1939 - 2007
Painter, Graphic Artist, Sculptor
Sergei Essaian was born in Moscow on June 9, 1939. His father, Aramais Mikhailovitch, a journalist, was arrested in 1938 and died in the gulag. His mother, Serafima Teodorovna, was a pediatrician, and during her later years, was head of Morozovskaia polyclinic in Moscow.
He entered the Fine Arts Institute in 1954. First the polytechnic Art Institute of Moscow (MKhPU im. Kalinina) , which he left a year later, to join the 1905 memorial Art Institute (MKhU im. Pamyati 1905 goda). He graduated in 1960. At the same time, he took courses in scenography at the National Institute of Performing Arts (GITIS). These were the years of his passionate infatuation with the avant-garde (poetry, music, theatre), not only Russian.
After his studies, he worked for a while in restoration workshops, gave lessons in drawing and painting, as well as lessons in English.
Without a studio, he did his artistic work at home. This was a period of small scale works that were presented in 1965 in a personal exhibition at the Moscow Institute of Theoretical Physics (among others, the series “Master and Margarita” and “The Trumpeters Entering the City”).
From 1968 to 1975, he worked as editor of one of the sections of the magazine “Decorative Arts of the USSR” (Dekorativnoe Iskustvo SSSR).
In 1973, his personal exhibition took place in the art salon, Sirenevyj Boulevard, in Moscow, where he showed paintings like “The Tower of Babel”, “Suburb”, “A Beauty In Front Of the Mirror”, “Jewish Wedding” (oil on wood).
In the early 1970’s, he set up a studio in the basement of a building on the Pechatnikov Pereulok, and stayed there until 1978. There he created series of drawings, paintings and sculptures on themes like “The Prodigal Son”, “The concert”, “In the Studio”, “The Beach”, “Figures in the Landscape”, “The Trumpeters”, “The Apostles”, “The Sailor and the Whore”, “The Hanged Men”.
In 1978, he made a request for immigration, lost his studio and, until he left the USSR, worked in a studio kindly lent to him by I. Petrov. There he realized the series “The Covers”, “A Departing Figure”, the series of still-lifes “Fish” and the series of assemblages “The Departing Figures”.
In January 1979, Sergei Essaian emigrated from the USSR. In Vienna, where he stayed for six months, he picked up his interrupted work. The series realized during this period, “The Screens”, “Backs”, “The Way of The Cross”, were shown in his personal exhibition in May 1979, at the City gallery of Vienna.
In 1979, Sergei Essaian arrived in Paris, where he lived and worked till the end of his life.
The series “Landscapes” and “Dinners”, painted in 1980 in his studio he then had in Montparnasse, were shown in the Art an Decoration gallery in Paris. That same year, he participated in the biennial of Graphic Arts at Le Touquet, where he was awarded a gold medal. He then showed his works at the Gallery of Modern Art “Le Point” in Monte Carlo, and at the ACAP gallery at Le Touquet.
In 1982, at the request of the Swedish “Shahrazad Teater”, he made the sets and costumes for the show “Doktor Dapertutto”, then “The Robinson Syndrome” (a play by Alexei Khvostenko). During the second half of the 1980’, there followed more collaborations with Swedish theatres: sets and costumes for the operetta “The Cage of the Virgins” in Saffle, the opera-ballet “Balaganchik”, for the royal opera of Stockholm, as well as the opera by Hans Werner Henze “The English Cat” in Karlstad. Along with this theatre work, he realized the series “Divers” and “Swimmers”.
In 1989, his personal exhibition “Waiting for Charlotte Corday” took place in the Anita Falber gallery in Baden, accompanied by a book of the same title. That same year, in an exhibition in Cologne at the Boden, Opendorf and Schneider foundation, he showed the series “The Abduction of Europa”. In 1991, the artist was granted a municipal studio near the Buttes-Chaumont. There he realized the series “Seated Figures”, “Travels” (shown in the Euros gallery, in Mulhouse, in 1993), “Joggers” and “Marathon”.
During the exhibition “Governors, their Poets and their Mistresses” (Axia gallery, London, in 1995), he presented the series “Interiors”, “Good Morning”, “Rooms”, as well as the reliefs “City Walls”.
The series “Heads”, paintings and sculptures, were shown at the Gallerie de Buci in Paris, in 2000.
In 2002, a retrospective exhibition was dedicated to the complete works of Sergei Essaian at the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.
From 2003 to 2005, he worked on “House” and “Views”, an abstract project, that gave birth to his last piece of work “Houses, Views, People”, published in 2006.
The last works of Sergei Essaian, the series “Windows” and “Lozenges”, were realized in 2006.
He died in Paris on January 22, 2007.