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The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2013

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JUL-AUG 2013 Issue

“An Artist of the Earth.”1

Arshile Gorky is a “Geiger counter of art.”2 So said Willem de Kooning, his closest friend in the 1930s. From the start of his life’s work in the mid-’20s, he sought to assimilate the history of modern painting. Beginning with Monet he worked his way through Cézanne, Picasso, Braque, Léger, Miró, Masson, and Matta, and finally in 1942, Gorky arrived at Gorky. Along the way, he was a “fervent scrutinizer” of the pictures of Piero, Uccello, Poussin, and Ingres, studying how they painted and emulating their artistry in his own pictures.3

Arshile Gorky, “The Artist and His Mother,” Oil on canvas, 60 × 50”. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; gift of Julien Levy for Maro and Natasha Gorky in memory of their father. © 2010 The Arshile Gorky Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Matching the quality of old and new masterworks was the first of four challenges that Gorky set for himself early in his career. The second was to do so in a modernist style. The third was to hold on to some form of figuration. The fourth, overriding the other three, was to arrive at an original style that expressed the artist’s own vision.

In the 1930s, Gorky painted in the manner of Picasso, closely enough for fellow artists to have teased him as the Picasso of Washington Square. Or, as Harold Rosenberg recalled, when in 1937 some of Picasso’s canvases with drips were exhibited in New York, an acquaintance of Gorky said to him in mock sympathy, “‘Just when you’ve gotten Picasso’s clean edge—he starts to run over.’ ‘If he drips, I drip,’ replied Gorky proudly.’”4 However, as Meyer Schapiro wrote of Gorky, “To be a disciple of Picasso in New York in the 1920s and early ’30s was an act of originality [and] an enormous risk.”5 And an act of self-assertion. But it was also humble, since Gorky considered painting a language to be learned. How better to grasp it than by imitation, just as the Renaissance masters had copied the ancients.6 Innovation and self-expression were secondary. Gorky’s growing proficiency would lead his friend, the sculptor Reuben Nakian, to call him “the Poussin of America [who] knew what art was, how it was put together. He knew like Poussin where all the blocks fit.”7

In actuality, Gorky was not as imitative as the recurring anecdotes would have it, not on the evidence of major paintings such as, “The Artist and His Mother” (1926 – 36) a photo-based double portrait he had been working on for a decade, or the abstract “Organization” (1933 – 36). Though derived from Picasso’s “Studio” (1927 – 28) and “Painter and Model” (1928), “Organization” also referred to works of Miró and Mondrian, and the mix turned out looking like Gorky. As Robert Goldwater pointed out, these ’30s pictures are simultaneously derivative and original.8

Gorky was not alone in his adulation of Picasso. His friends Stuart Davis, John Graham, and de Kooning were with him. (Davis, Graham, and Gorky were so close that in modernist circles they were dubbed the Three Musketeers.) Graham so venerated Picasso that in his book, System and Dialectics of Art (1937), he proclaimed that Picasso was “the greatest painter of the past, present, and future.”9

Why did Gorky and the other Musketeers choose Picasso? Why not a non-objective artist, such as Mondrian, who was considered more cutting edge at the time? To answer this question, it is important to consider Gorky in New York’s avant-garde of the ’30s, since attitudes he formed then decisively shaped his later career. Artists were continually engaged in polemical battles, which are often neglected by Gorky scholars. In 1936, non-objective artists invited Gorky to join them in forming the American Abstract Artists (AAA), most of whose members worked in geometric, abstract styles. Dramatically, Gorky walked out of an early meeting, a gesture symbolic of his aesthetic stance at the time.10 He and the other Musketeers refused to accept the rules imposed by the AAA, notably their dictates about what and how not to paint. As de Kooning said, “Art should not have to be a certain way […] It was a horrible idea of van Doesburg and Mondrian to try to force a style.”11 The Musketeers would not curb artistic possibilities. Above all, they refused to purge figurative subject matter. They found the non-objective geometry decreed by the AAA deficient in the human quality that they saw in Picasso’s painting.

Moreover, the non-objective artists believed that art should be rational and constructive. Consequently they rejected irrational art, above all Surrealism, because its source was in irrational “dreams, in automatism, and in the subconscious,” as Alice Mason, a spokesperson for the AAA, wrote in 1938. Moreover, she spurned the Surrealists’ intention “to record such things as nostalgia, dreamlike fantasies and incongruous shapes,” saying that these “have no place at all [in] abstract art.”12 Gorky did not share the AAA’s antagonism to Surrealism. As early as 1931, he had experimented with the biomorphic imagery and cryptic atmosphere identified with Surrealist painting, as in his “Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia pictures” (c.1931 – 32). And, he cultivated biomorphism even more in subsequent canvases such as “Image in Khorkom” (c.1934 – 36) and “Enigmatic Combat” (c. 1936 – 37).

In the mid-1930s, Gorky adopted Miró as his master, not surprisingly, since Miró was a Surrealist who had invented fantastic images, symbols, and signs while at the same time employing Cubist composition as a kind of formal stabilizer. To Gorky, Miró was the most masterly of the Surrealists and thus worthy of imitation. Soon after, Gorky met Roberto Matta Echaurren, another Surrealist artist who became his close friend. Matta was a fervent advocate of spontaneous drawing and painting, or “automatism,” as the Surrealists termed it. The purpose of automatism was to plumb the unconscious for images that would reveal the true nature of the mind. Matta urged Gorky to paint and draw instinctively. To assist in the process, he advised Gorky to eliminate the thick facture of his work at the time and to paint thinly, this expediting an unrestrained flow of the painting medium.

