Biography

Leo Krikorian Portrait

Leo Krikorian was born Dec. 28,1922 in Fowler, California. His parents were immigrants from Armenia and Georgia and came to this country in 1912. Many say that the genocide by the Turks did not take place till later, but Leo’s grandfather and one of his uncles was killed because of their religious beliefs along with the Turks desire for their lands.

Leo’s grandmother Soubar Krikorian sold her jewelry and other valuables to smuggle her children out of the country after the death of her husband and one son. Along with Leo’s parents, Krikor and Sanam, was Leo’s oldest brother Reuben, Krikor’s brother Dickran and his two children Annie and Michael that arrived in 1912 at Ellis Island.

Soubar her two son’s and their families had tickets for the maiden voyage of the Titanic. Fortunately their train was late so they had to take a later passage on the Louisiane out of France according to Ellis Island records and the story told by Sanam Krikorian. Being immigrants and missing the Titanic was truly a blessing to the family’s heritage.

Leo was born in Flower, CA. Dec. 28,1922 and worked as a child in canneries and on farms during the depression years. He had come from simple means and never forgot that and because of that he always made sure to feed the hungry and provide shelter to those in need throughout his lifetime. He would give the shirt off his back to someone in need, but he always stood his ground when it came to those who would use him or others.

After World War II, Leo enrolled at the Art Center School in Los Angeles to study photography under Ansel Adams. In 1947 when attending Black Mountain College, in North Carolina, he studied under Josef Albers and Ilya Bolotowsky. He returned to California to attend the San Francisco Institute of Fine Arts and studied under Miner White and once again under the brilliant Ansel Adams.

Leo in the early 50’s opened “The Place” in San Francisco. Among his patrons were poet and friend Allen Ginsburg and actors Tony Randal and Nick Adams. The Place was known as a hangout for jazz musicians, poets and artists of all types. Dave Brubeck and his band had played there and a song was written in Leo’s honor called “Leo’s Place” by David van Kreidt, Brubeck’s tenor sax player. It appears on Brubeck’s 1957 Reunion album.

Leo gained the reputation of being known as the “Grandfather of the Beat Generation” that stuck with him for years. After closing “The Place” he opened a deli called “The Kettle” in Sausalito.

In 1977 he sold “The Kettle” and moved to Paris, France. He held duel citizenship in both France and the USA and devoted his time totally to his artwork.

Leo’s artwork has been exhibited in major cities throughout the world. His artwork is included as well in many major museums throughout the world.

Leo painted until just before his illness would not allow him to paint any longer. His last paintings were in 2004 and his death was Jan. 3, 2005. He was able to do the things he loved the best in life right to his end.

Leo had 5 siblings, one daughter, two granddaughters, three great grandchildren and many nieces and nephews. He was a very private man when it came to his family and personal affairs. He was loved and respected by many and will be missed dearly in this life but his legacy will live on forever.