Edgard Chahine. That Vienna was Chahine’s birthplace was a matter of chance: his parents, Armenian residents in Istanbul, happened to be travelling in Europe at the time. The boy would then be brought up in the Turkish capital, where his father was director of the Ottoman Bank, before moving to Venice at the age of 17 to complete his studies. Here, he would lodge with the Mechitarist Fathers of the Armenian monastery and frequent courses at the Accademia delle Belle Arti, studying with the sculptor Antonio dal Zotto and the painter Antonio Paoletti. In 1895 he moved to Paris, where he frequented the Académie Julien, birthplace of the Nabis movement.
The artists who would study at the Julien included Marcel Duchamp, Jacques Villon, Ėduard Vuillard, Henri Matisse and (later) Jean Dubuffet, and it was here that Chahine studied with Paul Albert, Jean-Paul Laurens and Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant, an Orientalist painter and engraver. For the Société des Artistes Français (of which he was a member from 1896 to 1899), Chahine would produce an etching (Study of Paupers) that attracted numerous plaudits and won him a contract with the Parisian printmaker Edmond Sagol. He would then gradually move away from painting to concentrate on engraving, within a few years becoming one of the most fashionable graphic artists in Paris. He would win a Gold Medal at both the Paris Universal Exposition (1900) and the Venice Biennale (1903) where he would exhibit work continuously from 1901 to 1926.
Chahine was also a portraitist and book illustrator, producing engravings for the works of authors such has Anatole France, Maurice Barrès, Octave Mirbeau Joris-Karl Huysmans and Colette.
Though he took French citizenship in 1925, he never forgot his origins and as a ‘romantic socialist’ was active in the Armenian cause. With the end of the Belle Epoque, Chahine tended to be neglected and he would die forgotten in Paris in 1947. He left a corpus of work that includes 800 prints and around 300 works in oils, pastels and tempera. His most famous collections of engravings are Les Forains à Paris (110 plates) and 1907 Les Impressions d’Italie (50 plates), which is a series of Venetian views.