Sarkis Sarkisian, Turkish-American (1909-1977)

Sarkis Sarkisian was a painter and teacher, who spent most of his career in Detroit, Michigan. Sarkisian said: “Detroit has given me everything. I was an immigrant kid, who came here at 13.” He came to the United States in 1922 with his family. From a young age, he showed interest and a talent in art.

Sarkisian studied under John Wicker at the Wicker School of Fine Arts and with John Carroll at the Art School of the Detroit Society of Arts & Crafts (now the College for Creative Studies) where Sarkisian was hired as an assistant instructor of drawing and design in 1933. He became a full instructor in 1934 and was named Director in 1947. In addition, he taught classes for the Birmingham Society of Women Painters from 1945 to 1954.

As a teacher, Sarkisian taught his own philosophy on painting: “The only way to be an artist is to know you have to train yourself. Otherwise all you can do is imitate. Experience should come first. Then influence can be absorbed intelligently. Sure, Picasso based his Blue Period on El Greco. But Picasso translated what he picked up into his own way of thinking. That’s why he’s an innovator, not an imitator.”

Sarkis was juried into art exhibitions across the nation during his lifetime including the Annual Exhibition of Michigan Artists at the Detroit Institute of Arts, Annual Exhibitions of American Painters and Sculptors at the Art Institute of Chicago, First Annual Show of Contemporary Art at the Richmond Museum of Art, Society of Independent Artists, Paintings from sixteen (16) American Cities at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, The Scarab Club of Detroit, Biennial Exhibition of American Art at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Biennial Exhibitions of American Oil Paintings at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., National Exhibition of American Art at Rockefeller Center in New York, Annual Exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, among many others.