Edmund K Yaghjian
(1903 - 1997)
Edmund K. Yaghjian was active/lived in South Carolina, Rhode Island. Edmund Yaghjian is known for modernist landscape and figure painting, drawing, teaching.
The following, submitted October 2004, is from Robert Jones, former student of the artist.
Edmund Yaghjian was head of the art department of the University of South Carolina and was then Artist in Residence there.
He was a student of John Sloan and Robert Henri at the Art Students League in New York, and his work has the same spirit as the Ash Can School of painters. The colors orange and turquoise are often included in his works.
His work is in public buildings and private collections in Columbia. His wife, Candy Yaghjian, was a watercolor artist. One son is an artist. Among his students are Jasper Johns and the well-known mural artist, Blue Sky, as well as Bill Poulos of Rice University.
He granted me an art scholarship at the University and I studied under him until I graduated in 1965.
Edmund Yaghjian 1905-1997
Edmund Yaghjian was born in Harpoot, Armenia in 1905 and died in South Carolina in 1997. He immigrated with his family to Providence, Rhode Island in 1907. At an early age, he knew he wanted to be an artist. In 1926, Edmund won a scholarship to study at the Rhode Island School of Design, where he graduated with a BFA in 1930.
Upon graduation in 1930, Yaghjian moved to New York and enrolled at the Art Students League. At the league, Yaghjian studied with John Sloan and Stuart Davis. Like Sloan and other artists of the Ashcan school, Yaghjian concentrated on naturalistic depictions of the city, emphasizing commonplace activity as well as the vitality and distinctiveness of urban life in the 30's.
Yaghjian left the Art Students League to briefly teach at the University of Missouri. In 1945, he was hired by the University of South Carolina in 1945 as head of the Department of Fine Arts. He was instrumental, with teachers Augusta Witkowsky and Catherine Rembert, in bringing a level of professionalism to the department and encouraging the development of the arts in the community and across the region. As in New York, he fell in love with the real life scenes of Columbia, and was drawn to scenes of everyday, vernacular life in his paintings. Yaghjian served in that position until 1966, when he was named USC's first artist-in-residence. Among his students are Jasper Johns and the well-known mural artist, Blue Sky, as well as Bill Poulos of Rice University.
"I call myself a painter, only time will tell if I am an artist".
Yaghjian's distinguished career was filled with notable awards and exhibitions. Among the museums that showed his work are the Metropolitan and the Whitney in New York, the Corcoran and the National Gallery in Washington, DC, the Butler Institute of Art in Cleveland, OH, and the Pennsylvania Academy in Philadelphia. He has had one-man shows at the Kraushaar Gallery in New York City; Mint Museum in Charlotte, NC; Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, SC; Telfair Academy, Savannah, GA; and the Columbia Museum of Art, Columbia, SC, among others. He was the catalyst behind the foundation of the Artists Guild of Columbia and the Guild of South Carolina Artists.
"Mr. Yaghjian has employed the local scene and his paintings furnish interesting examples of familiar subject matter with original approach and treatment. He achieves an unusual combination of primitive and sophisticated technique. The trees, for instance, are all reduced to the geometric forms, especially in the handling of buildings. "Humor invades the whole show and a lively interest in folk customs and characteristics. There are a number of abstractions, but we feel that the artist is primarily interested in interpreting the scene around him and its adaptation to contemporary expression."
March 1953, Savannah Morning News: Exhibition Telfair Academy, Savannah, GA
When he was only two years old, Edmund Yaghjian’s Armenian family immigrated to Providence, Rhode Island, where they opened a grocery store. The young artist’s talent—and especially his skill in drawing portraits—was encouraged by his local minister who convinced a wealthy parishioner to provide Yaghjian with a scholarship to the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design.
Following his 1930 graduation from RISD, Yaghjian enrolled at New York’s Art Students League. There, he studied with leading American painters, including John Sloan and Stuart Davis. These instructors and the influence of the Ashcan school led Yaghjian to abandon portraiture in order to pursue realistic portrayals of the people and places he experienced in the city. His work was recognized as “best of the year” in the League’s 1930 year-end report and, in 1932, he was represented at the Society of Independent Artists Annual Exhibition.
From 1938 to 1942, Yaghjian taught drawing and composition at the Art Students League; this tenure was followed by brief teaching stints at schools in New Hampshire and Connecticut, as well as the University of Missouri. Yaghjian was hired as chair of the University of South Carolina’s Department of Fine Arts in 1945, a post he held until 1966 when he was named the university’s artist in residence.
Over the years, he mentored Jasper Johns, Sigmund Abeles, and the mural artist Blue Sky, among others. While his move to the South distanced Yaghjian from the national stage, his contributions to the arts in South Carolina were significant. As in New York, he viewed his hometown as a source of intriguing subject matter, capturing the streets of Columbia in vibrantly colored and increasingly modernist urban landscapes that successfully blend vernacular and abstract elements.
Yaghjian's distinguished career was filled with notable awards and exhibitions at such important museums as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, National Academy of Design, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Butler Institute of Art, and Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
Credited with being a catalyst in arts awareness in South Carolina, Yaghjian once noted: “I call myself a painter; only time will tell if I am an artist.” The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina.