Arthur Pinajian

Lyrical Abstract Landscapes

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Pinajian and the Vonnegut Coincidence

No. 392: Overlook Mountain, Woodstock, New York, 1955; oil on canvas

In 1987, Kurt Vonnegut published Bluebeard: The Autobiography of Rabo Karabekian (1916–1988), a novel about an eccentric painter whose life bears an astonishing resemblance to Arthur Pinajian, the real-life artist who is the subject of this book. Both Pinajian and Karabekian, also known as Bluebeard, were Armenian Americans, raised by parents who survived the 1915 Turkish genocide of one million Armenian children, women, and men, and who then made their way to the United States where they brought up their families during the Great Depression. Both Pinajian and Bluebeard began their careers as illustrators in New York City and had some early success. Both men served with the United States Army during World War II in the European theater, each earning a host of ribbons and medals, including the Bronze Star. After the war, they abandoned their careers as illustrators for higher artistic pursuits, joined the Art Students League in New York, and hung out with the Abstract Expressionists at the Cedar Tavern in Greenwich Village. Both eventually moved to Long Island’s East End near the ocean, where they kept their paintings tightly locked away in a barn/garage.

Vonnegut’s artist defined himself as a “Fiasco in which a person causes total destruction of [his] own work and reputation through stupidity, carelessness or both.” Pinajian left instructions for his collection to be discarded in the town dump. Neither artist’s paintings would have been shown publicly but for outside intervention — in Bluebeard’s case a nosy friend; and, in Pinajian’s case, some nosy art historians, namely, us.

Pinajian in 1994

So is Pinajian the real Bluebeard? We like to think so, but this we know for sure: the story of the very private life and art of Arthur Pinajian is an extraordinary one. We invite you to enjoy the flashes of genius that illuminate every stage of his sixty-six-year career.

Pinajian was a creative force to be reckoned with. But he was a recluse. During his lifetime few articles were written about him and he exhibited and sold his paintings only rarely. Yet in Pinajian’s works we see the soul of a flawed yet brilliant artistic genius. His life in art makes an interesting psychological case study. He pursued his goals in isolation with the single-minded focus of a Gauguin or Cezanne, refusing to give up in the face of public indifference. The majority of his work was found after his death stacked up in the one-car garage and attic of a tiny cottage.

When Pinajian hits the mark, especially in his abstractions, he can be ranked among the best artists of his era. These works capture the excitement of visual modernism and exude a painterly integrity that is rare in our time.

Pinajian's cottage was dwarfed by a magestic oak tree.

The fascinating Pinajian discovery surprised American art historians when the story first broke in the New York Times in March 2007 in a feature article titled, “Closing on a House, and a Life’s Story, Told in Art.” In 2010 the book, Pinajian: Master of Abstraction Discovered, was published concurrently with the traveling exhibition that traveled throughout 2010-2011 to the Armenian Library and Museum of America in Watertown, Massachusetts; the Woodstock Art Association and Museum in Woodstock, New York; and, the Zorayan Museum in Los Angeles. The 128-page hardcover book is profusely illustrated and features essays by Richard J. Boyle, Peter Hastings Falk, William Innes Homer, Lawrence E. Joseph, Peter Najarian, John Perreault, and Jonathan Sherman. Dr. Homer concluded that the collective essays present “one of the most compelling discoveries in the history of twentieth century American art… Ultimately Pinajian’s work reflects the soul of a flawed, yet brilliant, artistic genius. When he hits the mark, especially in his abstractions, he can be ranked among the best artists of his era.”

 

 

To read excerpts from the book and to order, please contact: http://www.pinajianart.com/book.htm

128 pp., 8-1/2 x 11-1/4 inches, hard cover (2010) ISBN 978-0-932087-63-8,  $49.00

 

 

Arthur Pinajian Synopsis

The dean of American art historians, Dr. William Innes Homer, concluded that the discovery of the Pinajian collection presents one of the most compelling discoveries in the history of twentieth century American art: “Even though Pinajian was a creative force to be reckoned with, during his lifetime he rarely exhibited or sold his paintings. Instead, he pursued his goals in isolation with the single-minded focus of a Gauguin or Cézanne, refusing to give up in the face of public indifference. In his later years he could be compared to a lone researcher in a laboratory pursuing knowledge for its own sake. His exhaustive diaries and art notes make it clear that he dedicated all of his days to his art. He was passionate and unequivocally committed….Ultimately Pinajian’s work reflects the soul of a flawed, yet brilliant, artistic genius. When he hits the mark, especially in his abstractions, he can be ranked among the best artists of his era.”