The painting “Komitas: Last Night” by Sargis Muradyan (1927-2007) was one of the first works to break the long silence surrounding the Armenian Genocide. The work became crucial both for the artist’s future activity and the coverage of the Armenian Genocide.
In 1951, a graduate of the Yerevan Art and Theater Institute (now the Academy of Art) Sargis Muradyan presented the work “Battle of Avarayr” as his thesis. However, his sketch was rejected and replaced by one with a Stalinist theme (now exhibited in the “Sargis Muradyan” art gallery).
5 years after this “failure”, Muradyan painted “Komitas: Last Night”, which would become widely recognized and facilitate the artist’s creative path. During those years, the Great Massacre was not talked about, so the painting “Komitas. Last Night” is said to have become one of its illustrative manifestations.
The painting first saw light in 1956 as part of the “Ten Days of Armenian Art and Literature” exhibition held in Moscow. At first, of course, the Armenian jury rejected the presentation of the painting at the Moscow exhibition.
The reason was not that the picture did not match the format of the event. Instead, it was that “Komitas: Last Night” and the topic of the Armenian Genocide expressed in it would be a breakthrough for the Russian public. Fortunately, at the insistence of the head of the department of art of the Ministry of Culture Hakob Khanjyan, the painting was sent to the exhibition where it received much attention and discussion.
Speaking about the painting by Sargis Muradyan, expert and Russian artist Boris Johanson emphasized the abundance of red: “… If the carpet on the floor was painted in greenish or bluish tones, it would be advantageous for the whole artistic structure of the picture.”
However, Johanson did not take into account or did not want to emphasize the symbolic meaning added by Sargis Muradyan – that is, the red represented the blood of the Armenian people. Muradyan’s goal was to voice the theme of the Genocide in the image of Komitas.
Sargis Muradyan was one of the first to draw the attention of genre painting, a leading branch of Soviet art, toward national history.
Later, Muradyan would devote an entire art cycle to Komitas, including works such as “Komitas and Hovhannes Hovhannisyan in Etchmiadzin” (1957), “Komitas and Hovhannes Hovhannisyan communicate with villagers” (1957), “Komitas: 1915, April” (1965), and “Antuni “(1969).
Inesa Stepanyan, Junior Researcher at Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, genocide-museum.am