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Edgar Chahine was born in Vienna of Armenian parents. At age 21 he decided to travel to Paris and pursue a career in fine arts. He studied painting under formal instruction at the Académie Julian, but his natural ability and his determination to express himself as an artist led him to a personal style based more on the reality of the streets of Paris than the confines of the classroom.
Chahine began to experiment with the possibilities of print making at the age of 25. Although he had already achieved some success with his paintings, he became fascinated with prints and soon worked exclusively in this medium. His prints were very much in demand by collectors and the well known publisher Edmond Sagot quickly became his dealer. He won several medals and awards and received many commissions.
Chahine’s print œuvre is an equal representation of elegant Parisian men and women and Bourgeois society, and more common scenes of country fairs and street life. His sympathetic depictions of children, beggars, circus performers and other often forgotten people were engaging and touched the emotions of the observer, while his portrayals of the more fashionable side of Paris accurately captured its “joie de vivre”.
The death of his fiancé plunged him into a deep depression, and he left Paris to travel through Italy. This voyage gave him the serenity and the inspiration to begin working with new enthusiasm actually etching the day’s drawings onto copper plates in his hotel room each night. He returned with new vigor and expanded his efforts to once again include pastels and oils in his work.
This productivity was not to last, as the combination of terrible events in Armenia and Syria and culminating in the outbreak of World War I rendered Chahine unable to work. Not until his marriage in 1921 did he begin to make art again. In 1925 he became a French citizen and began a new burst of creative activity in fine prints and illustrated books.
Many of Chahine’s prints were lost in a fire in his atelier in 1926, and many more were destroyed in a flood in 1942. We are fortunate to still have great examples of this exceptional artist’s work to transport our spirits back to turn of the century France!
In 1928, Edgar Chahine became extremely popular in France. By the end of that year, a museum in Crouttes – Vimountier in the Orn region of France was named after him, Musée Chahine.