Zabelle C. Boyajian
Armenian painter, writer and translator who spent most her life in London
Born 1873 in Diyarbakir of the Ottoman Empire (The ancient Armenian capital Tigranocerta) Her mother had english ancestry and was relative with the famous english poet Samuel Rogers. The start of her life would but be a good one as her father was murdered in 1894 during the Hamidian Massacres which also claimed some 400 thousand Armenians and 25 thousand Assyrians. When this happened Zabelle, her mother and her brother fled to London.
As they started settling in London Boyajian enrolled at the Slade School of Fine Art. She also started writing and illustrating her own books. Her first novel, Esther, about the massacres in Sasun was published in 1901 in London under the pen name Vardeni.
She was very close with Anna Raffi, the wife of the Armenian novelist Hakob Melik Hakobian,( better known by his pen name Raffi) and her two sons, Aram and Arshak, who had moved to London after Raffi’s death. Boyajian periodically translated and published excerpts from Raffi’s novels in the journal Ararat and organized various reading events to honor his work. In 1916, she compiled and translated the anthology Armenian Legends and Poems (1916), which was introduced by Viscount James Bryce and which included several poems in Alice Stone Blackwell's translation.
She traveled widely and in 1938 published her travel notes and illustrations of Greece, In Greece with Pen and Palette. In 1948 she translated and published Avetik Isahakian's epic poem Abu Lala Mahari. Boyajian also wrote essays on Shakespeare, Byron, Euripides,Michael Arlen, Raffi, and Avetik Isahakian, as well as comparative works on English and Armenian literature.
As a painter, Boyajian had her individual exhibitions in London in 1910 and 1912, in Germany in 1920, in Egypt in 1928, in France, in Italy, and in Belgium between 1940-50. She died in London 26 January, 1957.
"Miss Boyajian’s paintings cover a great deal of ground. They include portraits, landscapes, and decorative panels. These last are in two groups, the one illustrating the artist’s own published versions of Gilgamesh, the Sumerian epic; the other, verses from theRubaiyat of Omar Khayyam… . Harmony of color rather than of line or mass is her main preoccupation, and she achieves it without doing violence to nature’s own color schemes.”
-The Manchester Guardian
"Readers who are curious concerning Armenia and Armenians may learn more about them from this attractive volume than from many books of heavier erudition. It is an anthology of translations from Armenian poems, accompanied by a learned and interesting disquisition by Mr. Aram Raffi on the epics, folk-songs and poetry of Armenia… . It is impossible to read its graceful, varied, and musical verses without realizing that the choice has been directed by an intimate knowledge of the country’s characteristic literature and that the pieces included are rendered with a skill that knows how to bring over to another language some of its typical accents and inspirations … The color work is indeed particularly fine, and will be admired by all who know how to appreciate good work."
-Scotsman (November 18, 1916)