In 1948, American artist in new york made paintings by combining gorky's style with cézanne, picasso and kooning

Arshile Gorky /   Vostanik Manoug Adoian

Armenia 1904 - 1948

Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism

Arshile Gorky
Vostanik Manoug Adoian
April 10, 2017
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Often unrightfully overshadowed by his more famous colleague masters of modern art, Arshile Gorky was one of the last grand Surrealist painters who played a major, although in many ways indirect role in the famed movement of Abstract Expressionism. This Armenian-born American painter is best known for his surrealist visual vocabulary underlined by strong painterly brushwork and idiosyncratic forms, a style that may have been initially derived from other people’s visuals but ultimately ended up becoming a unique manner of painting. Boundless and conceptually daring, Gorky’s innovative and explosive compositions relied on abstraction in order to convey his own personal memories as well as direct observations of nature and the world surrounding him[1].

Arshile Gorky - The Artist and His Mother at Painting Time in New York - Image via blanshcom
Arshile Gorky – The Artist and His Mother – Image via

The Process of Becoming Arshile Gorky

Vostanik Manoug Adoian was born on the 15th of April in the year of 1904, in a place called Khorgom, a small village situated on the shores of Lake Van in the Ottoman Empire. When he was at the age of four, his father emigrated to America in order to avoid the military draft, leaving his family behind in the process. In 1915, young Vostanik ran away from home during the Armenian Genocide, escaping with his mother and three sisters into a Russian controlled territory. Following the death of his mother in 1919, the 16-year-old Vostanik Manoug Adoian set his sails towards the United States where he was reunited with his father. However, the two never grew close as Arshile could never forgive his dad for leaving his family behind in the first place. In the process of reinventing his tragic identity, the young man changed his name to Arshile Gorky, claiming to be a Georgian noble and a relative of the Russian writer Maxim Gorky. In 1922, Arshile enrolled in the New School of Design in Boston, eventually becoming a part-time arts instructor. He was initially influenced by Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, especially by the work of Paul Cézanne, but soon turned himself to more modern ways of painting.

new york museum of american painting welcomes the works of pablo picasso
Arshile Gorky – Agony / The Liver is the Cock’s Comb, 1944 – Images via and

Later Life and Untimely Death

During the 1920s, Gorky’s paintings showed an experimentation with Cubism, eventually moving to full blown Surrealism.[2] In 1933, Arshile Gorky became one of the first artists employed by the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project. This project later came to include such elite authors as Alice Neel, Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock, Diego Rivera and Mark Rothko. It should also be noted that Gorky was a close friend of Willem de Kooning – the legendary Dutchman described his colleague with the following statement: 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. Arshile was also close to Andre Breton and the leader of Surrealism was quite impressed by the works of his Armenian colleague. In 1941, Gorky met and married Agnes Magruder, after which he finally ended his long relationship with Corinne Michelle. However, from 1946 onwards, Arshile’s life suffered a series of crises – his studio burned down, he underwent a colostomy for cancer and found out that Mougouch had an affair with Roberto Matta. Troubled by these events[3], Gorky decided to take his own life in 1948.

Perhaps the greatest value of Arshile Gorky and his art lies in the fact this artist was a vital link between prewar European modern styles and the emergence of Abstract Expressionism

Arshile Gorky - The Leaf of the Artichoke Is an Owl , 1944 ------ Battle at Sunset with the God of Maize (in the American New York) - Images via pinterestcom and oceanbridgecom
Arshile Gorky – The Leaf of the Artichoke Is an Owl , 1944 / Battle at Sunset with the God of Maize (Composition No. 1) – Images via and

The Main Value of Arshile Gorky and His Art

Although he is often referred to as a secondary painter of Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism, Arshile Gorky had a major impact on both his contemporaries and next generations of painters as his diverse body of work was crucial to the emergence of mid-20th-century concepts in art. He adopted many avant-garde ideas and converted them into something unique and completely his own, freeing his forms by emphasizing more lyrical colors and introducing personal content. Arshile transformed real people and true circumstances, either remembered or present, into new realities that were abstracted and unusually controlled for this type of art. Nowadays, Gorky’s works can be interpreted as a reference to both the artist’s traumatic past as a genocide survivor[4] and as a vital step forward that helped guide modern art down the path towards a creative realm we today call contemporary art.


