Haroutiun Galentz (Harmandayan) was born in 1910 in the town of Kyuryun (present-day Kyurin), Vilayet of Sebastia in the Ottoman Empire. Galentz’s exact date of birth is unknown; he was only 5 years old when he lost his parents during the Great Genocide in 1915.
Galentz’s elder brothers, Haroutiun was born on the next day of Easter, at night, thus being named Haroutiun (according to the calendar of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the birthday of Haroutiun Galentz should be April 10, 1910). Among the four brothers in the family, Galentz was the third one. His parents – Tiratur and Almast, were wealthy people; the family owned a factory of carpets and shawl, the products of which were exported to Europe.
In the years of the Great Genocide in the Ottoman Empire Haroutiun and his brothers were miraculously saved from the atrocities and death; after a long walk in the endless rows of the refugee caravans, after all Haroutiun’s mother managed to take her sons to Syria.
By getting to Alepo, Almast, Haroutiun’s mother, passed away at hospital. Before that she had managed to find a shelter for the brothers in one of the American orphanages established there for the Armenian orphans. And it was in the school of the orphanage that Haroutiun got his primary education, by studying there only four years.
Galentz started to lead an individual life from an early age. He was hardly ten years old when he left the orphanage and temporarily took a refuge in his uncle’s place. Having put aside reading and writing, young Galentz devoted himself to the only passion he had – art; he took calligraphy classes and tried to work with oil paint.
In 1923 Haroutiun got acquainted with an Armenian painter Onik Avetisyan who then was a student at the School of Fine Arts in Vienna, and was spending his summer holidays in Aleppo. In summer Galentz took painting lessons from Avetisyan for over 2-3 months. This was young Galentz’s first professional school. Having noticed the young boy’s talent in painting, Onik Avetisyan purchased one of Galentz’s works to encourage him.
Galentz lived in Aleppo until he was 17; he rented a studio, began to paint and sell portraits and genre paintings, thus already gaining some fame.
In 1927 Galentz moved to Tripoli, Lebanon, where his two elder brothers had gone earlier; they had already opened the “Harmand” Photo Studio there (the signboard is still on the facade of the building half ruined because of the military activities in Tripoli).
In Tripoli young artist translated his surname Harmandayan. It translates into Armenian as “kals” which means “milling”. He finalized it into Kalents surname signing his art works but only its French transcription Galentz.
It was here that he met the French painter Claude Michellet, by setting basis for their long-lasting friendship and collaboration. They travelled a lot together throughout Lebanon and Syria, setting up various exhibition-sales.
In 1930 Galentz moved to the capital of Lebanon – Beirut, where upon Michellet’s request, he began to run the Art Studio adjacent to Michellet’s workshop, by providing classes of painting and graphics. Soon afterwards Galentz set up his own studio.
In 1931 Galentz took part in the Young Artists Exhibition.
In 1932 Galentz became one of the initiators of the establishment of the Union of Art Lovers. Later on it set ground for the establishment of the Artists’ Union of Lebanon. Galentz was one of the active members of the Union; in fact he would participate in all the group exhibitions, as well as set up solo ones. He had a wide scope of interests: besides painting, he was engaged in scenic design and monumental sculpture; he cooperated with different magazines, newspapers, as well as publishing houses, by designing books.
In 1938 he met his future wife – Armine Paronyan, in his studio in Beirut. She had moved to Beirut from Aleppo (Syria) to take classes by Galentz.
In May 1938, Galentz presented his ”Portrait of the Bedouin Woman” in the exhibition of the Union of Art Lovers.
In 1939 he presented his 7-meter-long high-relief sculpture at the Lebanon pavilion in the International Exhibition in New York, by being awarded certificates of Honour by the Lebanon Government and the Exhibition Committee.
In 1940 by the order of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Galentz created the figure of St. Mary for the alter in St. Nishan Church in Beirut. Tigran Gupeseryan was the architect who had come to Beirut from France, and Galentz and he became close friends.
In 1943 in St. Nishan Church in Beirut Galentz and Armine got married right under the auspices of St. Mary on the alter painted by Galentz himself. Armen, their first child, was born in February 1944.
In 1943 Galentz painted Claude Michulet’s portrait, by presenting it at the exhibition held by the Artists’ Union of Lebanon on July 8.
In 1945 he created a voluminous mosaic for the lobby of the “Regent Hotel” in Beirut, which was destroyed during the wartime.
In 1945 Galentz ornamented the dome of the Monastery Zmmar in Lebanon.
The widespread campaign by the Soviet authorities became an incentive for Galentz to move to Armenia – Soviet Armenia. In May Galentz left for his homeland together with his wife Armine, and son Armen, by the earliest ship scheduled.
In June 1946 Haroutiun Galentz became a member of the Artists’ Union of Armenia.
In October 1946 Galentz’s second son Saro was born.
In 1947 among other repatriates, Galentz received a piece of land at that time out of Yerevan, in a non-populated area.
On April 27, 1947 Haroutiun and Armine Galentzs were among the 14 artists participating in the first exhibition of the works by the artists and sculptors repatriated to Armenia from abroad (Lebanon, Syria, Romania, Bulgaria, Iran). The exhibition was held at the House of Artists in Yerevan. Martiros Saryan, President of the Artists’ Union of Soviet Armenia, made an opening speech at the exhibition.