Gorky’s experimentation with Surrealist imagery in the 1930s had prepared him for still freer improvisation in the following decade. He sensed that unpremeditated picture-making was relatively unexplored and thus could provide an innovative working method that would give rise to new imagery. Indeed, it was improvisation that led the way to a radical change in avant-garde art that took place during World War II. Cubist-influenced geometric abstraction began to seem academic and dated. With its rhetoric of optimistic rationality, it seemed out of touch with contemporary experience gripped as the world was by a nightmare of disaster that seemed completely irrational.

Matta and Gorky visited each other’s studios often and were related in their exploration of improvisation. In most other ways, however, the two artists were different. Gorky had achieved far greater technical proficiency than Matta. Matta was younger than Gorky, as Meyer Schapiro, who knew both artists, recalled, and was to Gorky “a brother rather than a father, and a younger brother.”13 For Gorky, Matta was an artist whose ideas were valuable, but he was not a master to be replicated. Gorky continued to imitate Miró’s style, even painting pictures, such as versions of The “Garden in Sochi” series (c.1940 – 41) that could have passed for those of his mentor. Around 1942, Gorky loosened up his drawing and painting. In a late adaptation of the “Garden in Sochi” image, he detached the free-wheeling drawing from the thinly painted color. The lines meander as if doodled and the fluid areas, more like plumes, are suggested rather than defined. Gorky’s apprenticeship was at an end. He had arrived at his unique style.

The central image of the “Garden in Sochi” series is a shoe reminiscent of the shoe in Miró’s “Still Life with Old Shoe” (1937), but may also refer to the slippers he and his father wore in Armenia. These would continue to appear in later pictures. So would the abstract composites of biomorphic forms at the right and lower left of the canvas that anticipate a critical development in Gorky’s imagery.

In the summer of 1943, Gorky began to spend lengthy periods of time in the Virginia and Connecticut countryside. During these stays, he went into the fields and began to “look into the grass,” as he said to James Johnson Sweeney.14 There he discovered fresh subjects in weeds, foliage, the petals, stamens, and pistils of flowers, seeds, leaves, thorns, insects parts, and much else that caught his eye. He drew and painted these subjects close-up, sectioning, enlarging, and combining them inventively. Gorky had become, as Matta dubbed him, “an artist of the earth.”15 Matta understood that Gorky’s subjects were markedly different from his. Matta’s images were volcanic and explosive, suggestive of star wars, Gorky’s, intimate and earth-bound, evoking nature and its processes.

During the winter of 1943 – 44, Gorky met André Breton, the “Pope” of Surrealism. In the following year, Breton hailed Gorky’s painting as “an art entirely new […] a leap beyond the ordinary.”16 Breton pointed out that Gorky drew and painted directly from nature but did not illustrate it. Instead, his creative method was analogy. The result was “hybrid” imagery.17 What Gorky did was to transform a natural form, for instance: two petals, so that they suggested breasts, or buttocks, or testicles, or lungs, or cherries. Nature, or more accurately, the earth, as Gorky eye-balled it, was in perpetual and visually surprising metamorphosis.

As Gorky drew natural phenomena, he both replicated what he saw and doodled, giving rein to the unexpected and unordered. However, he favored certain motifs and repeated them in successive works. In fact, as Jim M. Jordan pointed out, “Gorky creates highly consistent families of forms which almost seem to regenerate themselves.”18 These recurring images were shaped by the most personal of boyhood memories that came to dominate his adult imagination. He was haunted by images of his mother, who had died tragically of starvation during the massacre of Armenians by the Turks during World War I. At the same time, while working in the fields of Virginia and Connecticut, Gorky recalled fondly the fertile gardens and wheatfields of Armenia.

Even at its most spontaneous, Gorky’s drawing is too considered to be entirely “automatist”; “improvisation” is a better term, since it connotes both intuition and consciousness. Gorky’s usual working method was to make a variety of sketches, chose one and use it as the basis for a series of drawings in which he developed the theme in preparation for painting, as in the Pastoral series. At times, he was so taken with a drawing that he squared it off and transferred it onto to canvas, as in “The Plough and the Song” and “Betrothal” (both 1947), just as Renaissance painters had in their pictures.

Carefully developing a theme in a sequence of drawings enabled Gorky to refine an image, testing every edge and color for its felt value and formal function while retaining the freshness of the sketch and conveying the impression that the painting issued directly from unconscious sources. Gorky’s drawing from drawing also enabled him to focus on formal problems. His primary objective was to emulate the virtuosity of the masters, just as it had been early in his career. In this, he was following Cézanne, who wanted to make Poussin over from nature—not as Cézanne had, but as Gorky.

Arshile Gorky, “The Plow and the Song,” 1947, oil on canvas, 50 1/2 x 62 5/8”. Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College, Ohio, R. T. Miller, Jr., Fund, © 2010 Estate of Arshile Gorky/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

The specifics of an artist’s biography and psychological makeup are generally too meager to be related meaningfully to his or her art. But in Gorky’s case, certain traumatic episodes in the last two years of his life are telling. On January 16, 1946, his studio in Sherman, Connecticut burned down, and with it 27 paintings. On March 5, Gorky underwent an operation for rectal cancer resulting in a colostomy. The surgery was successful but the physical disability left him seriously depressed.19 Nonetheless, in the summer of 1946, Gorky completed 192 drawings. The following year, the last of his life, was equally productive. