Images of Vandazor. Georgy Tovmasyan’s paintings and life remembered.

Menua Mkrtchyan helped set up the Georgy Tovmasyan Foundation to remember the work of his late grandfather. Tovmasyan, who died last April, was Mkrtchyan’s maternal grandfather. During his life Tovmasyan painted hundreds works of art, many of which depict Mkrtchyan’s hometown in Armenia, Vandazor. “The main purpose of the foundation is to remember him”, Mkrtchyan tells me, but the foundation also gives valuable fellowships to three students each year. This April saw the first group of three fellows selected for the Georgy Tovmasyan Foundation. The three students come from Vandazor and were former pupils of Tovmasyan.

The fellowship allows students to work in Tovmasyan’s grand former residence and provides financial aid for them. Mkrtchyan describes his grandfather as “a very generous person”, who often let artists stay at his home free of charge. The foundation was set up privately by Mkrtchyan’s family and some friends of theirs. The first selection of nominees was organised in a way to make it as democratic as possible A jury comprising the head of the local Church, the editor of local newspaper Loru Mars, the chief doctor of the local hospital, sat with Mkrtchyan and his grandmother (Tovmasyan’s widow), to pick the fellows from a pool of a dozen artists. “Each artist entered two pieces. The paintings were exhibited on the premises of the main church in Vandazor. We had a simple conversation and selected three artists.” Thus far, the fellows have exhibited once in Vandazor and once in Moscow. In exchange for the financial aid they receive, the artists pass on some of their own work to the foundation.

In the offing, Mkrtchyan sees the foundation making a wide impact. He is organising a third exhibition in the Cultural Centre of the Armenian Diaspora in Moscow (where Mkrtchyan lives) this September. Beyond that, he is particularly excited at that construction of an Armenian cathedral in Moscow. He wants to celebrate its completion with an exhibition devoted to church paintings, a subject in which his grandfather specialised. “There are a lot of churches located in Armenia – most of them very old and beautiful. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think he painted all of the Armenian churches.”

According to Mkrtchyan, Tovmasyan’s work is divisible into three categories: church work, natural scenes (mountains, rivers and Armenian flowers), and still life pieces. Mkrtchyan laughs when explaining that he has inherited his grandfather’s passion for art, without the talent. “Once he told me, “Menua you should go to galleries once a month”. So I do.” Mkrtchyan’s favourite art collection is housed in the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts. “I knew my grandfather very well but for the last fifteen years, I’ve lived in Moscow, so I saw less of him during the end of his life.” But Mkrtchyan says that when he smells paint oils, it evokes memories of his grandfather. Art, Mkrtchyan explains, brings him happiness because it is closely associated with his grandfather. Now Mkrtchyan is investing that inheritance by sharing his grandfather’s work and influence with as many people as possible.

source: Nicholas Maltby for

photo: A church painting by the Armenian Artist Georgy Tovmasyan.