( Artist research part of my major project. K. S)
Arthur Pinajian, an unknown Armenian-American painter whose death would prompt little more than the rental of a Dumpster. The Dumpster was to be filled with decades' worth of his writings and pencil sketches and a garage-full of paintings that numbered close to 6,000. Today leading art historians say that, at his best, he ranks among the United States' finest abstract expressionists.
Pinajian was known as a comic book artist in his lifetime but devoted his later years to abstract work. Rarely do we discover a worthy artist who works alone and unheralded. Arthur Pinajian was one of them. He drew and painted in obscurity until his death in 1999 at the age of 85. Sharing a modest one-story cottage in the village in Bellport, New York, with his sister Armen (d.2005), Pinajian depended on her totally for financial and moral support.
The majority of his work was found after his death stacked up in the one-car garage and attic of his sister’s property. Along with the art were found his journals, many letters, and sketch books that spanned the 50 years of his creative life.
Arthur Pinajian, the son of Armenian holocaust survivors, was a native of Union City, New Jersey. He started as a cartoonist in the 1930s and found considerable success fashioning comic strips for Quality, Marvel, and Centaur Comics. After World War II, during which he earned the Bronze Star for valor, he rejected commercial art, attended the Art Students League in New York, he rented a studio in Woodstock, New York, and there and in West New York, New Jersey, he began to wrestle with the challenges of being a modern abstract artist. He worked in the manner of Impressionism, Fauvism, Expressionism, and Cubism before turning to Surrealism and various modes of abstraction, including Abstract Expressionism. He became a veritable master of structural color. Pinajian's ability to balance colour including tone and tint, shape and mood is extraordinary and a key defining talent in great abstract art. He pursued his goals in isolation with the single-minded focus of a Gauguin or Cezanne, refusing to give up in the face of public indifference. Pinajian’s work is uneven, but when he hits the mark, especially in his abstractions, he can be ranked among the best artists of his era.
After his death, the majority of his work was found stacked up in the one-car garage and attic of the Bellport cottage he shared with his sister, the first twist came with a real estate venture by a man named Thomas Schultz. It was 2005 when Schultz stumbled upon the cottage in Bellport, New York that was the longtime home of Pinajian and his sister. She had recently died. The artist had died six years prior, at age 85.
Thomas Schultz said "I came into the house to look at it with the purpose of figuring out if it was a good house to flip [to buy and resell for profit] and I walked among all of this art. I was intrigued by it because it was so vast,"
During his lifetime, even when his works were passed over by critics and the public, he steadfastly forged ahead. When all is said and done, this oeuvre is important both because it represents an artist’s life in its totality and because within it is found a prize legacy that will endure for posterity. Thomas is to be commended for sensing that he stood before an important but hidden legacy, and for he dedicated efforts to preserve this artist’s work. The art world is richer for it.
Art historian William Innes Homer has called Pinajian one of the best abstract painters of his era.