The regular Republican Exhibition held at the Artists’ Union of Armenia in April 1948 was fatal for Galentz. According to the critique published in the ”Komunist” (Communist) newspaper, the central organ of the Soviet authorities, Galentz was recommended to get rid of the influence of the bourgeois art, and the slogan of the struggle against the formalist, decadent and other movements alien to the Soviet art set basis for depriving Galentz from his membership in the Artists’ Union. As a result, Haroutiun Galentz was no longer allowed to participate in the annual art exhibitions held by the Union, thus unwillingly, he found himself out of creative environment, being deprived of already rare state orders. Moreover, artists who were in the same situation, were considered as ”spongers” and subject to criminal punishment, even up to being exiled…
1948-1956 were years of hardship, idleness and poverty with his meager earning, due to, as Galentz himself used to say, ”hackwork”. Galentz, in fact, stopped creating…
In 1951 a decision was made during the session of the USSR Artists’ Union to restore the candidacy of Haroutiun Galentz as a member of the Artists’ Union.
A slight remission of the tension, depression and forced idleness was discerned in the mid 50’s. Galentz’s studio began to revive, turning into a meeting point for the leading intellectuals, scientists, actors, writers and open-minded individuals.
In 1957 Galentz met Artem Alikhanyan, a renowned scientist, world-famous physicist, influential individual and art collector, becoming friends with him. From then on Alikhanyan had become Galentz’s sponsor and the follower of his art. Galentz became known among wider circles of the intelligentsia in Moscow and Leningrad (St. Petersburg), as well as among many scientists from abroad.
In 1959 due to Ilya Ehrenburg, Galentz got acquainted with Levon Mkrtchyan; that meeting, too, set basis for a long-lasting friendship.
In 1959 on his own initiative, Artem Alikhanyan exhibited Galentz’s works in his apartment in Moscow, later on transferring the exhibition to Moscow Institute of Physics. As a result Galents received a lot of orders. His works were purchased by outstanding Russian scientists, writers and actors, such as A. Migdal, L. Artsimovich, L. Okun, S. Kapitsa, I. Ehrenburg, M. Plisetskaya, A. Raykin, Y. Borisova, L. Brik, A. Gitovich, A. Dimshits and others.
In 1959 Galentz designed two posters for the performance ”Love and Three Oranges” staged by A. Raykin at the State Sketch Theatre of Leningrad.
In 1961 another ”non-official” exhibition was held in the apartment of Boris Piotrovsky, the Director of the State Hermitage Museum in Leningrad.
In 1961 Galentz’s exhibition at the Department of Russian Language and Literature at Yerevan State University was prohibited; the organizer of the exhibition was Levon Mkrtchyan who then was still a young laboratorian. The invitations, with a foal and a rose together with the date in the form of a cross on it, were the reason of prohibiting the exhibition. This issue was examined at the level of the Agitation and Propaganda Department of the Communist Party (KK) of Armenia. The article ”The Amazing and Sad France” by A. Dimshits, published in the magazine ”Literature and life” in March 1961 came to rescue. Upon Levon Mkrtchyan’s request, in his article, A. Dimshits mentioned that the works of Picasso and other geniuses in France ”reminded him of Galentz’s life-driven and magnificent works.”
In 1962 the first and the only solo exhibition, ever held in Armenia during the artist’s lifetime, was opened in the Artists’ Union in Yerevan.
In 1965 Galentz was awarded the title of Honorary Artist of Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR).
Haroutiun Galentz died of heart attack in 1967 at the age of 57. In her ”Forgive me, Haroutiun” Book of Memories about Galentz, Armine Galentz has written, ”If you knew how many people came to say good-bye to you, you wouldn’t die.”
In 1967 Haroutiun Galentz was posthumously awarded the Armenian SSR State Prize in the field of literature and art for the portraits of A. Gitovich, S. Barseghyan, A. Alikhanyan, as well as for the paintings ”Tulips”, ”The Kurdish Women”, ”Our Yard”, ”Spring” and ”The Hrazdan Gorge”.
Due to Armine Galentz’s efforts, in 1968 one year after Galentz’s death, the Gallery-Studio after Haroutiun Galentz was opened in Yerevan with the status of a ”non-governmental institution” which was unprecedented in the former Soviet Union. It was open to the public even during the renovation of Galentz’s house, the beginning of its construction and its transformation into the Galentz Museum.
The exhibition of Galentz’s works opened in 1970 in the Central House of Writers of Moscow. Poet A. Dimshits supported the organization of the exhibition.
In May 1970 the exhibition of Galentz’s works opened at “Hayk” club in Beirut. The works were brought from the private collections of the Lebanese collectors. Author of the preface of the humble illustrated book was Hollande Ajemian, Barsegh Kanachyan’s daughter.
The first posthumous exhibition of Galentz opened in the Artists’ Union of Armenia in Yerevan in 1971.
The exhibition of Galentz’s works opened in the House of Writers after Mayakovsky in Leningrad in 1971, with the support of writer Dmitry Moldavsky and Tatyana Makhmuryan, Art Historian at the Union of Writers of Leningrad.
The exhibition of the works of Haroutiun and Armine Galentzs opened at the Institute of Physics in Yerevan in 1988, and it was devoted to Artem Alikhanyan’s 80th anniversary.
Galentz’s works – both from family and Gallery collections, were displayed at the exhibition ”Three Worlds of Colour – Saryan, Galentz, Minas” held at the National Gallery of Armenia in 1993.
An anniversary exhibition of Galentz’s works was set up at the House-Studio of the Galentzs in Yerevan in 1995.
A solo exhibition of the works of Haroutiun and Armine Galentzs, comprising works from various private collections, was held at the Artists’ Union of Armenia, Yerevan, in 2000.
The Galentz Museum was opened within the framework of the events devoted to the 100th anniversary of Haroutiun Galentz, in the street named after Galentz – in the place of the house-studio of the two artists in Yerevan, in April 27, 2010.