Above: The Artist and His Mother, c.1926-36, oil on canvas, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Gift of Julien Levy for Maro and Natasha Gorky in memory of their father, © 2009 Estate of Arshile Gorky / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Large image:HERE
Arshile Gorky (pronounced /ˌɑrʃiːl ˈɡɔrkiː/ , born Vostanik Manuk Adoyan; Armenian: Արշիլ Գորկի, Վոստանիկ Մանուկ Ադոյան (April 15, 1904? – July 21, 1948) was an Armenian-born American painter who had a seminal influence on Abstract Expressionism. As such, his works were often speculated to have been informed by the suffering and loss he experienced of the Armenian genocide.
In 1922, Gorky enrolled in the New School of Design in Boston, eventually becoming a part-time instructor. During the early 1920s he was influenced by Impressionism, although later in the decade he produced works that were more postimpressionist. During this time he was living in New York and was influenced by Paul Cézanne. In 1925 he was asked by Edmund Greacen of the Grand Central Art Galleries to teach at the Grand Central School of Art; Gorky accepted and remained with them until 1931. In 1927, Gorky met Ethel Kremer Schwabacher and developed a lifelong friendship. Schwabacher was his first biographer. Gorky said:
"The stuff of thought is the seed of the artist. Dreams form the bristles of the artist’s brush. As the eye functions as the brain’s sentry, I communicate my innermost perceptions through the art, my worldview".
Notable paintings from this time include Landscape in the Manner of Cézanne (1927) and Landscape, Staten Island (1927–1928). At the close of the 1920s and into the 1930s he experimented with cubism, eventually moving to surrealism. The painting illustrated above, The Artist and His Mother, (ca. 1926–1936) is a memorable, moving and innovative portrait. His The Artist and His Mother paintings are based on a childhood photograph taken in Van in which he is depicted standing beside his mother. Gorky made two versions; the other is in the National Gallery of Art Washington, DC.. The painting has been likened to Ingres for simplicity of line and smoothness, to Egyptian Funerary art for pose, to Cézanne for flat planar composition, to Picasso for form and color.
Nighttime, Enigma, Nostalgia (1930–1934) is a series of complex works that characterize this phase of his painting. The canvas Portrait of Master Bill appears to depict Gorky’s friend, Willem de Kooning. De Kooning said: “I met a lot of artists — but then I met Gorky… He had an extraordinary gift for hitting the nail on the head; remarkable. So I immediately attached myself to him and we became very good friends. It was nice to be foreigners meeting in some new place.” However recent publications contradict the claim that the painting is of de Kooning but is actually a portrait of a Swedish carpenter Gorky called Master Bill who did some work for him in exchange for Gorky giving him art lessons.
When Gorky showed his new work to André Breton in the 1940s, after seeing the new paintings and in particular The Liver is the Cock’s Comb, Breton declared the painting to be “one of the most important paintings made in America” and he stated that Gorky was a Surrealist, which was Breton’s highest compliment. The painting was shown in the Surrealists’ final show at the Galerie Maeght in Paris in 1947.
Michael Auping, a curator at the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, saw in the work a “taut sexual drama” combined with nostalgic allusions to Gorky’s Armenian past. The work in 1944 shows his emergence in the 1940s from the influence of Cézanne and Picasso into his own style, and is perhaps his greatest work. It is over six feet high and eight feet wide, depicting “an abstract landscape filled with watery plumes of semi-transparent color that coalesce around spiky, thornlike shapes, painted in thin, sharp black lines, as if to suggest beaks and claws.” wiki via: Read more: HERE
Self-Portrait, c. 1937. 139.7 x 60.6 cm. Oil on canvas 55 x 23-7/8 in. Private Collection, on loan to the National Gallery of Art, Washington. Image courtesy of the Board of Trustees, National Gallery of Art, Washington. © 2009 Estate of Arshile Gorky / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.
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