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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Symbolist Saryan ExploresDepths of Dream and Tale

Fairy tales and Armenian views are the subjects of works by the symbolist painter Martiros Saryan (1880-1972) displayed at the Old Tretyakov gallery.


Embracing different periods and styles in the Armenian artist's life, the exhibition features works from the Saryan Museum in Yerevan, along with paintings from the Armenian National Gallery and the Tretyakov Gallery.


A master colorist, Saryan devoted some of his early efforts to watercolors with fairy tale themes. The exhibit offers 14 watercolors from the years 1903-1908, one of the least-known periods in Saryan's work. The series was first shown as part of the 1907 exhibit of the Blue Rose art group, an affiliation of 16 young artists who saw their work as an ennobling medium and tried to lift their audiences from the prose of reality to the world of dream and tale, where deeper, secret meanings could be discovered.


In this philosophy, the Blue Rose group echoed the Symbolists of Russian literature, who included writers Alexander Blok, Valery Bryusov, Dmitry Merezhkovsky, Zinaida Gippius and Konstantin Balmont.


The Blue Rose members included prominent artists like Pavel Kuznetsov, Nikolai Sapunov and Vassily Miliotti.


The watercolors on view include "By a Spring. A Fairy Tale" (1904), "A Fairy Tale. Dream" (1904), "A Fairy Tale. Orpheus" (1904) and "Love. A Fairy Tale" (1906). The works share oriental settings and similar hues -- blues, greens and browns. The vision put to canvas is nature as a large family where man and beast live happily side by side. "Fairy Tale" (1904), for example, depicts a woman sitting in an enchanting garden, in perfect harmony with the wild animals wandering there.


Born in Novy Nakhichevan, a small Armenian town near Rostov-on-Don, the artist first traveled to Armenia only at age 21 and was charmed by its natural beauty -- mountains, rivers and quiet villages. He studied in Moscow at the school of Painting, Sculpture and Architecture, where his professors were the masters Valentin Serov and Konstantin Korovin. Serov's impact on Saryan can be seen in the atmosphere of intimacy, the portrayal of everyday details and the subdued colors of Saryan's early oil paintings, such as "In an Armenian Village" (1901).


A brighter palette is used in the most eye-catching works of the exhibit -- "Summer Heat. A Running Dog" (1909) and "In the Shade" (1908), characterized by bright, bold strokes in sharply contrasting yellow and dark blue. "Night Landscape" (1911) is a symphony in blue -- the primary color for the Russian symbolists, the embodiment of boundlessness and purity. A house and trees are painted in varying blues: dark blue, ice blue, ultramarine.


The exhibit also includes some of Saryan's early drawings, some later graphic works from 1968-1972 and tempera works from various periods.


The exhibit of Martiros Saryan's works will be ope to public view until Oct. 15 in the Tretyakov Gallery's Engineers Building,12 Lavrushensky Pereulok. Tel. 231-1362 and 230-7788. Open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Closed Mondays. Nearest metro: Tretyakovskaya.