  1. Herrera, H., Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work, Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition, 2005
  2. Ashton, D., Auping, M., Spender, M., Arshile Gorky: The Breakthrough Years, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, 1995
  3. Mattison, R., Gorky, A., Arshile Gorky: Works, Writings, Interviews, Poligrafa; First Edition, 2010
  4. Matossian, N., Black Angel: The Life of Arshile Gorky, Overlook Books; First Edition, 2000

Featured image: Arshile Gorky – Photo of the painter working in his studio – Image via
All images used for illustrative purposes only.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2017Selected works from the Hubert Looser collectionThe National Gallery Oslo, Oslo Group
2016Artists Of The New York SchoolAllan Stone Projects, New York City, NY Group
2016Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney's CollectionWhitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY Group
2016Tête À Tête: Portraits In DialogueAllan Stone Projects, New York City, NY Group
2016De Kooning in CompanyWeatherspoon Art Museum, Greensboro, NC Group
2015Fields Of Dream: The Surrealist LandscapeDi Donna, New York City, NY Group
2015Color(less)Van Doren Waxter, New York City, NY Group
201514th Istanbul BiennialInternational Istanbul Biennial, Istanbul Group
2015Rebirth Of A NationBeirut Exhibition Center, Beirut Group
2015America Is Hard to SeeWhitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY Group
2015Jahrhundertzeichen. Tel Aviv Museum of Art visits BerlinMartin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin Group
2014Arshile Gorky and a selection of contemporary drawingsOUTLET Fine Art, New York City, NY Solo
2014Arshile Gorky and the CollectionCentro de Arte Moderna, Lisbon Group
2013YellowSAGE Paris, Paris Group
2013Private SelectionsNina Freudenheim Gallery, Buffalo, NY Group
2013Resonant Minds: Abstraction And PerceptionMontgomery Art Center, Claremont, CA Group
2013Die Sammlung Hubert LooserKunsthaus Zürich, Zurich Group
2013Late SurrealismThe Menil Collection, Houston, TX Group
2013Abstract Expressionism On PaperVan de Weghe Fine Art, New York City, NY Group
2013Nouveau to Modern: Transitions in Art and DesignAllan Stone Projects, New York City, NY Group
2012Abstract ExpressionismNational Gallery of Australia, Canberra, ACT Group
2012Hubert Looser CollectionBank Austria Kunstforum, Vienna Group
2012Mythology and the Origins of AbstractionPace Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2012The Avant-garde. From Picasso To PollockPeggy Guggenheim Collection, VeniceGroup
2011Arshile GorkyGagosian Gallery , New York City, NY Solo
2011Summer PaperLori Bookstein Fine Art, New York City, NY Group
2011Abstract Expressionist New YorkArt Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, ON Group
2011After ParadiseJason McCoy Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2011Master Drawings in New YorkBarbara Mathes Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2011Group Exhibition: Modern & ContemporaryJack Rutberg Fine Arts, Los Angeles, CA Group
2010Arshile Gorky: A RetrospectiveMOCA Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA Solo
2010Sketchbook DrawingsJack Rutberg Fine Arts, Los Angeles, CA Solo
2010Arshile GorkyGagosian Gallery, London Solo
2010Arshile Gorky: A RetrospectiveTate Modern, London Solo
2010Masters of the GestureGagosian Gallery, Beverly Hills, CA Group
2010Enduring LikenessUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC Group
2010Cézanne and American ModernismPhoenix Art Museum, Phoenix, AZ Group
2010Collect With UsArmand Bartos Fine Art, New York City, NY Group
2010Unconscious Unbound: Surrealism in AmericaMichael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2010Constructive Spirit: Abstract Art in South and North AmericaThe Newark Museum, Newark, NJ Group
2010Cézanne and American ModernismThe Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD Group
2010Modern in America: Works on Paper, 1900–1950sThe Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL Group
2010Different Strokes: 20th Century DrawingGeorge Adams Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2009Arshile Gorky: A RetrospectivePhiladelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA Solo
2009MOCA´s First Thirty YearsMOCA Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA Group
2009DrawingLocks Gallery, Philadelphia, PA Group
2009About FaceEdward Thorp Gallery, New York City, NY Group
2009Collect With UsArmand Bartos Fine Art, New York City, NY Group
2009Cezanne and American ModernismMontclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ Group
2009Cézanne and BeyondPhiladelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA Group
