Alexander "Skunder" Boghossian (Ethiopian, 1937-2003)
Fertility painting signed and dated 'Skunder 67' (upper left) oil on canvas 143.5 x 83cm (56 1/2 x 32 11/16in).
Skunder Boghossian was brought up in Ethiopia, but lived in Washington DC, USA for the majority of his working life. Following a European art education, Skunder returned to Ethiopia between 1966 and 1969, during which time he worked alongside renowned contemporary artist (and fellow 'father' of Ethiopian art) Gebre Kristos Desta, instructing at the prestigious Addis Ababa School of Fine Arts. Many works executed at this time contributed to what has been called the 'Addis Spring Renaissance', an incredible period of creativity and fecundity for Ethiopian art responding to the introduction of new influences and inspiration from those who had studied abroad. During these years, Skunder's work proved incredibly popular and was exhibited in as many as three studios in Addis Ababa at any one time.
Many of Skunder's students would go on to follow in his footsteps either by emigrating to the USA and continuing as his pupils, or by taking inspiration from his innovations to become the leading figures in a new mode of contemporary Ethiopian art. This has earned him the title 'father of Ethiopian arts'. Unfortunately the 'Addis Spring Renaissance' would be cruelly repressed in Ethiopia during the era of the Derg, whilst artists such as Skunder - who chose to emigrate - were free to express their disillusionment but only from a distance. Skunder was the first Ethiopian artist to have works exhibited in the Musée d'Art Moderne and the Smithsonian.
Fertility painting is dated by the artist 1967, the same year that he was awarded the Emperor Haile Selassie I Prize for Fine Arts and the German Contemporary African Painters Prize, Munich. The intricate patterning and delicately intertwined figuring gives the impression of an incredibly organic work, foreshadowing Boghossian's works of the 1970s, which demonstrate the growing influence of West African and Coptic motifs in his works as well as the international influences of Paul Klee, Max Ernst and the Cuban artist Wilfredo Lam.
E. Harney, Ethiopian Passages: Contemporary Art from the Diaspora, (New York, 2003)