Edgar Chahine was born in Vienna in 1907. His father was the Director of the Ottoman Bank of Constantinople, and Edgar Chahine spent his childhood and early adolescence in the European district of the city. He attended Armenian School here. His first teacher was Melkon Tiratzuyan, an Armenian artist. He later attended L’Académie des Beaux-Arts (The Academy of Fine Arts) in Constantinople.
In 1892, he left Constantinople with his mother to go to Venice. Edgar Chahine attended the Armenian College of Mekhitharist in Venice on the island of San Lazzaro and, at the same time, L’Académie des Beaux-Arts (The Academy of Fine Arts), under the guidance of the artist Antonio Paoletti and the sculptor Antonio dal Zotto. In 1895, he left Venice to settle in Paris where he worked at the Académie Julian (Julian Academy) and took classes with artists Jean-Paul Laurens and Benjamin Constant.
Commenting on himself, he said that he “studied the street”. His masters had very little influence over him. 1899 was a decisive year for Chahine. He displayed a drypoint and three etchings at an exhibition organised by the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts (National Society of Fine Arts). Loys Delteil mentioned this starting point with great enthusiasm and flattering comments in “L’Estampe et l’Affiche” (The Print and the Poster). From this moment on, with all-around encouragement and the financial support of the publisher Sagot, he devoted himself almost exclusively to engraving.
He won the gold medal for engraving at the “Exposition Universelle de Paris” (Universal Exhibition of Paris) in 1900.
In 1906, he presented his excellent work as an illustrator with Les Fêtes Foraines de Paris (The Fairgrounds of Paris) by G. Mourey. After the death of his fiancée, Mary Jacobson, Chahine was devastated and lost his love of life and for his work. To try to console him, his friends and his publisher, Sagot, offered him a trip to Italy, taking in Venice, Umbria and Tuscany. He travelled aimlessly but slowly got back to work. Upon returning to France, Sagot published 49 of his plates, bearing the title “Impressions d’Italia” (Impressions of Italy). By the end of 1906, his work as an engraver was considerable, with around 230 plates, not to mention his illustrations.
In 1919, he had a first exhibition at the Galerie Devambez (Devambez Gallery) as a member of the association La Cimaise. 1923 was a very fruitful year for Chahine. The press constantly mentioned him and wrote articles praising his work. In 1924, he enjoyed much sought-after success when “La Biennale de Venise” (The Venice Biennale) devoted an entire room to his work.
He became one of the founders of the Ani Armenian artistic circle. 1927-1935 marked Chahine’s most prolific years as an illustrator. In 1936, he was invited to exhibit at Yerevan. In 1940, the Hermitage in Leningrad organised an exhibition of his engravings.
In 1926, Chahine suffered a fire in his studio on the Avenue de Wagram. Almost all the material within his studio was destroyed, including proofs and documentation relating to his work. In 1942, his workshop was once again devastated, this time by a flood. On this occasion too, much of his material was lost or damaged. The number of actual proofs is, therefore, lower than the amount stated as some prints were destroyed.
He died in 1947 in Paris.
- 1900 Gold Medal (Paris)
- 1903 Golden Grand Prix (Venice)
- Order of the Knight of the Legion of Honor և Order (France)
The works of Edgar :ahin are in the National Library of Paris, the City Museum of Venice, the National Gallery of Armenia, the Hermitage, the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow, the Boyajyan Center for the Arts.