The present work is one of Martiros Sarian's most enchanting depictions of the biblical mountain. In the 1920s when Yerevan's architecture was single-storey, Ararat was visible from all points of the city. The work was painted in the hillside area of Konde, perhaps from the balcony of the building Sarian himself selected to serve as an art school. The school was next to a beautiful orchard with views of Ararat from the classroom windows. In View of Ararat from Yerevan Sarian majestically depicts the two-headed giant towering over the city, gleaming with pristine beauty. Sarian painted the landscape in spring, as is evident from the lush green trees of Yerevan's gardens, the light green, blue and purple slopes of Mount Ararat and the low level of snow covering its peaks. The morning air is crystal clear, and the mountain is clearly visible. We remember the words of the artist himself who used Ararat to study the effect of light and air on the optical perception of distinct objects: 'Traveling on home soil, I received from nature such clear answers to issues long concerning me, the likes of which cannot be found in any aesthetic treatise or museum. For example, I was interested in the question of equal visibility of objects on different planes of aerial perspective. Et voila, in Yerevan, working on sketches, I noticed that at times, distant objects are seen almost as clearly and precisely as objects in the foreground. This is just one instance but the instance has a very important aesthetic value. Majestic Ararat hangs in the air right over Yerevan, despite the fact that it is a decent distance away from the city. On clear days you can easily see in detail not only the snowy peaks of the mountains, but also the gorges on its slopes, the roughness, and even the small mounds clinging to the foot of the giant. Ararat is a miraculous natural monument, whose base every viewer can observe from the broad valley that stretches out beneath it (M. S. Sarian, Iz moei zhizni [From My Life ], Moscow, 1990, pp. 164-165).
View of Ararat from Yerevan is a landmark painting in Sarian's reworking of landscape compositions. In parallel with the other landscapes of Armenia created in the early 1920s, Sarian, directly influenced by nature itself, painted similar realistic landscapes en plein air, of which View of Ararat from Yerevan is a key example. Based on observation, the artist builds a distinct space for the landscape, working into the foreground trees and city buildings and extending deep into the valley to the snowy mountain tops on the horizon. As such, the landscape does not serve to provide a background but rather become a fully-fledged artistic work. Via landscapes of this kind Sarian introduces viewers to Armenia's unique surroundings, rendered distinctive via its brightly contrasting colours, form, deep shadows and glare. From 1921 onwards Armenia was a constant source of inspiration for Sarian and an inexhaustible theme in his landscapes. With each new work the master increasingly understood the beautiful face of his native land, and by transferring what he saw onto canvas, provided his audience with the means to see and perceive Armenia in the same way. Thanks to Sarian, Armenia stopped being seen as monochrome and brownish-gray, a dark country of grief and sorrow. Sarian destroyed this stereotype and created an artistic image which merged with people's perception of the real Armenia: colourful, sunny, joyful. His innovation is comparable only with that of the Impressionists.
In 1928, Maxim Gorky visited Armenia. Sarian accompanied him on trips around the country. In memory of Armenia Sarian gave Gorky the present work. For many years this picture decorated Gorky's Moscow home, which in 1965 was turned into a house-museum to the writer. Sarian's view of Ararat was inherited by Gorky's granddaughter, Martha Peshkova. The work was exhibited at Sarian's most famous exhibitions in Yerevan, Moscow and abroad, and its image reproduced in almost all of Sarian's albums. In 1995, the painting was sold and its fate remained unknown until its appearance at Christie's. The picture is undoubtedly of great artistic value and would enrich any museum collection.
We are grateful to Rouzan Sarian, Director of the Martiros Sarian House Museum, Yerevan for providing this note.