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The Last Bohemian, RIP 

Jirayr Zorthian, 1911–2004

Thursday, Jan 22 2004

Page 3 of 3

 

I came to believe that Zorthian and his world are all but unique in this day and age. Certainly I’ve never seen anyone, or anything, else quite compare. (And it has been my good fortune to be paid to get to know artists and investigate the art life.) The exception, I suppose, might have been Jean Varda — another pagan endowed with the life force — who held court in a houseboat moored at Sausalito. Both artists, and especially Zorthian, extended the tradition of Norman Lindsay, the “heretical” Australian artist who celebrated pagan sensuality and the liberating power of sex in his controversial paintings.

That energy — the sensuality and passionate enthusiasm that informs the life force — is, above all, what kept the diminutive but powerful artist (he was famously proud of his strength, inviting everyone to feel his hard calves or — in the case of female admirers — his thighs) uncannily youthful almost to the end. I hope the rest of us do nearly as well and learn to live life as fully. Zorthian was, as I have often referred to him, the “last bohemian” (whether or not he liked the term; and he claimed not to). Living the Art Life served Dabney and Jirayr very well, indeed. The rest of us, far more timid types, would do well to pay attention and make the appropriate adjustments accordingly. Whatever place history and the art world finally assign to Jirayr Zorthian, and that judgment will take a while, the man and his zest for life will not soon be forgotten.

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Read more recollections of Zorthian by Anthony Ausgang, Lynn Foulkes, Brett Goldstone, Molly Barnes and Norton Wisdom.

  • Jirayr Zorthian, 1911–2004

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