The Professor Garabet Avachian Collection

(see also in Romanian with illustration)

Garabet (Garbis) Avachian (1907-1967) was an eminent violin professor with the Ciprian Porumbescu Conservatoire in Bucharest; among his students may be counted several laureates of international contests. This talented musician undoubtedly discovered in the fine arts a territory complementary to the musical one, but one must keep in mind that his passion for art united in a common aspiration the entire Avakian clan, Beatrice and Hrandt, Garabet's cousins, being prestigious collectors themselves. The period when Garabet Avachian made the most important acquisitions was between 1950-1967. His appraisals relied not only on confident intuition, but also on a vast artistic knowledge which helped him refine his taste and base his options on axiological criteria. In time, he also became a fervent propagator of the collector's "institution," trying to convince his friends to devote themselves to this elevated activity. His house on Matasari St. accommodated an impressive number of Romanian paintings, Romanian folk art, Western-European pieces of decorative art and furniture, as well as Oriental art, which the collector intended to donate to the state. His plan was carried out in 1968 by his wife, Mariana Sabina Avachian, whose outstanding donation consisting of 1103 objects of art from various domains evinced the collector's penchant for various genres and civilizations. Painting was definitely Garabet Avachian's favorite field. His greatest passion was Theodor Pallady, 80 of the works of which he bought – oil paintings and graphics, from different periods of creation, among which White Tulips, Still Life with Red Box, Woman in Armchair, Still Life with Flowers and Green Book. Equally remarkable are the Paris cityscapes, with picturesque vessels and quays nearby which the painter used to live, the Brittany landscapes, and a small landscape from Saint Tropez. To this valuable set were added works by Nicolae Grigorescu (The Portrait of Alexandru Davila as a Child), Stefan Luchian (Strawberries), Gheorghe Petrascu (On the Beach), Iosif Iser (Tatar Women, View of Constantinople), Nicolae Tonitza, Abgar Baltazar (Landscape by the Waterline), Lucian Grigorescu (Cassis Landscape, Interior with Green Couch, Still Life with Guitar), Dimitrie Ghiata (View of Bucharest), Alexandru Ciucurencu (Reading, Female Nude). Another area of interest of the donation is the ample glass icons collection (272 pieces), very representative of the specifics, geography of distribution, known evolutions, and stylistic differences among the main centers of creation. Most icons date from the 19th century, when the icon-makers' art assumed more freedom with respect to traditional models. Next to the icons from Nicula, in Maramures, or from the SebesValley, Garabet Avachian also gathered works by artisans from the regions of Sibiu, Scheii Brasovului, Fagaras. The last one mentioned is renowned due to the works of Matei Purcaru, a.k.a. Matei Timforea (1836-1906), from the village of Cirtisoara, author of the exceptional Terrible Judgment, a composition full of fantasy, with skilful superpositions unified by narrative courses, and a very personal coloring. Garabet Avachian intuited that the icons painted on glass created in the rural world go beyond the cultual function, having an esthetic component as much as any household items. Equally interesting is the ensemble of Oriental pieces. The art of the Far East is illustrated by several bronze sculptures from China, among which stands out a valuable representation of a Deity Sitting in an Armchair, dating from the end of the Ming dynasty (the 17th century). We must also mention a set of bronze and cloisonné vases, mostly originated in Japan, from the end of the Meiji period (19th-20th centuries). Japan is also the source of a few pottery pieces, ivory-sheathed swords, polychrome woodcuts, and paintings on silk.

by Plural magazine