Daughter of Armenia: Quick Bite

Today on Museum Quick Bites we’re taking a closer look at, Nouvart Dzeron, A Daughter of Armenia (1912) by Ralph Elmer Clarkson. On display at the Art Institute of Chicago (AIC), this gorgeous painting features art student, Nouvart Dzeron, striking a proud pose in her traditional Armenian clothing.

Nouvart Dzeron, A Daughter of Armenia (1912) by Ralph E. Clarkson, AIC. Photo by cjverb (2019)

Let’s zoom in and take a closer look at the details. Starting with Dzeron’s headdress, note how the light reflects off the intricate design of the silver ornament on her cap. The loose, almost careless grasp Dzeron has on the red beaded necklace dangling from her hand. The rich blue fabric, gold trim, and wispy designs on her long, fitted coat, and the puffy pantaloons that pouf out from below the hem. And my personal favorite, her red tasseled slippers. The entire ensemble is a lovely, striking work of art.

Close-Ups of Nouvart Dzeron, A Daughter of Armenia (1912) by Ralph E. Clarkson, AIC. Photo by cjverb (2019)

Artist Background:  Ralph Elmer Clarkson (1861-1942) was born in Amesbury, Massachusetts. His father was a carriage manufacturer. In 1881, at age 20, Clarkson enrolled in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and within two years, he moved to Paris to study at the Académie Julian. In 1887, during his final year at the Académie, Clarkson exhibited his first painting at the Salon, the prestigious art exhibition of the Académie des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Measuring 7 feet by 11 feet, Clarkson’s, The Arrival of News in the Village (c1887) was well received and subsequently exhibited in Chicago. Clarkson, however did not accompany his painting to the United States.

Left: Ralph Elmer Clarkson (1911) by Joaquin Sorolla, Wikimedia Commons

Right: Café au lait au Frais (c1892-1894) by Ralph E. Clarkson, Wikimedia Commons

In 1890, Clarkson married Francis Rose Calhoun (died 1950). The newlyweds moved to New York and settled in the Sherwood Studio Building, a live-work space for artists and their families. After a year, the couple moved to Europe where they traveled and Clarkson painted and studied art.

The Clarksons visited Chicago for the first time in 1895 when Clarkson’s latest painting, Café au Lait au Frais (c1892-1894) was on display at the Annual Exhibition of American Artists. Lured by the thriving art community and lucrative portrait business, they decided to settle in the Windy City. The couple quickly acclimated and became highly involved and influential in the local Chicago art scene. Clarkson wrote, gave lectures, mentored young artists, and enthusiastically promoted art. He was also a founding member of several art organizations in Chicago.

Left: Gustavus Franklin Swift (1904) by Ralph E. Clarkson, National Portrait Gallery

Right: Portrait of a Lady from the Titanic (1912) by Ralph E. Clarkson, Wikimedia Commons

The Clarksons also regularly vacationed in Europe. One memorable trip took place during the summer of 1914. On June 28th, a Serbian nationalist assassinated Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand (1863-1914) and his wife, Sophie, Duchess von Hohenberg (1868-1914) and Europe was in an uproar. While visiting Berlin, the Clarksons were forced to flee when Germany and France mutually declared war on each other on the same day. Thus, fanning the flames of World War I (1914-1918). Fortunately, the couple safely returned to Chicago and continued to play an active role in the Windy City’s art community. Many decades later, Clarkson died while vacationing with his wife in Orlando, Florida. He was 80 years old. If you’d like to view more of his work, click on this Ralph Elmer Clarkson link, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Left: Ralph Elmer Clarkson (before 1920), Wikimedia Commons

Right: Reading the Letter (date unknown) by Ralph E. Clarkson, Wikimedia Commons

Arty Fact: Nouvart Dzeron was a highly talented student of Ralph Clarkson. Born in Harpoot, Armenia, at a young age Dzeron and her parents were forced to flee her homeland to escape persecution by the Turkish government.

After graduating from the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Dzeron worked as a professional artist. She also fundraised for the Near East Relief (NER). Established by the US government in 1919, the NER and provided humanitarian aid to victims of the Armenian Genocide. To learn more, click on this Armenian Genocide link, courtesy of Britannica.

Babe Ruth & Nouvart Dzeron (1920), Photo by The Golf Magazine, Underwood & Underwood, New York

That concludes our look at Nouvart Dzeron, A Daughter of Armenia. I’ll be back next week with more Museum Quick Bites. Until then, be safe, be kind, and take care 🙂

Cover photo: Nouvart Dzeron, A Daughter of Armenia (cropped; 1912) by Ralph Elmer Clarkson, Art Institute of Chicago. Photo by cjverb (2019)


Art Institute of Chicago: Nouvart Dzeron, A Daughter of Armenia (1912)

askArt: Ralph Elmer Clarkson

Britannica: Armenian Genocide

Illinois Historical Art Project: Ralph Elmer Clarkson

Schwartz Collection: Ralph Elmer Clarkson

The Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute  Foundation: Baseball Legend Babe Ruth Supports Armenian Orphans

Wikimedia Commons: Ralph Elmer Clarkson

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