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Arshile Gorky

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Arshile_Gorky&chld=H_100&junk=junk.png Arshile Gorky Mars symbol.svg
Arshile Gorky, December 1936
Birth name Vostanik Manuk Adoyan
Name in Armenian Արշիլ Գորկի, Վոստանիկ Մանուկ Ադոյան
Birthplace Khorgom (Van)
Birth date 15 April 1904
Death date 1948/07/21
Death year 1948
Dialects Western Armenian
Ancestral villages Khorgom
Major works The Artist and His Mother, The Liver is the Cock's Comb
Children Maro Gorky

Vostanik Manoog Adoyan, (better known as Arshile Gorky) (April 15, 1904July_21, 1948) was an American abstract expressionist painter of Armenian ethnicity.



Gorky was born in the village of Khorkom near Van, Turkey. It is not known exactly when he was born: it was sometime between 1902 and 1905. (In later years Gorky was always vague about even the date of his birthday, it would change from year to year!) In 1910 his father emigrated to America to avoid the draft, leaving his family behind in the town of Van. Gorky fled Van in 1915 during the Armenian Genocide and escaped with his mother and his three sisters into Russian-controlled territory. In the aftermath of the genocide, Gorky's mother died of starvation in Yerevan in 1919. Gorky was reunited with his father when he arrived in America in 1920, aged 16, but they never grew close. At age 31, Gorky married.

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 Cezanne. In 1927, Gorky met Ethel Kremer Schwabacher and developed a life lasting friendship. Schwabacher was his first biographer.

Notable paintings from this time include Landscape in the Manner of Cezanne (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. Nighttime, Enigma, Nostalgia (1930-1934) is a series of complex works that characterize this phase of his painting.

In English translations of letters allegedly written by Gorky in Armenian to his sisters he often described moods of melancholy, and expressed loneliness and emptiness, nostalgia for his country, and bitterly and vividly recalled the circumstances of his mother's death. Most of these translations (especially those expressing nationalistic sentiments or imparting specific meanings to his paintings) are now considered to be fakes produced by Karlen Mooradian (a nephew of Gorky) in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Unfortunately, the contents of the fake letters heavily influenced the authors of books written about Gorky and his art during the 1970s and 80s.

The years preceding Gorky's death were filled with immense pain and heartbreak. His studio barn burned down in flames, he underwent a colostomy for cancer, his neck was broken and his painting arm temporarily paralyzed in a car accident, and his wife of seven years left him, taking their children with her. Gorky hanged himself in Sherman, Connecticut, in 1948, at the age of 44. He is buried in North Cemetery in Sherman, Connecticut.

Gorky's contributions to American and world art are difficult to overestimate. The painterly spontaneity of mature works like "The Liver is the Cock's Comb," "The Betrothal II," and "One Year the Milkweed" immediately prefigured Abstract expressionism, and leaders in the New York School have acknowledged Gorky's considerable influence. But his oeuvre is a phenomenal achievement in its own right, synthesizing Surrealism and the sensuous color and painterliness of the School of Paris with his own highly personal formal vocabulary. His paintings and drawings hang in every major American museum including the National Gallery of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Metropolitan and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (which maintains the Gorky Archive), and in many worldwide, including the Tate in London.

Gorky in fiction

As a survivor of the Armenian Genocide, Gorky appears in Atom Egoyan's movie Ararat.


  • Vaughn, William (2000). Encyclopedia of Artists. Oxford University Press, Inc. ISBN 0-19-521572-9. 

Further reading

External links

This article contains content from Wikipedia, used here under the GNU Free Documentation License.

Articles to incorporate



YEREVAN, MAY 18, ARMENPRESS: A collection of letters written by Arshile Gorky in Armenian was released in Yerevan. The book contains some 40 letters in Armenian and their English translations.

Gorky was born Vosdanik Adoian in 1904 in Khorkom, Western Armenia (now in Turkey). The artist's childhood was marked by poignant suffering and tragedy caused by the massacres of Armenians at the order of then Turkish government. Gorky's father fled to America in search of a new life for his family. During this difficult time Gorky witnessed the death of his mother by starvation. In 1915, Gorky escaped Turkish massacres with thousands of others refugees. After his mother died of famine, he headed for the US.

His whole life in the new country, which ended in suicide, consisted of years of hard work and bitter struggle. Tragically enough, the years in which his art was ascending to its greatest heights were also the darkest in his life. His marriage was disintegrating; he was operated on for colon cancer, and he lost many works in a studio fire. The letters, full of nostalgia for his native home, sufferings he experienced on his road to the USA are addressed to his sister Varduhi. They were first published by Varduhi's son- Karlen Muradian-in English. They were also published in Portuguese by Gulbenkian Foundation.

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St. Louis Post-Dispatch, MO Jan 21 2006

Critics' picks for the week


"Gorky: The Early Years. Drawings and Paintings, 1929-1937": As a person, Arshile Gorky (1904-1948) lived one of those tragic 20th-century lives. A child of the Armenian diaspora, he came to the United States in 1920, where he quickly developed a reputation among the bohemians of New York City as a particularly extravagant romantic. He ended up hanging himself in his barn after his wife left him and his paintings were lost in a fire. But as an artist, Gorky was a true original, although early on he was a slavish follower of the artist greats who preceded him - Cezanne, Picasso and Miro, among them. In his mature work, he created an apparently effortless synthesis of Picasso's cubist space and Miro's abstract surrealism. He is often counted as the first of the abstract expressionists to find a mature voice. This show at the Museum of Contemporary Religious Art, which opens Sunday and continues through March 12, features only his early, derivative works. But no matter how indebted he might have been to an admired source, Gorky was an fine draftsman, and the exhibition promises pleasures. There will be an opening from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. Regular hours are 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Admission is free. For more information, call 314-977-7170 or visit (DB)

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