Arshile Gorky: Interesting Facts

Arshile Gorky: Interesting Facts

February 21, 2020

The world-famous Armenian American painter - Arshile Gorky was born in Western Armenia on April 15, 1904. Arshile Gorky is the pseudonym of the artist, he was born as Vostanik Sedrakovich Adoyan. There are various interesting facts about Arshile Gorky, and in this article, we will together discover as much as possible about the world-famous Armenian.

Arshile Gorky Biography

Arshile Gorky received his primary education at schools in his motherland Khorgom, and in Van. In 1915, along with his mother Shushanik Ter-Martirosyan and three sisters the future artist emigrated to Etchmiadzin, from where they moved to the capital of Armenia - Yerevan

It was here where Gorky attended the Yerevan diocesan school, learned drawing and engraving on wood. Approximately one year later, Adoyan’s sisters moved to the United States. Later in 1919, when Shushanik (Vostanik’s mother) died, the painter left for Paris with his sister, later for Batum, and only in 1920, they moved to the USA.

Arshile Gorky Biography

Arshile Gorky attended Boston drawing school. Later in 1924, Gorky left for New York where he attended the National Academy, then the Central School of Arts. Later it was this very school, where the artist taught drawing and painting for 5 years. In 1924, Vostanik Adoyan was renamed and took his artistic pseudonym - Arshile Gorky.

In 1935 Arshile Gorky got married to Marni Johnson. Unfortunately, this marriage didn’t last long. Only a month later, the couple got divorced. However, in 1941 Gorky got married for the second time - this time to Agnes Magruder. 

Facts about Arshile Gorky

If you wonder there are very interesting facts about Arshile Gorky. For instance, in 1939 the painter took part in the decoration works of the international exhibition in New York.

In 1941 at an exhibition and sale in New York, Gorky presented two paintings in order to help the red Army.

In 1946, when Gorky was preparing for an exhibition at the Julian Lev gallery, his Studio burned down. There were 36 paintings by the artist as well as his library.

Facts about Arshile Gorky

In 1946 Gorky underwent cancer surgery.

In 1948 the artist’s spine was damaged in a car accident. Because of it, Gorky’s right hand was incapacitated.

In 1948 Gorky committed suicide as he was no longer able to withstand the difficulties, especially, remaining out of the attention of American Armenians.

Arshile Gorky Letters

Arshile Gorky wrote letters to his sister - Vardush, and nephew - Karlen, during a period in his life. Each one of these letters is a unique literal work thanks to which the artist expressed his love and devotion.

Arshile Gorky Drawings

Currently, you may find Arshile Gorky’s drawings in many museums and galleries spreading all over in the world. Gorky’s unique works are kept in various outstanding museums in the United States (including the Metropolitan and the Whitney Museum of American Art, etc), London Tate, The Centre Pompidou, and many more art centers. Arshile Gorky’s paintings were shown in various cities in the world, including Yerevan. While in 2004 the “Arshile Gorky” foundation was opened in Yerevan. You will not be surprised if I say what is the most famous and favorable painting of Gorky.

Arshile Gorky harmony

Arshile Gorky “The Artist with His Mother”

“The Artist with His Mother” is one of the most popular works of Arshile Gorky. Two versions of this work of Gorky are presented, which further increases the interest in the artist’s painting.

Currently, the first version of the painting “The Artist with His Mother” is presented in the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The work dates in 1926-1936. The second version is in the National Gallery in Washington and dates 1926-1942. In the first version of the painting, the mother looks younger while in the second version - older. In the first painting, Vostanik’s legs are pressed to each other while in the second one hi stands tight.

Arshile Gorky “The Artist with His Mother”

Gorky avoided painting his mother’s hands in this painting.  “The Artist with His Mother” painting reflects the artists’ pain and memories. Gorky presents his mother as a symbol of the lost motherland and its beauty.

Gorky's art has always expressed the idea of the Armenian Genocide, lake Van, as well as the Armenian lost homeland.  During the last period of his life, Gorky presented unique paintings with bright colors. The most significant ones among these paintings are “Agony”, “Waterfall”, “Parks in Sochi”, and many others.

Gorky “Agony”

Thanks to this very painting, Gorky became world-famous as the initiator of surrealist expressionism in the contemporary arts.

World-famous People Speak about Gorky

People from different spheres of art expressed their opinion about Arshil Gorka and his works. Below we will present what they said.

“He looks like an iceberg the 9/10 part of which is under the ocean and only 1/10 part is visible. However, what we can see is strong and wonderful with its charm” 

Willem de Kooning, American painter

Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning

Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning

“No words may express what reflects Gorky’s art. The doors he closed are knocked on even after his death. These doors will be opened only if another Gorky appears who will be indifferent to all except painting…”

Allen Jufri

“In his creative wanderings, Gorki often turned to his origins... We are also interested in the influence that has had on the development of modern Armenian art”

Nazaret Karoyan, art critic

“Stalinism and avantgarde revered in his fate. Stalin was an artistic angel for Gorky”

Vardan Azatyan, art critic

“Gorky was the only one who managed to level up the American painting into the European"

French media, 1967թ.

Quotes by Arshile Gorky

Arshile Gorky expressed his love towards the Armenian motherland not only through his paintings but also in his quotes. Read some of his famous quotes:

  • “Armenia has warmth and cheerfulness, strength, special happiness, and sadness. It is sad but never conquered”

Quotes by Arshile Gorky

  • “My life is like a sea in trouble which is agitated by sadness and grief… I’m a “result” of three ideas - purity, torment, and maturity. Torments are painful but necessary. I always feel my loneliness even with friends and relatives.
  • “Recently, my mind was filled with the aroma of Armenian apricots. Surely there were no apricots in my workshop, but their smell was so strong that I feel like I was on the tree in order to gather them for my grandfather”.  

To Sum Up

Arshile Gorky is one of the greatest Armenians who demonstrated Armenian art to the world. The color scheme of the artist's works is the reaction of his vivid memories of childhood - blue lake Van, yellowish sand, apricot. Gorki is connected to Armenia and the Armenian people with his spiritual roots.

Vera Mirzoyan

Published February 21, 2020
Article by Vera Mirzoyan

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