Arshile Gorky

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Khorgom, Vilayet of Van
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Arshile Gorky was an American painter of Armenian descent who was often considered as the link between the American ‘Abstract Expressionist’ movement and ‘European Surrealist’ themes in painting. When he was young, he moved to the United States of America. He was mostly a self-taught artist who was greatly affected by many concepts and movements such as Impressionism, Postimpressionism, Surrealism, Abstract expressionism, and others throughout his career, while receiving very little formal training. Abstractions from his youth in Armenia appear in several of his paintings. Arshile Gorky had a series of personal disasters in the mid-1940s, including the demolition of his studio, surgery for rectal cancer, a car accident leading in a temporary term of paralysis, and a tumultuous marriage. As a result, he committed suicide. His works, however, are thought to have had a significant impact on American art, and he is regarded as one of the most prominent painters in America throughout the twentieth century. His work can be found in practically every major museum in the United States, including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, to mention a few.

Childhood and Adolescence

Vostanik Manoug Adoian was born on April 15, 1904, in Khorgom, Ottoman Empire, to Setrag Adoian and Shushanig (Shushan) der Marderosian. His father was a businessman.
From his parents’ previous marriages, Arshile Gorky had a half brother, Hagop, and three half sisters, Oughaper, Sima, and Akabi. Satenig, his older sister, was born in 1901, and Vartoosh, his younger sister, was born in 1902.

In 1908, his father abandoned the family and moved to America. Arshile Gorkey and his mother, Vartoosh, fled into Russian territory after the Armenian Genocide in 1915. His mother, on the other hand, died of famine in 1919.

Arshile Gorky and his younger sister immigrated to the United States in 1920. He changed his name to ‘Arshile Gorky’ when he arrived in America in an attempt to reinvent himself. He briefly attended the Scott Carbee School of Art in Boston in 1922.

Career of Arshile Gorky

In 1924, Arshile Gorky moved to New York and enrolled at the National Academy of Design and Grand Central School of Art. He later became an instructor at the Grand Central School of Art in 1925, where he taught until 1931.

He had no official training and was mostly self-taught, studying works in museums and galleries as well as reading art periodicals and books. As a result, he got familiar with avant-garde European art and went on to learn more about pioneers like Pablo Picasso, Paul Cézanne, and Joan Miró.

He was influenced by the works of the ‘Impressionists’ at the start of his career. However, towards the end of the 1920s, his art became more ‘postimpressionist.’

‘Landscape, Staten Island’ (1927–1928), ‘Landscape in the Manner of Cézanne’ (1927–1928), and ‘Landscape in the Manner of Cézanne’ (1927–1928) (1927). He began experimenting with cubism and then surrealism during the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the next decade.

His contemporaries chastised him for his lack of creativity in his work. Arshile Gorky, on the other hand, highlighted the importance of conserving and passing on tradition, claiming that any artist can only mature after a time of apprenticeship.

His artwork were shown and sold at the Down Town Gallery in New York in 1931. He was one of the first artists hired by the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project two years later, in 1933. Later artists involved in the project included Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and Alice Neel.

In 1935, he agreed to a three-year contract with Margaret Lefranc and Anna Walinska’s Guild Art gallery. ‘Abstract Drawings by Arshile Gorky’ was the title of his first solo exhibition at the gallery. ‘Nighttime, Enigma, Nostalgia’ (1930–1934), a sequence of paintings, was one of the paintings he created during this period.

He was well-known in the New York art scene in the early 1940s, which allowed him to meet members of the Surrealist Group, an exiled group of artists from Europe.

His mature style was influenced by his friend André Breton’s work, as well as the work of other surrealist artists such as Roberto Matta, who encouraged him to create with biomorphic patterns. He was also taught how to sketch automatically by Roberto Matta. These influences may be seen in several of his early 1940s works, particularly in ‘The Liver is the Cock’s Comb.’

Natural and organic forms were prominent in his art, which he depicted with a lot of sensory vitality. His pure original abstract works were known to include his childhood recollections, such as fields and orchards, gardens, and depictions of nature, among other things.

His work has been shown at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, the Modern Art Museum in Fort Worth, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Tate in London, among others.

Major Projects of Arshile Gorky

Arshile Gorky was a well-known painter who specialized in ‘abstract expressionism.’ ‘Landscape in the Style of Cézanne’ (1927), ‘Nighttime, Enigma, Nostalgia’ (1930–1934), and ‘The Liver is the Cock’s Comb’ are among his significant works (1944).

Personal History and Legacy

Arshile Gorky was noted for proposing marriage to his muse, artist Corinne Michelle West, several times, but she rejected.

Admiral John H. Magruder’s daughter Agnes Magruder married him in 1941. Maro and Yalda were the couple’s two daughters. Natasha was Yalda’s new name. Agnes Magruder was romantically linked with artist Roberto Matta in 1946, and she departed with her children two years later to marry British writer Xan Fielding.

Arshile Gorky had a series of setbacks in 1946, when his studio was burned down and he had to undergo excruciating colostomy surgery for rectal cancer. Two years later, he was involved in an accident that rendered his painting arm temporarily paralyzed.

Arshile Gorky committed suicide by hanging himself on July 21, 1948, in Sherman, Connecticut. He died at the age of 44.

In 2005, his family established the ‘Arshile Gorky Foundation,’ a non-profit organization dedicated to the artist’s life, achievements, and works.

Estimated Net Worth

Arshile is one of the wealthiest and most well-known painters. Arshile Gorky’s net worth is estimated to be $1.5 million, according to Wikipedia, Forbes, and Business Insider.


Stephen Watt wrote a poem tribute to Arshile Gorky called The Verb ‘To be’ (Gramsci & Caruso, Periplum 2003).