. On Ottoman local administrations, see İ. Ortaylı, 1974; for the history of Van, see, R.G. Hovanissian, 2000.

28 Zaruhi Kalemkiarian wrote in 1920 that Terlemezian was the son of Boghos Agha (landlord). According to Kalemkiarian, his mother was also a wealthy woman. Z. Kalemkiarian, 1920.

29 G.J. Libaridian defined Portukalian as “a pivotal figure in the transition from a middle class liberalism […] to the armed defence of the interests of the peasantry.” See, G.J. Libaridian, 1987, p. 221; for Armenian revolutionary organizations, see, also, A. Ter Minassian, 1984.

30 Quoted in M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 14.

31 R. Panossian, 2006, p. 201. The name of the society Armenakan came from the newspaper Armenia, Portukalian had established in his exile at Paris in August 1885.

32 L. Nalbandian, 1963, p. 205, en. 42.

33 Ibid.

34 R. Panossian, 2006, p. 202.

35 A. Ter Minassian, 1994, p. 112.

36 M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 15

37 A.J. Hacikyan, 2005, pp. 346-347.

38 Teotig, 1912.

39 M. Varandian, 1970, pp. 3-21

40 Quoted in Revue des études géorgiennes et caucasiennes, 1987.

41 M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 16.

42 M. Sarkisian, 1960, pp. 42-47.

43 M. Kirakosyan, 2014, pp. 17-18.

44 Teotig, 1912.

45 S. Deringil, 2009, pp. 348-349.

46 For a comprehensive study on Hamidiye Light Cavalry Regiments and the relation between the Kurdish tribes and the Ottoman state during the nineteenth and early twentieth century, see J. Klein, 2011. See, also, V. Dadrian, 1995, pp. 113-131. See, also, S. Deringil, 2009, pp. 344-371.

47 J. Klein, 2011; S. Deringil, 2009, p. 351.

48 M. Kirakosyan, 2014, pp. 17-18.

49 I will further explore this image in the fourth part of my paper.

50 It is important to note that many other Ottoman painters were educated at the Académie Julian in the 1910s. As Deniz Artun has pointed out, the privately sponsored Ottoman painters who lacked an official letter from the Ottoman Ministry of Education needed to register at the Académie Julian first in order to enter the École des Beaux-Arts. D. Artun, 2007, pp. 160-161.

51 A. Cole, 1976, pp. 112, 114. The American artist Alphaeus Cole was a contemporary of Terlemezian in Académie Julian.

52 See, for example, the special issue of Review of National Literatures, 1984. See, also, K.B. Bardakjian, 2000.

53 The Armenian title of the picture is [Woman] Worker Next to the Well (Աշխատավորուհին Աղբյուրի Մոտ).

54 For a comprehensive study on Gauguin’s iconography and symbolism, see H. Dorra, 2007. For an art historical survey on the representation of Breton peasants, see D. Delouche, 1977.

55 It is listed in the exhibition catalogue as Près de la Fontaine. “Terlémezian (Panos), né à Van (Turquie), élève de M. Jean-Paul Laurens, Rue des Chartreux, 6.” Société des artistes français, 1901, p. 195.

56 M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 22.

57 Ibid., p. 23.

58 “Terlémezian (Panos), né à Van (Turquie d’Asie), élève de Benjamin-Constant et de M. Jean-Paul Laurens, Boulevard Saint-Jacques, 51. No: 5599 « La Charité » projet de décoration ; vieux style arménien.” Société des artistes français, 1910, p. 514.

59 Teotig, 1912. Today, this work belongs to the collection of the National Gallery of Armenia (Դեկորատիվ պանո հայկական ոճով վարագույրի համար, 1909).

60 The “Turk” in the “Young Turks” implies, prima facie, an ethnic definition. Hasan Kayalı has convincingly regarded the designation of “Young Turk” as an “unfortunate misnomer,” for it conjures away the fact that these Young Turks included many Arabs, Albanians, Jews in their ranks, especially in the early stages of the movement. H. Kayalı, 1997, p. 4.

61 Of the deputies elected to the Parliament in 1908, 142 were Turks, sixty Arabs, twenty-five Albanians, twenty-three Greeks, twelve Armenians (including two Unionists, four Dashnaks, one Hnchak, one “Liberal” and two “Independents”), five Jews, four Bulgarians, three Serbs, and one Vlach. Though Feroz Ahmad lists twelve Armenian deputies, Anahide Ter Minassian records the total number as ten. See F. Ahmad, 1982, pp. 401-434; A. Ter Minassian, 1994, pp. 139-140.

62 Y. Avetisian, 1949. This section together with other few pages from My Recollections were translated and published in A.J. Hacikyan, 2005.

63 A. Thalasso, 1911.

64 N. Terzi, 1979, p. 14. For the Ottoman Society of Painters, see for example, A.S. Güler, 1994; G. Tongo, 2012.

65 R. Soulahian Kuyumjian, 2001, p. 72.

66 Quoted in M. Bilal and B. Yıldız, 2015.

67 İsmail Cenani Bey was quite an important figure in Istanbul. He was the second president of the Istanbul Society for the Protection of Animals (Himaye-i Hayvanat Cemiyeti) and also an active supporter of Turkish Red Crescent. See, A.Z. İzgöer and R. Tuğ, 2013, p. 228.

68 For a photo of these students in Terlemezian’s studio, see M. Saris, 2005, p. 151.

69 Halil Edhem, who served as director of the Academy of Fine Arts and of the Imperial Museum, refers to the same exhibition as the “fifth exhibition” organised at “Soçiyeta Operaya” (Società Operaia). See H. Edhem, 2014, p. 81, fn. 36.

70 Ö.F. Şerifoğlu and İ. Baytar, 2005, p. 90.

71 Teotig, 1912.

72 Y. Avetisian, 1949, p. 193. I would like to thank Vazken Davidian for introducing me to Anaïs and showing me this section from her memoirs.

73 P. Loti, 1894, p. 132.

74 Adolphe Thalasso writes about an Ottoman Paşa who negotiates for the price of a Bosphorus view in an Istanbul art exhibition. A. Thalasso, 1907-1908, pp. 503-504.

75 On the history of the Balian family of architects and their remarkable contribution to the silhouette of Istanbul, see, for instance, A. Wharton, 2015.

76 M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 125.

77 The building Terlemezian refers to here is the Holy Cross Church on Aghtamar Island. Quoted in M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 30.

78 For the influence of European Romantics on Armenian writers, see, for example, V. Oshagan, 1984, pp. 28-44.

79 Quoted in M. Bilal and B. Yıldız, 2015.

80 Ibid.

81 M. Roberts, 2015, pp. 122-125. For the most recent and comprehensive study on Osman Hamdi, see E. Eldem, 2010.

82 Djagadamard, 15 April 1920. I would like to thank Ari Şekeryan once again for sharing his Turkish translations of Djagadamard and also of Verchin Lur, which are the object of his own D. Phil. research.

83 Djagadamard, 15 April 1920.

84 Illustrierter Katalog, 1913.

85 In the German catalogue, the names of his paintings were: “Inneres einer armenischen Kirche in Lori”, “Ein armenischer Landpriester” and “Der Bosporus bei Rouméli-Hissar,” Illustrierter Katalog, 1913, p. 183.

86 Medaillen II. Klasse. Ibid, p. xxii.

87 Quoted in M. Bilal and B. Yıldız, 2015. In 1924 whilst in New York Terlemezian wrote in his will that he would donate his works to the National Gallery of Armenia. M. Kirakosyan, 2014, pp. 36-37.

88 Navasart, 1914, p. 271. Terlemezian would later write of the exhibition that there were only “three painters […] One Turk, a Polish instructor from the art school, and me.” Quoted in M. Bilal and B. Yıldız, 2015. The German catalogue, however, names five artists from “Konstantinopel”.

89 Quoted in M. Bilal and B. Yıldız, 2015.

90 Ibid.

91 For a reproduction of Abdülmecid Efendi’s painting, see the book, Hanedandan Bir Ressam, 2004, p. 77.

92 P. Mansel, 1995, p. 362.

93 Z. Toprak, 2002, pp. 45-46.

94 “Tovmas Efendi,” Osmanlı Ressamlar Cemiyeti Gazetesi, 1914.

95 Quoted in M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 32.

96 Quoted in M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 29. Armenians referred to the province of Van as Vaspurakan.

97 Quoted in ibid., p. 30.

98 E. Rogan, 2015, p. 169.

99 There are a number of studies on the uprising in Van. See, for example, R. Hovannisian, 1967, particularly the section “Deliverance and Evacuation of Van”, pp. 55-57.

100 Gomidas was rescued through the intervention of influential friends, but he suffered a psychological trauma widely believed to have robbed him of his mental health. Historians still do not know who really influenced or forced Talat Paşa, then the Minister of Interior, to sign a coded telegraph on 7 May 1915 in which some Armenians, including Gomidas, were notified that they were allowed to return to Istanbul. According to rumour, it was either the American Ambassador in Constantinople, Henry Morgenthau, or Prince Abdülmecid Efendi. Gomidas was the music instructor to Abdülmecid Efendi’s wife, also, his personal physician was Dr. Vahram Torkomian, another Armenian who was arrested with Gomidas on 24 April 1915 and was allowed to return to Istanbul. See, R. Soulahian Kuyumjian, 2001, pp. 130-131.

101 “Van: Narrative by Mr. Y.K. Rushdouni,” 1916, p. 65.

102 Quoted in M. Kirakosyan, 2014, pp. 126-127.

103 E. Rogan, 2015, p. 171.

104 M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 32.

105 For Galatasary exhibitions, see Ö.F. Şerifoğlu, 2003.

106 Jennifer Manoukian, “Armenian Intellectual Life in Constantinople during the Armistice Period.” http://www.docblog.ottomanhistorypodcast.com/2014/04/armenian-intellectual-life-in.html (accessed 30 Sept. 2015).

