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Armenian American painter Arthur Pinajian being shown and sold locally

Art treasure is from recently discovered abstract master

March 20, 2013|By Sara Cardine
  • Stephanie's Art Gallery owners Sepon Stanian and his wife Linda.
Stephanie's Art Gallery owners Sepon Stanian and… (Cheryl A. Guerrero…)

For decades, artist Arthur Pinajian created vivid, abstract canvases under the cover of anonymity, painting thousands of landscapes and figure studies in varying abstract Expressionist styles. He worked out of a small cottage in Bellport, N.Y. that belonged to his sister Armen — it was here Pinajian would create and store his vast collection until his death in 1999 at age 85.

Much like Vincent Van Gogh, the Armenian American painter, who began his career as a self-taught cartoonist in the 1930s, received little recognition or money in his lifetime. It was not until 2006, when business partners Lawrence Joseph and Thomas Schultz bought Pinajian's former home as a real estate investment and discovered thousands of paintings, drawings and sketchbooks being stored there, that his talents as a painter were brought to light.

“The garage floor is all dirt, at least, I think it's all dirt, but I can't tell because most of it is stacked with paintings. There's got to be a couple thousand of them. And there's at least a thousand more in the attic,” Schultz told Joseph, who recounted the tale of discovery in the 2010 art book, “Pinajian: Master of Abstraction Discovered,” edited by art historian Peter Hastings Falk.

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Today, Pinajian's works have hung in swanky New York galleries, ranging from several thousand dollars to half a million each. Earlier this month, news stations across the country lined up tell the story of the discovery of irreplaceable treasures almost marked for the trash heap.

An important part of maintaining and passing on Pinajian's legacy as an artist is being done in the heart of La Cañada, in an art gallery on Foothill Boulevard. Stephanie's Gallery, run for the past 15 years by Linda Stepanian and her husband, Sepon, was selected by the owners of Pinajian's collection to officially represent and sell the artist's works.

It started in 2010, when Joseph was referred to the gallery by a friend. After a brief meeting, arrangements were made for Stephanie's to sell and showcase pieces of the collection.

“The moment he came and we met I was ready, and he was ready to trust me,” Linda Stepanian recalls. “My clients were very excited when they found out I was bringing a new discovery to the gallery. Pinajian's art has a power you cannot miss.”

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