Writing about the pioneer generation of cartoonists, gives us the responsibility to uncover perhaps a great archive hidden on the shelves of unknown libraries or in personal cupboards of people owning them just because they like this type of art and not for any other reason or interest to share. A sublime task, tempting us to shed the light on those artists who were able to produce great visual and human art and break the barriers of languages by addressing audiences from different national and ideological backgrounds, this class of art carries great human messages and spreads through people’s imagination without the need for any passports |
If we are to be sincere, we have to talk about one of the most prominent Cartoonists in the Arab world. It is Alexander Saroukhan, hoping to pay him back some respect for what he had presented as huge artistic treasures in the beginning of the 20th century. He was born in Armenia 1890 in a village on the top of the Kouqaz Mountains. He later moved to live in the city of Batoum by the black sea where he finished his elementary school, then moved to Istanbul settling down there together with the family. At the age of 10, Saroukhan showed remarkable artistic talent which enabled him to start unique school magazines full of cartoon drawings, which led him gradually to publish a cartoon magazine called “Jafroush” while he was less than 20 years old. The magazines found great welcome from different types of people for its satirical comments giving him the credit in bringing together journalism and cartoon arts. In 1922, Saroukhan left Istanbul and travelled to Belgium after the dramatic political change that took place in Turkey following the First World War having affected his drawings till the last end of his life. In Belgium, he joined the fine Arts institute to widen his talent and after short period in Belgium he moved again to live and work in Cairo for a magazine called “The Pictured Newspaper” after his reputation preceded him to Egypt. In that time, Egypt was, from an artistic point of view, a rapidly developing country unlike most of other Arab countries.
Saroukhan’s move to Cairo, which he considered his second home and a great turning point in his artistic life, he interpreted this in producing very brilliant drawings pleasing both ordinary audience and critics. Saroukhan is one of the most famous cartoonists in his time. He created many imaginary characters such as “Al-Masri Afandi” which he created to express the reaction of Egyptians to the political events that took place in Egypt. That character carried a great sense of humour within it, appeasing the impact of the war on the Egyptian people’s mood.
Saroukhan was a pioneer by creating an outstanding triumph represented in a collection of drawings called “This is the War” in both English and French. The record contained 150 cartoons chosen from 1000 drawings he drew during the war. He added to each drawing a caption explaining what happened in the years between 39-45. This encyclopaedia was considered a one of the greatest artistic accomplishments in the history of wars. Saroukhan’s talent was not restricted to cartoon drawing, but was stretched further to other aspects of arts. He composed satirical plays in Armenian language which were very well received by broad audience. He also produced books, written in Armenian and Arabic with satirical drawings. His special stile of drawing was evident in those works. In addition, he conducted many lectures about the art of cartoon drawing and its history. He held exhibitions all around the world, spanning from south and north of the globe. In 1960, Saroukhan was chosen by an American Group called “From People to People” as one of the most important 14 international cartoonists for his work carrying the name: “A Cartoon for Peace”. Saroukhan has also won many other International prizes, from Toronto, New York, Boston, Montreal and his home country Yerevan. Canada has named him as “The Cartoon’s Veteran” in appreciation to his great works for Art and Humanity for over 50 years.
Saroukhan died in 1977 leaving a distinguished and remarkable influence in the history of this kind of art and a school would make many, many students follow its course
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