Memorial fountain for Armenian painter damaged in eastern Turkey

A fountain built in the memory of famed Armenian painter Arshile Gorky in his birthplace, Turkey’s eastern Van province, was damaged by unknown persons, news website Duvar reported on Thursday.

Van’s Edremit district municipality built the fountain in 2015, continuing an Anatolian tradition of commemorating the departed by providing water for residents and passers-by. The fountain was built during the term of Sevil Rojbin Çetin, who was elected mayor from the now defunct pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).

Four sides of the fountain were embellished with details about Gorky’s life in Turkish, Armenian, Kurdish and English, with water pouring from each of them. The fountain’s architects used special stones from the region, and it was built close to Gorky’s former family home.

The monument had suffered several attacks in the past, starting after Mayor Çetin was removed from her post and jailed on terrorism charges. Çetin was replaced by a government-appointed proxy, who let the fountain fall into ruin again, Duvar said.

Over time, the spouts on all four sides were damaged and blocked, while Gorky’s name was scratched out. In the most recent incident, the signs telling Gorky’s life story were removed and disappeared.

When asked why the water had been shut off, the municipality under the appointed mayor told reporters it had been a measure due to insufficient water levels. Municipal officials denied any knowledge of damages, Duvar said.

Arshile Gorky, born Vostanik Manoug Adoian in 1904, fled to Russian-controlled territories to the east during the 1915 Armenian Genocide with his mother and sisters. He lost his mother to starvation in Yerevan in 1919, and emigrated to the United States in 1920. He changed his name and enrolled in the New England School of Art in Boston.

He later taught in several art schools and was employed by the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project, which was also home to Alice Neel and Diego Rivera.

In 1948, Gorky hanged himself in his studio after telling one of his students he was going to take his own life. On a crate he wrote, “Goodbye My Loveds”.

Cited alongside Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko, Gorky is among the highest regarded American painters of the 20th century.

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