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University of Texas at Austin

Artine Artinian:

An Inventory of His Collection at the Harry Ransom Center

Creator: Artinian, Artine, 1907-2005
Title: Artine Artinian Art Collection
Dates: Circa 1800?–1963 (bulk 1870–1935)
Extent: 17 boxes, 3 document boxes, 3 flat file folders, 10 framed paintings (1173 items)
Abstract: The art collection of distinguished French literature scholar Artine Artinian includes several hundred original drawings, prints and paintings related to his field of study. The collection also contains a large group of periodical issues, twenty-four reproductive prints, and two posters.
Call Number: Art Collection AR-00009
Language: English and French.
Access: Open for research. A minimum of twenty-four hours is required to pull art materials to the Reading Room.

Administrative Information

Acquisition: Purchase (R3210) 1966; Gifts, 1966, 1968, 1973.
Processed by: Helen Young, 2005.

Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Biographical Sketch

Artine Artinian was a distinguished scholar of French literature, as well as an astute manuscript collector. He was infected with the collecting "virus," as he put it, when as a young high school student, he bought twenty books from a friend who was moving out of town, among which were three volumes by Guy de Maupassant. Little did he know that from then on all his allowance would be destined to the purchase of Maupassant's works, first in English, then in French. As both his taste and his pocketbook matured, he followed the usual slippery slope of the collector, by buying first editions, progressing to numbered editions, and finally to accumulating Maupassant manuscripts and correspondence, as well as the literary output of other French writers from the Belle Époque, such as Proust, Flaubert, and Verlaine.
Of Armenian descent, Artine Artinian was born on December 8, 1907, in Pazardjik, Bulgaria. As an adolescent, he worked as a shoe-shiner in Attleboro, Massachusetts, after his family emigrated there in 1920. He was able to attend Bowdoin College (1931) with support from his loyal shoe-shining customers, and in later years, he returned the favor by establishing a scholarship fund for needy students there. He received a diploma from the Université de Paris in 1932, an A.M. from Harvard the following year, and a Ph.D. from Columbia in 1941. His dissertation, Maupassant Criticism in France, 1880-1940, with an Inquiry into His Present Fame and a Bibliography, was published the same year. He also edited The Complete Short Stories of Guy de Maupassant (1955), which expurgated sixty-five inauthentic works from the Maupassant canon, and remains authoritative, even after half a century. In 1964, Artinian retired from his post as Chairman of the Division of Languages and Literature at Bard College, where he had been teaching since 1935. His collecting did not stop with retirement, however, as he continued to amass manuscripts and artwork, especially portraits, including artist self-portraits.
Professor Artinian believed that teaching was an art, and used his manuscript collection to motivate his students. In an article that he wrote for the Modern Language Journal in 1952, he encouraged teachers to enliven their lectures with the use of original documents in the classroom, and gave advice on how to accumulate them judiciously–even on a teacher's salary. "My own collection has developed to its present size and scope over a period of many years. The story of its growth is full of memorable adventures, my life has been considerably enriched by associations with other collectors in this country and abroad, and contacts with autograph and book dealers have frequently developed into highly pleasant personal relations."
Artinian's legacy was not solely of the scholarly sort, however. Mary McCarthy used him as a template for her character Aristide Poncy in The Groves of the Academe (1952), after she was hired to teach at Bard in 1945. McCarthy portrayed Poncy as genial and innocent, if a trifle absent-minded, often returning from trips to France minus a student, and with "a taste in dress that suggested Sherlock Holmes." Additionally, Gore Vidal used his name for the minor role of a psychiatrist in his play The Best Man (1960). In 1992, Artinian helped David Lehman flesh out the deconstructionist Paul de Man's chaotic years at Bard for the paperback edition of his book Signs of the Times: Deconstruction and the Fall of Paul de Man.
Artine Artinian died on November 19, 2005. His wife Margaret Woodbridge Artinian, whom he met while at Columbia, preceded him in death earlier the same year. They are survived by two daughters and their son Robert, with whom Professor Artinian updated his earlier work in Maupassant Criticism: A Centennial Bibliography, 1880-1979 (1982).


