Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Arpie Ermoyan: A known unknown

If you recall when Anita Virgil wrote about her late husband, Andy Virgil, you might remember she mentioned several other artists who worked at the same New York art studio, Rahl Studios. One of those artists was Arpie Ermoyan, the wife of Souren Ermoyan, who was at that time art directing Good Housekeeping magazine.

So Arpie Ermoyan became known to us... but aside from this one example of her work from the July 1954 issue of Collier's magazine, her work remained unknown.

Well today I'm pleased to be able to show you not only a few more examples of Arpie Ermoyan's appealing artwork, but a picture of the stylish young artist herself. Thanks to this short article in the September '53 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine we now also know that the Ermoyans were part of that same Westport, Connecticut community of high profile illustrators that included Al Parker and Austin Briggs.

The article mentions that she also modelled for some of those same artists. That's not surprising, considering what an attractive lady Arpie Ermoyan was. Over the course of the past few years, who knows how often we may have looked at some lovely lady in a painting by one of the Westport artists... and not realized we were actually looking at Arpie Ermoyan?

The article suggests that this assignment from Cosmo was a sort of "debut" for Ermoyan . She had apparently been studying illustration for the previous five years. If that's the case, then she arrived on the scene fully formed. Her work on this assignment is top notch. So why is there so little of it to be found in the various mainstream magazines of the mid-1950's?

That, for now, remains unknown.

* If you'd like to read the article on Arpie Ermoyan without straining your eyes - or just want to admire her illustrations at full size - you'll find all of today's scans in my Arpie Ermoyan Flickr set.


  1. Thanks for another great posting, Leif. Arpi Ermoyan went on to becme one of the mainstays at the Society of Illustrators in NY and to write one of the major books on illustration, Famous American Illustrators. I gather that she is still active and still very attractive. (You've gotta love the 1950s press-- how many stories about male illustrators in the 1950s would have featured a full length body shot prominently displaying their legs? That attitude may provide part of the answer to your question about why we didn't see more of her work published alongside the work of male illustrators.)

    1. Anonymous7:12 PM

      Arpi was my boss at the Society of Illustrators for four years (1971-1975). Now that I think of it, I don't remember her ever wearing a dress or skirt. I suppose she was trying to hide her legs. Carnig is her son. Arpi told me that, on the day Carnig was born in the hospital and they took the baby away, she reached down for the illustration she had half-finished and got to work on it in her hospital bed. Arpi was a great boss. She spoiled me for every working situation I had thereafter. She ran a tight ship. We got things right. I made three typing errors in the whole time I was at the Society. I still remember what they were. If the cleaner didn't show up and I had something to do, Arpi would clean the bathrooms. Whenever a plumber or electrician had to be called in to the Society, Arpi would follow him around to watch exactly what he did, so that she could fix it herself next time. If she thought I had a better idea than she had, we would do it my way. That didn't happen much. I love you, Arpi. (From Cathy)

  2. Thanks for that comment, David - and the additional info on Mrs. Ermoyan.

    I will have to hunt down a copy of Famous American Illustrators -- sounds like a very useful resource!

    Your thoughts on the attitude towards women in the business cerainly rings true with everything I've heard ( even this brief article from Cosmo is stunningly chauvinistic in tone )... but beyond that there remains the mystery of the lack of appearances of Arpi Ermoyan's work in the major mags. She was at the same studio as Dorothy Monet, who managed to land many more high profile assignments from McCall's, Woman's Home Companion, etc.

    I'd love to learn more about what was holding Arpi Ermoyan back - because it certainly wasn't a lack of talent!

  3. Thanks Leif,
    This is great. Her name is so well known. I knew that she was married to art director, was a model and illustrator and an author! It's suprising that little is really know about her. I have never seen any or her work, but she's had a huge impression on the illustration industry. And yes, get her book Famous American Illustrators.

  4. Hi Leif,

    I got a copy of that Famous American Illustrators. I got it on ebay.


  5. All the previous posts are spot on, but let me add another one— Arpi's also an extroadinary mom!

    Carnig Ermoyan

  6. Anonymous9:35 PM

    What a great collection of art! Spooky and stylized for Halloween and a wide array of artists to study.