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Arman Tatéos Manookian

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Le peintre arménien Arman Tatéos Manookian (1904-1931) à Hawaïi hawai7.jpg

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Né à Constantinople en 1904 d'une famille arménienne catholique, il s'appelait Tatéos Manookian. Il fit ses études à Venise chez les frères Mekhitaristes, puis émigra en Amérique avec la famille de sa mère, le reste de sa famille restant en France. D'abord à New York les émigrants s'installèrent ensuite dans la ville de Providence (Etat de Rhode Island), où Tatéos suivit des cours du soir de dessin grace à une bourse d'état.En 1923, il s'enrole dans le corps des Marines. Rapidement il participe à la décoration de leur magazine "Leatherneck". Sa contribution attire l'attention du Major Edwin North McClellan qui est en train d'écrire l'histoire des Marines américains. Cet ouvrage devait se monter à 2000 pages et le major demande au jeune artiste de l'illustrer.En 1925, il suit le major américain à Pearl Harbor à sa demande pour continuer à travailler sur les illustrations de l'histoire des Marines. A la fin de son engagement militaire en 1927, A.T.M. décide de rester à Hawaïi. Il vit à Honolulu de son art en fournissant des illustrations au magazine "Paradise of the Pacific" et au "Honolulu Star-Bulletin", en créant des panneaux muraux pour des restaurants ou des cinémas et en exposant à l'Association des artistes d'Honolululu. En 1929, il fit une exposition personnelle et il put voir ses oeuvres publiés dans deux magazines d'art. Malheureusement, en 1931, il est atteint d'une tragique dépression et lors de sa crise fatale, il se donne la mort -par empoisonnement. Au moment de cette tragédie, son ami McClellan était au loin de Hawaïi. Aucun article ou aucune mention de la disparition du peintre n'apparut dans le magazine "Leatherneck" où la carrière de A.T.M. avait commencé. Par la suite, son oeuvre sera exposée deux ans plus tard au "Memorial Show at the Honolulu Academy of the Arts" en Août et Septembre 1933. Quant à l'oeuvre du major où figuraient les illustrations de Tatéos, elle était trop volumineuse à l'époque pour pouvoir être publiée à cause de la Dépression et malheureusement, elle ne sera pas publiée.Bien que classé comme un Moderniste, l'entrainement rigoureux de Manookian et sa connaissance de l'Art européen, l'ont amené à ignorer le Cubisme qui apparait avoir eu peu d'impact sur Hawaïi. Au coeur de son oeuvre picturale, était une fusion de précision, de dessin classique et de perspective avec souvent des couleurs éblouissantes de pierres précieuses. Il fut immédiatement attiré vers les thèmes des mythes et des contes hawaïiens, à tel point qu'il est si difficile d'envisager son art et imaginer qu'il n'était pas lui-même hawaïien. L'exil loin du faste en or de Byzance l'avait remodelé comme un exotique et un insulaire.Si Arman Manookian a eu la nostalgie et le mal du pays, cela a du être à cause d'un impossible retour à Constantinople. Il est dit souvent que le Modernisme est la création des exilés et la vie de Manookian va tristement à ce profil. Son engagement instantané et miraculeux avec Hawaïi suggère un profond désir d'être relié à un endroit et à une culture.Finalement, la représentation de Hawaïi par Manookian, comme celle de Tahiti par Gauguin, est un fantasme idéalisé qui n'a jamais existé sauf dans l'imagination coloniale. Cela naturellement, était un fantasme de l'Eden dont le monde et ses agences de voyage avaient absolument besoin à la fin des années 20 et dont ils ont encore besoin aujourd'hui.Biographie traduite en français par Théodore Kilgore (Honolulu / Paris)