"Artine Artinian."   Who's Who in America. 53rd ed. New Providence, NJ: Marquis Who's Who, 1998.
Artinian, Artine. French Illustrated Letters from the Collection of Artine Artinian. Palm Beach: The Norton Gallery of Art, 1989.
Artinian, Artine. "La collection Maupassant."   Le bel ami: bulletin de l'Association des "Amis de Guy De Maupassant" 1 (July 1951): 6-8.
Artinian, Artine. "Manuscript Documents as Teaching Aids."  Modern Language Journal 36.4 (April 1952): 188-190.
Fox, Margalit. "Artine Artinian, 97, Dies: French Literature Scholar."   The New York Times 11 December 2005.
Lehman, David. "Paul de Man: The Plot Thickens."   The New York Times 24 May 1992.
McCarthy, Mary. The Groves of the Academe. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company, 1952.
Vidal, Gore. The Best Man: A Play about Politics. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1960.
Additional biographical material on Artine Artinian is located in newspaper clippings in the Art Collection's vertical file.

Scope and Contents

The Artine Artinian Art Collection is primarily a portrait collection. The original works comprise 535 drawings, ninety-seven prints (fifty etchings, thirty lithographs, five engravings, four wood engravings, four woodcuts, two screen prints, and two photogravures), and thirty-one paintings (nineteen oils, seven watercolors, and five gouaches). The collection also contains a large group of periodical issues, twenty-four reproductive prints, and two posters.
The collection is organized into three series: I. Portraits, 1800?-1963 (644 items), II. Miscellaneous Works, 1800s-1953 (50 items), and III. Les Hommes d'Aujourd'hui, 1878-1899? (479 items).
Series I., Portraits, is divided into two subseries: A. Literary Portraits, and B. Other Portraits. Subseries A., Literary Portraits, is a group of 443 portraits of 235 different subjects by 194 named artists, seven artists identified by initials, and several unidentified artists. These are portraits of figures of the French literary scene of the nineteenth century through the first half of the twentieth century. Included are about twenty-five self portraits, and a few portraits by literary figures in the role of artists: Marcel Béalu, Jean Cocteau, Paul Verlaine. The bulk of the Literary Portraits are arranged alphabetically by portrait subject, followed by five large group portraits arranged alphabetically by artist. Subseries B., Other Portraits, consists of two groups of works by Marthe Antoine Gérardin: thirty portraits of delegates and officials of the 1929-1930 Hague Conference, and thirty portraits of theater personalities of 1920s France. Each drawing is signed by the subject. These are followed by a collection of 141 portraits by Robert Kastor. Kastor's portraits are of figures prominent in the sciences and humanities in Europe and the United States at the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth century. These include philosophers, historians, economists, judges, linguists, classicists, social reformers, scientists, and authors. Each portrait drawing is inscribed by the subject.
Series II., Miscellaneous Works, is divided into two subseries: A. Works related to Guy de Maupassant (nineteen works), and B. Other Miscellaneous Works (thirty-one works). Subseries A., Works Related to Guy de Maupassant, consists of three works by Guy de Maupassant, two paintings by Maupassant's father, Gustave de Maupassant, landscapes of Maupassant's childhood home of Etretat on the English Channel, and other works. Subseries B., Other Miscellaneous Works, includes illustrations by Pierre-Georges Jeanniot, Lucien-Marie-François Métivet, Sahib, and Jehan Testevuide, and other works.
An index of artists represented in Series I. and II. appears at the end of the finding aid.
Series III. contains a complete run of the 469 numbers of Les Hommes d'Aujourd'hui (Paris: Librarie Vanier, 1878-1899?), each of which has a brief biographical text accompanied by a portrait or caricature. Over half of the portraits are by André Gill, Henri Demare, Manuel Luque, Émile Cohl, or Coll-Toc; the other sixty-eight contributing artists include Camille Pissarro, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Paul Signac.
An index of portrait subjects represented in all three series appears at the end of the finding aid.

Related Material

The Artine Artinian Art Collection includes three drawings by Zdzisław Czermański which are described in the Art Collection's Zdzisław Czermański Art Collection. The Ransom Center also has Artine Artinian Collection materials in its Manuscripts Collection, its Library, its Photography Collection, and its Vertical Files.

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