The following biographical information has been provided by Mary Jane DeMarco (Papasian) , granddaughter of the artist.
The Armenian Reporter, 01-08-2005
Nearly fifty years have passed since the death of Jack C. Papasian, a noted sculptor in his day. This is a long enough time for his name to have faded from the consciousness of the general public, but not from the memory of members of his family and relatives in different parts of the world. Nor is he forgotten by students of art and urban architecture, who learn about him through the considerable body of work he left behind - sculptured monuments, figures and garlands that adorn buildings in most large U.S. cities.
Some of that work, consisting of statues, can be found on Grand Central Terminal, in the U.S. Customs House, the Hall of Records, the church doors of St. Bartholomew's (on Park Avenue at 49th Street), the Board of Health Building downtown, and the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, other public buildings, court houses and schools in various parts of Manhattan.
Jack Papasian was born in Brussa, Turkey in 1878 but he received his elementary education in Smyrna, where his parents had moved when he was very young. His aptitude for engraving and carving was encouraged by patrons in the Armenian community of this city, who sponsored his education at the Mourad-Raphaelian School in Venice, Italy, where he majored in sculpture.
His innate talents soon found recognition when he was awarded the coveted prize, Prix de Rome, in 1897, the first non-Italian to be so honored. This award carried a scholarship at government expense to study at the Vatican School of Fine Arts, an institution under the auspices of the Vatican. On graduation he won a number of prizes and medals from that institution.
Early in 1900 he immigrated to the United States and, soon after his arrival, he became associated with Philip Martini, noted sculptor of the time.
Mr. Papasian soon became acquainted and associated with the famous American architect, Stanford White. He carved much of the marble and stone decorations for buildings and homes designed by White. In retrospect, it can be said that Papasian made his greatest masterpiece for White. Evelyn Nesbitt, who figured prominently in the Stanford White-Henry K. Thaw murder trials, posed for the statue, entitled Faith, Love and Downfall of Sin. In 1905, Papasian made all the sculptural work on the Mechanical High School in Reading, PA.
Much of his early New York work fell with the fine old mansions razed to make way for newer structures, and is to be seen today only in photographs at the National Sculpture Society.
In 1908, he returned to Smyrna and stayed until 1922. While there, he established a business in architecture and monuments. His studio produced numerous sculptural monuments, which were erected locally and in Constantinople; some of them were still in existence as of the late 1950's. Sebouh-Bey Meksoutian's monumental mausoleum and Dilarcgian Memorial in the Shishli Cemetery, as well as a monument in memory of the son of the British diplomat, Sir Harry Lamb, belong in this group. However, a great many of his works in both cities were destroyed.
After the capture of Smyrna by the Turks, Mr. Papasian was forced to flee Turkey. He came to America penniless, after having lost his fortune and his position as a distinguished sculptor. However, his creative genius soon found new ways of bringing his contribution to American art.
His big job was the execution of all the sculptural works of the Metropolitan Theater in Boston (1925) and the New York County Court House at Foley Square (1926-27), Stations of the Cross and the altar piece of the Church of Dominican Fathers; Texas University Library; Brentwood Cathedral at Brentwood, Long Island; Our Lady of Refuge, in Brooklyn, NY; Capitol Building in Columbus, OH; Archives Building in Washington, DC (1949) (figures, panels and laurel leaves); the huge statue of George Washington at the New York World's Fair in 1939. He also made the statue of Mary Martin, which was shown on the stage in "One Touch of Venus," the shields of the 48 states and territories, which are in the assembly chambers of Congress, and two large statues in front of St. Stephens Church in Manhattan.
The Eternal Struggle, a symbolic statue of the struggle for survival of the Armenian people, is on display in a museum in Yerevan, Armenia.
Between major works, Mr. Papasian labored lovingly over statues and monuments that accumulated in his studio at 159 East 28th Street, near Third Avenue, which the neighborhood called "The Little Museum on Twenty-eighth Street." Many of these pieces came into the possession of family members after he died.
Mr. Papasian was a member of the National Sculpture Society and a member of the Sculptors and Modelers of America, having served as the latter's president a number of ties.
Edith Evans Asbury devoted one of her "About New York" columns to Jack Papasian; entitled "A Sculptor in Classic Tradition Looks at Modern Buildings and Says, 'Boxes!'" This column was published in the September 30, 1957 issue of the New York Times, exactly a month before the sculptor's death at the age of 79.
A comprehensive obituary, written by Mardiros Sarkisian, was published in the November 23, 1957 issue of The Armenian Mirror-Spectator.
Article copyright The Armenian Reporter International.
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