107 For further information on Kurkciyan, see M. Saris, 2005, pp. 77-78.

108 Djagadamard, 6 May 1920.

109 Verchin Lur, 28 April 1920.

110 Ibid.

111 I am referring here to Linda Nochlin’s 1989 book The Politics of Vision which deals “with the issue of art and politics,” and which responds to the “problematic relation to the political” in revisionism as “thinking art history Otherly.” L. Nochlin, 1989, pp. xii, xv.

112 M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 18.

113 For the representation of the Hamidian massacres and the genocide in Armenian art, see, S. Khachatryan, 2010 and A. Aghasyan, 2015, pp. 70-80.

114 Братская помощь пострадавшим в Турции армянам (1898), p. xxxvii.

115 Born in Trabzon, Arshag Fetvadjian was one of the first graduates of the Academy of Fine Arts in Istanbul. He continued his art education in Rome, Italy. See, L.B. Chookaszian, 2011.

116 Quoted in M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 32. Terlemezian would later emphasize that “art should serve the working class” (“գեղարվեստը պետք է ծառայեցնել բանվոր դասակարգին”). Quoted in M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 32. Of course, one should probably approach this with caution, as these words were uttered after his move to Yerevan under Stalin’s regime. After moving to Soviet Armenia in 1928, Terlemezian was awarded People’s Artist of the Armenian SSR in 1935 and Order of the Red Banner of Labour in 1939. Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 1980, p. 524; M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 36. We can only speculate about the reasons for his apparent “compliance” under Stalin’s regime, which is certainly an interesting topic for another paper.

117 G.J. Libaridian, 2004, p. 59.

118 Ibid., p. 62.

119 M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 23.

120 G.J. Libaridian, 2004, pp. 175-176.

121 Ibid., p. 176.

122 Ibid.

123 Z. Kalemkiarian, 1920.

124 Ibid.

125 The very few war paintings by Terlemezian in the collection of the National Gallery of Armenia are mostly undated, except the 1929 Horrors of War (Պատերազմի Արհավիրքները).

126 A.S. Blackwell, 1917, p. 245.

127 Quoted in M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 29.

128 Some sections from Khrimian’s Papké psak i dasht (Crowned by Grandpa in the Field) were translated and published in A.J. Hacikyan, 2005, pp. 240-241.

129 E. Said, 2000, p. 173.

130 Quoted in M. Kirakosyan, 2014, p. 30.

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Table des illustrations

Légende Figure 1 Panos Terlemezian, Sipan Mountain from Ktuts Island[Սիփան սարը Կտուց կղզուց], 1915Oil on canvas, 70 x 90 cm, image courtesy of National Gallery of Armenia
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/893/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 132k
Légende Figure 2 Panos Terlemezian, Self-Portrait (Ինքնադիմանկար), 1897Pencil on paper, 27 x 22 cmImage courtesy of the National Gallery of Armenia
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/893/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 388k
Légende Figure 3 Panos Terlemezian, Worker Next to the Well[Աշխատավորուհին աղբյուրի մոտ], 1900Oil on canvas, 73 x 90 cm, image courtesy of National Gallery of Armenia
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/893/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 196k
Légende Figure 4 Panos Terlemezian, Dolmabahçe Palace in Istanbul[Դոլմա-Բախչա պալատը Կոստանդնուպոլսում], 1911Oil on canvas, 48 x 79 cm, image courtesy of National Gallery of Armenia
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/893/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 156k
Légende Figure 5 Panos Terlemezian, The Tomb of Sultan Çelebi, Bursa[Սուլթան Ջելաբիի դամբարանը Բրուսայում], 1913Oil on canvas, 65 x 100 cm, image courtesy of National Gallery of Armenia
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/893/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 252k
Légende Figure 6 Panos Terlemezian, The Bosphorus, 1913(?)Navasart, 1914; exhibited at the International Munich Exhibition in 1913Current location unknown, image courtesy of AGBU Nubar Library, Paris
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/893/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 72k
Légende Figure 7 Ivan Konstantinovich Aivazovsky, The Massacre of Armenians in Trebizond in 1895Current location unknown, published in Братская помощь пострадавшим в Турции армянам [Fraternal Help for the Suffering of the Armenians in Turkey], Moscow: Tipolitogr. T-va I.N. Kushnerev, 1898, p. xxxvii
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/893/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 376k
Légende Figure 8 Panos Terlemezian, Kurd (Քուրդ), undated
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/893/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 92k
Légende Figure 9 Panos Terlemezian, A Mother Looking for Her Son Among the Corpses [Մայրը որոնում է դիակների մեջ իր որդուն], undated
URL http://journals.openedition.org/eac/docannexe/image/893/img-9.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 128k
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Gizem Tongo, « Artist and Revolutionary: Panos Terlemezian as an Ottoman Armenian Painter », Études arméniennes contemporaines, 6 | 2015, 111-153.

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Gizem Tongo, « Artist and Revolutionary: Panos Terlemezian as an Ottoman Armenian Painter », Études arméniennes contemporaines [En ligne], 6 | 2015, mis en ligne le 10 mars 2016, consulté le 06 juin 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/eac/893 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/eac.893

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Auteur

Gizem Tongo

St. John’s College, University of Oxford

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Bibliothèque Nubar de l’UGAB

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