In 1875 Mahokian began his early education at a local Armenian school where he took an interest in drawing. He later attended the prestigious Sanasarian College in Erzurum, returning to Trabzon after five years of study. During his time spent at Sanasarian, Mahokian learned to paint. He also learned to play the violin and studied music theory.
Mahokian studied at the Berlin Academy of Arts from 1891 to 1894, where he was a student of Eugen Bracht and Hans Gude.
Mahokian's uncle persuaded him to pursue a career in art. In 1894 he traveled to the Crimea, where he met with renowned Russian Armenian painter Ivan Aivazovsky in Feodosia. While in Russia, Mahokian painted various scenes of the sea.
He returned to his native Trabzon in 1895 and witnessed the Hamidian massacres. He escaped first to Batum and then to Europe where he began exhibiting his art. One of his first exhibitions was in Berlin in 1900.
Mahokian traveled to Egypt where he exhibited over 150 pieces of his artwork in Alexandria and Cairo. After a brief stop in Denmark, he went to Italy, settled in Capri and continued painting there. Mahokian returned to Germany in 1907 and participated in various exhibitions in Berlin, Düsseldorf, and Munich.
He returned to the Ottoman Empire in 1908 and settled in his hometown of Trabzon. He continued to paint there, but with the start of World War I and the Armenian Genocide, Mahokian moved to Nice, France in 1914, where he remained the rest of his life. He received French citizenship in 1927.
Mahokian participated in the Paris Salon in 1921, 1922, and 1927. In 1931 a personal exhibition was held at the Palais de la Méditerranée in Nice which included 65 of his works. He also exhibited his works in Monte Carlo in 1932.
Vartan Mahokian died on February 10, 1937 in Nice, France.
Makhokhian was accepted into the Berlin Artists' Association in 1904.
Quotes from others about the person
“Camille Mauclair: "His art, inspired, is circumscribed, determined only by Nature and the play of his emotion. He has succeeded in expressing Nature and his emotion with knowledge and power, because he has always been animated with increasing sincerity, worked with methodical perseverance, contemplated with a passionate care. He has produced a series of works which reveal him at once as one of the most true technicists of modern art. And if his works constitute, by their style, their craftsmanship and their power, a silent but strong condemnation of many recent aberrations, vanities and errors, this painter has not intended it, is not even aware of it. He has not theories. He meditates, creates and rises instinctively to the level of the masters, one of whom he will certainly become, as he possesses the necessary quality, - intuition and talent."”