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Arman T. Manookian1904 - 1931Arman Tateos Manookian is one of Hawaii's most celebrated modern artists, even though he worked there for only five years and eleven months before taking his own life at the age of 27. His works are celebrated for their bold, high-key coloring, and for his idealized portrayals of Hawaiian life and history. He is considered a pioneering Modernist even though the artist himself always insisted that his art was derived from Western Classical and Renaissance values. Manookian, the eldest of three children, was born on May 15, 1904 in Constantinople, the troubled heart of the collapsed former Ottoman Empire. His given name, which he used until joining the U.S. Marine Corps was Tateos (Tady to his family), which is the name of one the two apostles who brought Christianity to Armenia in 35 A. D. He came from a family of Armenian Christians, and his father Arshag owned a successful printing business. The Manookian family was one of the Europeanized Armenian families that had held on to their status and affluence despite crippling taxation and the political dominance of the Islamic Turkish Pashas, and despite major massacres in 1894-6, and in 1909 at Adana. As a boy, Tateos was fascinated by the ships, and used to watch them coming into port for hours. As a five year old, he must have been impressed by the four great battleships, including the Maine and the Missouri that visited Constantinople during the tour of Teddy Roosevelt's "Great White Fleet." His family still has detailed drawings of military ships that he did as a seven year old. Manookian's childhood fascination with ships may also help explain his decision to join the Marines later in life. He received an excellent early education at the School of "St. Gregory the Illustrator" administered by the Mekhitarist Order of Venice. The principal of his school, Daniel Varoujan, was a key figure in the "Mehian" movement, an Armenian cultural renaissance, until he was imprisoned and executed by Turkish authorities in 1915.On April 24, 1915, just shy of Manookian's 11th birthday, 600 Armenian intellectuals writers, poets, politicians and others were gathered up and murdered. Manookian's father, the publisher of an Armenian newspaper, managed to hide himself and his brother-in-law in the family print shop. Within weeks perhaps 5,000 more men were dead, some forced to die on death marches into the desert. Although Manookian's father survived the first wave of terror in Constantinople, he fled to France where he died in 1917 after contracting the Spanish flu. Tateos, along with a younger brother and sister remained with their mother, enduring years of fear and hardship as the growing Armenian genocide claimed over a million victims. In April 1920, Tateos came to live with relatives of his mother in New York City and then in Providence, Rhode Island. Always gifted in art, he won a state scholarship to attend the Rhode Island School of Design, where he took night classes from 1920 to 1922. He specialized in commercial Illustration at RISD and worked as a lithographer. On October 8, 1923, he enlisted in the US Marine Corps, and within a few years was contributing decorations and eventually cover art for the Marine magazine, "Leatherneck." Manookian's work caught the attention of a Major Edwin McClellan, who began asking Manookian to illustrate a 2,000 page history of the Marine Corps that he was writing. Manookian completed over a hundred illustrations for McClellan's book although the text was never published, except in a microfilm record for the New York Public library. He followed McClellan to take an assignment at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in 1925.Upon discharge from the Marines in 1927, Manookian opted to stay in Hawaii, where, living in Honolulu, he provided illustrations for "Paradise of the Pacific" Magazine, to which McClellan was contributing articles. Many of the artist's sketches from this period are at the Marine Historical Center in Washington DC. Manookian also was hired to do illustrations for the "Honolulu Star-Bulletin" and began an active career as a fine artist, joining the Honolulu Artist's Association. Trading work for meals, Manookian created a series of oils that depicted Hawaii in the era of Captain Cook for the "Green Mill Grill" Restaurant. Many of the restaurants patrons came in late after leaving the Hawaii theatre. They would have just watched a show beneath Hawaii's most ambitious mural, the 35 foot wide "Glorification of Drama" completed by Lionel Walden in 1922. What a shock the Manookian paintings must have been when compared with the pastel, Neo-Classical composure of Walden's work. Manookian's color, applied in broad, bold patches reflected his memories of Byzantine colors, as well as his attraction of the brilliant colors of Paul Gauguin's work. To the Honolulu public, the Marine from Constantinople had remade himself as an exotic and a true Hawaiian artist. In truth, the nostalgic aura of Manookian's work was a sign of his personal sense of displacement. If the alternation between manic highs and dismal lows that Manookian's friends observed were an indication, the broken bond with his family, and a longing for the past may have colored his moods. If he was indeed homesick, it was for a Constantinople that he could never return to: history had seen to that. It has often been said that Modernism was the creation of exiles, and Manookian's life sadly fits this profile. His instantaneous and miraculous bond with Hawaii suggests a deep longing to be connected to a place and culture, perhaps as a replacement for what had been lost. Ultimately, Manookian's portrayal of Hawaii, like Gauguin's of Tahiti, is an idealized fantasy of a place that had never existed except in the Colonial imagination. That of course, was a fantasy of Eden that the world and its travel agents needed badly in the in the late 20's, and which it still needs nowIn the last four years of his life, Manookian could hardly have been more productive. He exhibited at the Honolulu Academy, had a show at Gump's Waikiki and completed a mural cycle, now lost, for the Waipahu Theater. Reviews and reproductions of his work appeared in magazines including "The Argus" and "Art Digest". He experimented with a style portraying contemporary life in Hawaii, but he was often not satisfied with his own work, and once destroyed several of his works in front of astonished friends. Whether it was caused by the growing economic gloom of the depression or the haunting memories of atrocities in Turkey, his behavior became increasingly puzzling to friends, and he gained a reputation as being erratic and troubled. His career was cut short by a decline into despondency, and on May 10, 1931, he took his own life with poison at the home of friends where he had been living for several months. His work was featured in a Memorial Show at the Honolulu Academy of the Arts in August and September of 1933. Manookian's early death has made his work both unfortunately rare and sought after by collectors.McClellan was away from Hawaii at the time of his friend's death, and no article or mention of Manookian's death was ever to appear in "Leatherneck" where his career had started. Had Manookian lived he would have had to cope with the disappointment of knowing that the massive history he illustrated for McClellan was never published. The Depression made publication of such a large book unfeasible, and McClellan resorted to mimeographing sections, chapter by chapter. The only complete record of the "History of U. S. Marines and Origin of Sea Soldiers" by Edwin North McClellan, illustrated by A. T. Manookian exists on microfilm as recorded by the New York Public Library in 1954.By John Seed, Honolulu Magazine

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