“A Poultry Seller”
Sirak Melkonian (b.1931)
Signed 'S.Melkonian, Studio Démon, Tehran' (lower left)
Graphite and watercolour with bodycolour on paper
29 cm x 19.4 cm
Private collection Oxfordshire, U.K. (bought in Tehran in 1950)
Armenian-Iranian artist Sirak Melkonian was born in 1931 in Tehran. At the outset of his career in his teens, he was associated with 'Studio Démon', a small atelier which supported artists through their producing images of Irani characters which were retailed as souvenirs. Although the images were stock-in-trade - the artists who painted each individual picture signed the works they produced. In this case, the watercolour of a humble, raggedly dressed poultry seller with a kufi cap and a wicker basket on his back was painted by Sirak Melkonian.
Melkonian was born in Tehran to a family of Armenian descent. He started painting at a young age and worked alongside various friends at Studio Démon. His early paintings were figurative, before he began to explore more abstract iterations of portraiture and landscape and to experiment with elements of line, tone and colour. Melkonian gained recognition in 1957 when he was awarded a prize at the Contemporary Iranian Artists exhibition at the Iran-America Society. The following year he received the Imperial Court Prize at the Tehran Biennale and was granted the first prize at the Paris Biennale in 1959.
Sirak Melkonian is now internationally acclaimed and viewed as being one of the fathers of Iranian modern art. His work sells with major international auction houses for tens of thousands of dollars. In 1992 he emigrated to Canada and now lives and works in Toronto. Two retrospectives of his work were held in Tehran in 2015 at the Aria and Ab Anbar Galleries.
It is fascinating to see this work here, effectively a piece of juvenalia, which dates to Sirak Melkonian's very earliest days as an artist in Tehran.
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