2007Arshile GorkyThe Fralin Museum of Art, Charlottesville, VA Solo
2007Arshile GorkyMusée National d´Art Moderne, Paris Solo
2006Gorky: The Early YearsMuseum of Contemporary Religious Art, Saint Louis, MO Solo
2004Arshile Gorky: The Early YearsJack Rutberg Fine Arts, Los Angeles, CA Solo
2004Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective of DrawingsThe Menil Collection, Houston, TX Solo
2003Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective of DrawingsWhitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY Solo
2003Arshile GorkyCentro de Arte Moderna, Lisbon Solo
2002Arshile GorkyGalerie 1900-2000, Paris Solo
2002Arshile GorkyGagosian Gallery , New York City, NY Solo
1998Arshile Gorky: Paintings and Drawings 1929-1942Gagosian Gallery , New York City, NY Solo
1997Arshile GorkyManny Silverman Gallery, Los Angeles, CA Solo
1996Arshile Gorky: Centro de Arte ModernaFundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon Solo
1996Arshile Gorky: The Breakthrough YearsThe Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Fort Worth, TX Solo
1995Arshile Gorky the breakthrough yearsAlbright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY Solo
1995Arshile Gorky: The Breakthrough YearsThe National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC Solo
1995Arshile Gorky and the genesis of abstraction: drawings from the early 1930sMilwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI Solo
1994Focus Series: Gorky's BetrothalsMOCA Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA Solo
1994Arshile GorkyGagosian Gallery , New York City, NY Solo
1993Arshile Gorky: Works on PaperCentro de Arte Moderna, LisbonSolo
1993Arshile GorkyGalerie Marwan Hoss, Paris Solo
1992Arshile Gorky : opere su cartaPalazzo delle Esposizioni, Rome Solo
1992Arshile Gorky. Opere su cartaPeggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice Solo
1990Arshile GorkyPalais de Rumine, Lausanne Solo
1990Arshile GorkyWhitechapel Art Gallery, London Solo
1984Arshile GorkyCentro de Arte Moderna Lisbon Solo
1981Arshile Gorky, 1904–1948: A RetrospectiveDallas Museum of Art, Dallas, TX Solo
1981Arshile Gorky, 1904-1948Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York City, NY Solo
1979Murals Without Walls: Arshille Gorky’s Aviation Murals RediscoveredMuseum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA), Chicago, IL Solo
1979Arshile Gorky: The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden CollectionHirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC Solo
1978Arshile GorkyWashburn Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
1977Arshile Gorky: Paintings and DrawingsSerpentine Gallery, London Solo
1975Arshile Gorky: Drawings to PaintingsSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA Solo
1971Arshile Gorky: Zeichnungen und Bilder aus der Sammlung Julien LevyGalerie Brusberg im Kubus, Hannover Solo
1969The drawings of Arshile GorkyUniversity of Maryland Art Gallery, College Park, MD Solo
1969Arshile Gorky: drawings from the Julien Levy CollectionRichard Feigen Gallery, Chicago, IL Solo
1966Tegninger av Arshile GorkyKunstnernes Hus, Oslo Solo
1965Arshile Gorky: paintings and drawingsMuseum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam Solo
1965Arshile Gorky: DrawingsInstitute of Contemporary Arts, London Solo
1964Arshile Gorky: ZeichnungenMuseum Folkwang Essen, Essen Solo
1964Arshile Gorky: ZeichnungenAmerika-Haus Berlin, Berlin Solo
1964Arshile Gorky: ZeichnungenKunstverein in Hamburg, Hamburg Solo
1964Arshile Gorky: ZeichnungenBadischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe Solo
1963Drawings, Studies, and Paintings by Arshile GorkyArts Club of Chicago, Chicago, IL Solo
1962Paintings by Arshile GorkySidney Janis Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
1959An exhibition of 35 selected drawings from the late work of Arshile GorkySidney Janis Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
1959Late Drawings by GorkySidney Janis Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
1958Paintings and Drawings by Arshile GorkyNorton Simon Museum of Art, Pasadena, CA Solo
1951Arshile GorkySan Francisco Museum of Modern ArtSolo
1951Arshile GorkyWalker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN Solo
1951Arshile GorkyWhitney Museum of American Art, New York City, NY Solo
1950Selected paintings by the late Arshile GorkySamuel Kootz Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
1948Arshile GorkyJulien Levy Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
1946Arshile Gorky: paintingsJulien Levy Gallery, New York City, NY Solo
1941Arshile GorkySan Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA Solo
1934Arshile GorkyMellon Galleries, Philadelphia, PA Solo