It’s Day 29 and I had such a lovely time painting today! Maybe it was because I’m painting another abstract expressionist or I took a break from packing this morning. I just let the brush take on a life of it’s own. Let’s all pay tribute to the wonderful artist that is…
Arshile Gorky (born Vosdanig Manoug Adoian (Armenian: Ոստանիկ Մանուկ Ատոյեան) (April 15, 1904 – July 21, 1948) was an Armenian-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.
Gorky was born on April 15, 1904 Vostanik Manuk Adoian in the village of
Khorgom, situated on the shores of Lake Van in Ottoman Empire. In later years Gorky was vague about even the date of his birth, changing it from year to year. In 1908 his father emigrated to America to avoid the draft, leaving his family behind in the town of Van.
In 1915 Gorky fled Lake Van 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 Yerevanin 1919. Arriving in America in 1920, the 16-year old Gorky was reunited with his father, but they never grew close.
In the process of reinventing his identity, he changed his name to “Arshile Gorky”, even telling people he was a relative of the Russian writer Maxim Gorky.
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 morepostimpressionist. 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.
In 1933, Arshile Gorky became one of the first artists to become employed by the Works Progress Administration Federal Art
Project. This later came to include such artists as Alice Neel, Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, Diego Rivera and Mark Rothko.
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 Billappears 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 Galérie 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.”
Read more of his biography at wikipedia.
“When something is finished, that means it’s dead, doesn’t it? I believe in everlastingness. I never finish a painting – I just stop working on it for a while.” (Arshile Gorky)
I chose to focus on Gorky’s abstract paintings. I love them. The could stare at the
colors and subtle details all day. Images pop out of them as you stare at them. As I painted my piece, I started seeing various images as well. There’s a bit of surreal automatism in his work…at least that’s what I felt as I painted this. I also felt a bit of orphism going on…it’s just neat that I even know what those are these days! I hope you enjoy my tribute to Gorky! I sure had a great time painting it. See you tomorrow on Day 30! January…where did you go? Best, Linda
And now the finished piece…