Jean Kazandjian Biography

Jean Kazandjian




Jean Kazandjian was born in Beirut, Lebanon on February 10, 1938. Of Armenian heritage, he and his siblings were were raised speaking French and English as second and third languages. His family had fled Turkey in 1915 at the onset of the Armenian genocide and, after spending many years in Ethiopia, they settled in Lebanon in 1933. Kazandjian's life in Beirut greatly influenced his art, not only due to his family's collection of art books featuring Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and European Old Master art, but also because of Beirut's rich culture and sophistication, earning it the title of the "Paris of the Middle East" prior to the civil war, which began in 1975.

Kazandjian attended the Armenian Mekhitarist School in Beirut where he became known for his drawings and caricatures. In 1952 he studied at the French College annex of the American University of Beirut (A.U.B), and in 1960 he moved to Paris, where he enrolled at the National School of Decorative Arts and spent many afternoons studying at the Louvre Museum. Around this time he befriended the painters Jean Carzou and Leon Tutundjian, and was introduced to Francis Bacon, Alexander Calder, Giorgio de Chirico, Salvadore Dali, and others whose work would influence his own throughout his career. In 1962, he won first prize in a competitive tapestry exhibition organized by the Sursock Museum, Beirut.

Kazandjian graduated from the National School of Decorative Arts with his Masters Degree in architecture in 1967. The following year, political upheaval in France spurred the artist to return for a time to Lebanon for a time where he studied intaglio techniques under American printmaker Paul Lingren. For a brief time he worked for the Furniture Design Center at University Laboratories before abandoning design to devote his time to fine art. Returning to Paris in 1971, he focused on engraving at the Bellini atelier and was commissioned the following year to create engravings for Furtsenberg, Framond, and Angolare galleries in Milan, among them "The Three Graces", earning a reputation for his work as a surrealist printmaker. 

Kazandjian spent the 1970s traveling between Lebanon and Paris, continuing to work in inaglio. In 1982 he traveled to New York for the first time to meet with his mother. Amid the collections of the Modern Art Museum in New York, he discovered the painter Willem de Kooning, another artistic expression that would influence him in the following years. This prompted him to completely change his work; he destroyed much of his compositions on paper and his paintings, considering them gloomy and outdated. He was given a solo exhibition at the Galerie UNIP in Lausanne, followed by the Galerie L'Estampille in Brussels, where he showed drawings and watercolors.

In 2000
Kazandjian relocated to Los Angeles, California, where he resumed engraving, beginning with a portfolio of 19 copperplate engravings published by the Gary Eisenberg Press. Jean Kazandjian continues to live in California and to exhibit throughout Europe, American and the Middle East.

Kazandjian's work is in the collections of the Brooklyn Museum, NY; Musee de l'Athenee, Geneva; La Biblioteque Nationale, Paris; Musee du Surrealisme, Melun; the Sursock Museum, Beirut; Galerie Jeanne, Munich; Galerie d'Orsay, Boston; Galerie Fursteneberg, Paris; and the Galerie Anais, Los Angeles.

Selected solo exhibitions:
1970: Galerie l'Amateur, Beirut; Galerie Angolare, Milan
1974: Galerie Furstenberg, Paris; Galerie Modulart, Beirut
1977: Galerie Framond, Paris
1978: Galerie Ago, Berlin
1979: Galerie Parvis St. Merri, Paris
1980: Galerie Ago
1981: Galerie Campo, Berlin; Galerie Furstenberg
1982: Galerie Unip, Lausanne; Galerie l'Estampille, Brussells
1983: Galerie Furstenberg
1984: Musee Athenee, Geneva; Galerie Theato, Basel; Galerie Jeanne, Munich
1985: Foundation Gulbenkian, London
1990: Galerie Jeanne; Galerie Artform, Zweibrucken
1992: Galerie Art Mouvement, Paris-Bastille
1993: Galerie Liehrmann, Liege; Galerie Jeanne
1994: Galerie Artform
1996: Chateau de Champs/Marne, Ministere de la Culture; Galerie J.T. Neumann, Munich
1997: Galerie Mansart, Paris; Galerie J.T. Neumann
1999: Galerie Jeanne; C.N.Q.A.O.S., Paris; A.G.B.U. Los Angeles
2000: Palm Springs Art Fair, Los Angeles
2001: Christine Argillet Gallery and Consulat de France, Los Angeles
2002: Christine Argillet GAllery; Galerie Jeanne
2004: Museum of Surrealism, Melun
2007: ART L.A., Los Angeles
2008: The Madison Gallery, La Jolla, CA
2009: Galerie D'Orsay, Boston; Armenian Museum, Watertown, MA; A.G.B.U., Pasadena, CA
2010: Gallery Anais, Santa Monica, CA
2011: Swenson Fine Art, Laguna Beach, CA
2012: Galerie AV, Paris; Armenian Consulate, Los Angeles

2014: National Gallery of Armenia, Yerevan; Galerie AV

2015: Galerie AV

A complete list of solo, group, and museum exhibitions can be found on the artist's website.