Oasis. By the Pomegranate Tree, from the series "Fairy Tales", signed and dated 1905, also further signed twice, titled in Cyrillic and dated twice on the reverse, also further signed twice, titled, numbered "648" and dated on the backing card.
Pencil and tempera on cardboard, 27 by 32.5 cm.
Provenance: Collection of the artist. A gift from the artist to Dr Misak Arutiunyan, personal physician to the Saryan family, c. 1965.
Thence by descent. Acquired from the grandson of the above by the present owner. Private collection, Europe.
Authenticity of the work has been confirmed by the expert V. Petrov.
Exhibited: Blue Rose, Torgovyi dom M.S. Kuznetsova, Moscow, 1907. Golden Fleece, Moscow, 1909. The First Spring Exhibition, Society of the Workers of Fine Arts of Armenia, Yerevan, 1924.
Literature: Exhibition catalogue, Blue Rose, Moscow, 1907, p. 8, No. 71, listed. Golden Fleece, Moscow, No. 5, 1907, p. 16, illustrated as U dereva s granatami. Possibly, exhibition catalogue, Golden Fleece, Moscow, 1909. Exhibition catalogue, The First Spring Exhibition, Yerevan, Society of the Workers of Fine Arts of Armenia, 1924, p. 7, No. 238, listed. A. Kamensky, S. Khachatryan, L. Mirzoyan, Martiros Saryan. Paintings, Watercolours, Drawings, Book Illustrations, Theatrical Design, Leningrad, Aurora Art Publishers, 1988, p. 280, No. 32, listed incorrectly under works from 1907 as Oasis. Lovers; p. 281, illustrated.
A. Agasyan, Martiros Saryan. Rannee tvorchestvo, Yerevan, Akademiya nauk Armenii, 1992, pp. 55 and 62, mentioned in the text; p. 189, listed under works from 1905 as Oazis. Vliublionnye.
Exhibition catalogue, Martiros Saryan. Skazki i sny, 1903–1908, Moscow, Galart, 1995, illustrated; listed as Oazis. Vliublionnye under works, location of which is unknown, and incorrectly dated 1907. I. Gofman, Blue Rose, Moscow, Pinakoteka, 2000, p. 335, illustrated. Sh. Khachatryan (ed.), Martiros Sarian 1880–1972, Canada, AAA, 2001, p. 62, illustrated as Oasis. Lovers and incorrectly dated 1907.
Sh. Khachatryan (ed.), Sarian 1880–1972, Samara, Agni, 2003, p. 142, illustrated as Oazis. Vliublionnye and incorrectly dated 1906. Sh. Khachatryan, Martiros Saryan. Izbrannoe, Yerevan, Printinfo, 2009, p. 98, illustrated and incorrectly dated 1906.
Related literature: M. Saryan, Iz moei zhizni, Moscow, Izobrazitelnoe iskusstvo, 1990, p. 72, the series is mentioned in the text.
Of the artistic legacy left by Martiros Saryan, few paintings from his early period have survived, which lends even greater importance to Oasis. By the Pomegranate Tree, painted by the artist in 1905. Saryan’s work, infused with tones of Symbolism, was a response to the aesthetic agenda of the Blue Rose group of artists and Golden Fleece magazine, being shown at their exhibitions and mentioned in their catalogues. Shown alongside other Saryan’s works, Oasis. By the Pomegranate Tree won recognition and acclaim from critics of the time – one of whom remarked delightedly in the newspaper Russkoye Slovo: “Saryan shines, in lights burning brightly with exotic colours.”
This painting reflects the young artist’s inclinations and interests, which were undoubtedly based on his impressions of nature, gained from his annual trips to the North Caucasus and Transcaucasia with his friend and fellow artist, Gevork Miansaryan. It was as though the poetry of these nomadic expanses – with the mysterious contours of the mountain chains, the vastness of the flat deserts and the exotic animals that inhabited these extraordinary lands – reawakened in Saryan the dormant recollections of the childhood on his father’s farmstead. The artist’s youthful imagination, excitable and romantic as it was, plunged him into an enchanted world of reverie and mystical love, resulting in a whole series of works: Fairytale (1904, House-Museum of M. Saryan, Yerevan), In the Gorge of Akhuryan (Blossoming Mountains). Fairytale (1905, National Gallery of Armenia, Yerevan), Lake of Fairies (1905, The State Tretyakov Gallery), Love. Fairytale (1906, House-Museum of M. Saryan, Yerevan).
In Oasis. By the Pomegranate Tree, the barely detectable features of the shoreline of the oasis emerge as if a mirage; an enchanting vision, in which the fronds of an exotic tree, like emerald peacock feathers, dissolve into blue-grey haze. Like the ancient goddess Kore, steeped in the spirit of oblivion, a girl appears with a gazelle; their elegant dual silhouette is a genuine personification of primal Beauty, frozen in eternity and a harmonious fusion between mankind and the rest of Creation.
Saryan undoubtedly viewed Oasis. By the Pomegranate Tree as his great success and had strong affection for it; the testimony for this being the fact that the painting did not leave the walls of his house (as confirmed by the documentary, Martiros Saryan, Armenfilm, 1964–1965). Only in 1965, did the painter finally part with his favourite canvas, when he generously presented it as a gift to Misak Arutiunyan, a surgeon who had operated successfully on his wife. From that time on, the painting remained in the ownership of the Arutiunyan family and was subsequently acquired from their descendants.