This Armenian born artist first came to Jamaica in the 1929 and lived here with some interruptions until 1944. Originally a painter, during the thirties he became friends with the sculptor Edna Manley and together their works reflected the nationalist preoccupations of that time focusing on the beauty of the black physiognomy in a primitivising and exoticising style. Koren became a regular house-guest at the Manley’s home initially at Bedford Park and then in Drumblair, upper St Andrew. There, Edna and Koren exchanged ideas with other artists such as Burnett Webster, designer of Jamaican Art Deco furniture, the photographer Dennis Gick, playwright and journalist Esther Chapman, and Norman Manley’s more politically minded friends. Conversation focused on the development of a West Indian aesthetic and what Burnett Webster described as the beginnings of a Jamaican art movement.Although Koren offered no formal certification, he established art classes in his studio on Old Hope Road and later Barbican Road, that were an alternative to the staid instruction of the Institute of Jamaica’s classes and the needs of the locally held Royal Drawing Society examinations. In this way he became an instructor to a handful of Jamaica’s earliest pioneer artists such as Albert Huie and Dorothy Henriques-Wells encouraging their interest in local genre scenes, landscapes and flora and fauna painting. These classes, like those offered at the institute were the precursor to more formal classes later established at the Dacosta Institute that would later become Jamaica’s first School of Art.
He also opened his own gallery, Koren Art Gallery on Harbour Street, Kingston.Koren’s own work came to maturity while in Jamaica and it is here that he developed an interest in sculpture that would mark his later career. As with his paintings, he would later sculpt heroic figures in lignum vitae, eucalyptus and other hard woods and like Manley, his works display his social conscience dealing with allegorical and biblical themes. “ The emotions of man, his eternal battle against evil, and the sense of turmoil in an age of wars and revolutions are given symbolical expression in his work, transfixed in wood or stone.” (www.askart.com)Koren der Harootian’s work and vision made a significant contribution to the development of Jamaican art and his work can be found in the National Collection as well as a handful of local private collections. In addition, Der Harootian went on to become an important artist internationally. He currently lives and works in New York.PA-S