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Kero Antoyan

Kero Antoyan was born in July 1912 in the ancient Armenian highlands of Dersim, Turkey two years before the start of WWI. His father fleeing Turkish persecution escaped to America and was forced to leave behind his wife and two small sons. Left unprotected, Kero’s mother had no choice but to live among the Kurdish people in Kangerloo. Although only four years of age, Antoyan was so disturbed by this radical change in his life that he could not accept it. He walked alone several miles back to his original village to live with his paternal grandmother and his uncles’ wife instead.  These three refugees were all that remained of the family after the Armenian Genocide. They made their way to Kharpert in western Turkey, and then lived in refugee encampments for almost two years in Aleppo, Syria, later spent a brief time in Beirut, Lebanon, and after five years of hardship finally found safety in Marseille, France.

In France, Kero began to study art as a vocation in school.  He was always restless in his normal studies but was always interested in art. Therefore, he apprenticed himself to a mural painter, working in the studio cleaning brushes, mixing paints, preparing canvas, and assisting him with decorative tapestry like murals for home interiors.

Kero’s first art piece was a copy of Ecco Homo by the Italian artist, Guido Reni. It was sold on the same day it was completed to a pharmacist for fifty-franc note, an impressive sum at that time to young Kero.

In 1934 Kero Antoyan sailed by himself to America with very little money in his pocket but with high aspirations. In America, Kero began to paint miscellaneous items on a weekly wage. However, soon he would begin to get contracted for per item projects. Knowing that formal art training was necessary, he attended industrial arts night school and studied fine art.

A few years later World War II began. Antoyan, who had directly experienced all the horrors of war as a small child, could only affirm his status of conscientious objector; against all killing and having no enemies in mankind. Kero was drafted in 1942 into the U.S. Army Signal Corps; he was just stationed in New York and New Jersey as an instructor of photography, rather than being sent overseas.

Discharged in the fall of 1944, he bade goodbye to the east and traveled back to California to open a photography studio of his own in an elegant section of Hollywood. He spent much of his time photographing studio starlets, aspiring actors and actresses.

In 1949, Kero Antoyan met a French immigrant Madeleine Kassardjian. In this attractive young woman he found love and understanding as well as sympathy for his work. They married the following year.

Kero Antoyan had a gift for expressing his love for nature whether it was a floral still life or a fruit composition. His desire to convey the struggle for survival against nature is a major theme that it is illustrated in many of his pieces.

Kero Antoyan went exhibited throughout the world receiving many awards for his artistic talents. It can be said that viewing Antoyan's work over the decades, one can see its universality emerging from a unique life and perspective. He has been able to transform his perceptions as child, émigré, student, family man, teacher and crusader into significant visual images. By his art, and especially by his masterly use of color, he creates understanding and emotion in the viewer. He is a conduit for ancient cultural symbol, and in his hands, the Armenian experience becomes an archetype of suffering and joy, accessible to all mankind.


Kero S. Antoyan: The Artist’s Life and Work
Compiled and written by Janet Samuelian, Los Angeles, California 1988
Published by Haigazian College University, Beirut, Lebanon 1988