Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Timothy Alborn

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Asian History | Cultural History | Ethnic Studies | European History | Holocaust and Genocide Studies | Modern Art and Architecture | Other History | Painting


Armenian art, Armenian Genocide, Modernity, Nationalism, World War I, Russia, Ottoman Turkey, Vardges Sureniants, Yeghishe Tadevossian, Martiros Sarian, Panos Terlemezian


This thesis considers the artistic formations of four Armenian painters who came to maturity before the First World War, and the proto-national institution they founded in 1916—the Union of Armenian Artists—in the wake of the Ottoman Young Turk regime’s 1915-17 campaigns of anti-Armenian mass violence, dispossession, and forced migration, the constellation of events that has come to be known as the Armenian Genocide.

Until the Great War, each of the four—Russian Armenians Vardges Sureniants (1860-1921), Yeghishe Tadevossian (1870-1935), and Martiros Sarian (1880-1972), and Ottoman Armenian Panos Terlemezian (1865-1941)—who were born and raised in diasporic Armenian communities and studied in state and private academies across Eurasia, functioned as part of the era’s busy interregional cultural traffic. They also inhabited multiple diasporic networks—Armenian fellow-students and artist colleagues, ethnographic expeditions to historic Armenian sites, and political parties (in Terlemezian’s case)—all of which gave rise to constructions of modern Armenian cultural identity. Moreover, a flourishing Armenian press offered important vehicles in which to contest concepts of identity and memory and to fashion frameworks for cultural self-definition.

During relatively little of their multi-millennial history, did Armenians claim territorialized states, yet they maintained strong symbolic constructs of “azg” or “nation.” These mental models inspired representations in other domains, such as the exhibitions and related discourses that are the subjects of this study. This thesis will argue that the Union used exhibitions as a discursive medium with which to model Armenian national identity in tandem with but apart from political efforts at state-creation. Drawing from the artists’ personal papers and other documentation held in the archives of the National Gallery of Armenia and the Armenian National Library in Yerevan, Armenia, their own published writings and other journalism, as well as extant art-historical scholarship, this thesis constitutes a preliminary effort to place these four painters, up until 1915, within broader transnational currents and foregrounds anti-Armenian mass violence as a factor in consolidating the first nationally identified Armenian visual arts institution, which presaged a territorialized nation-state.

This work is embargoed and will be available for download on Tuesday, September 30, 2025

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