Arto was born in Aleppo, Syria, the son of a priest of the Armenian Orthodox Church.
The Der Haroutunian family moved to Beruit, Lebanon for a few years before in 1952 settling in Manchester in North West England when his father was sent as a priest to the Armenian Church there. Their home was the rectory attached to the church. When 18, Arto went to Manchester University to study architecture. There he met his future wife Frances who was studying geography. They married in 1967 and Arto qualified as an architect and set up his own practice in 1970. In 1976 their son Raffi was born.
Arto started painting in 1963 after being goaded into it by an artist friend. He converted the coal cellars of the rectory into a studio and within six months had produced seventy paintings. The first article about his art appeared in 1965 in ” The Idiom” an arts magazine produced at the University. At the time he was having his first one man exhibition at the Manchester Central Library and it was transferred to the Student’s Union afterwards.
Without the “benefits” of a formal art school training his paintings possess an individuality that is entirely his own. Over the years Arto succeeded in fusing his two backgrounds of East and West into a new and personal style. He was a master of line and colour. His architectural training is evident in the linear aspect of his works. His pictures are full of sinuous lines, which flow across the canvasses creating shapes, spaces and depths without much recourse to perspective so showing the influence of ancient Armenian manuscripts. Primarily though he was a colourist and he has said “I am from a warm country. Colours are brighter in the Middle East because of the sun. I don’t have theories about colour, I follow instinct. My colour has modified though – it has been toned down by the British weather!”
Arto exhibited both in the north and south of England as well as abroad. Along the way he struck up friendships with fellow northern artists Colin Jelicoe, Geoffrey Key, Trevor Grimshaw, Reginald Gardner, John Picking and Emanuel Levy. His works are in several private collections in Britain and abroad as well as in galleries in Armenia, Syria, Lebanon and Nigeria.
Each painting can be distinguished by his distinctive signature, which combines his first name in English and Armenian.
On the 6th October 1987, Arto died of a sudden heart attack at the untimely age of 47. He was a driven and enthusiastic polymath who unfortunately ran out of time.
Central Library, Manchester 1964
Colin Jellicoe Gallery, Manchester 1965, 66, 67,70, 86
Manchester University 1965
Gulbenkian House, London 1973
Alex Manoukian Gallery, Lebanin 1975
Gallerie Contemporaire, Beirut 1975
“NW. 1” Chenil Galleries, London 1976
Langton Gallery, London 1977
“NW.2” National Theatre, London 1979
Taurus Gallery, Gargrave 1980
Haworth Art Gallery, Accrington 1981
Stockport Art Gallery 1982
Cheshire County Council Touring Exhibition 1984
Gloria Galeria, Cyprus 1987
Gulbenkian Hall, London 1988 (Memorial Exhibition)
Collect Art, Lymm 2008 (Life Time Exhibition)
Collect Art, Lymm 2011 (Works on Paper)
Major Collections :
National Art Gallery of Armenia
Modern Art Gallery, Yerevan, Armenia
Sarian Academy of Arts, Syria
Mugitanst Gallery, Lebanon
Lagos City Art Gallery, Nigeria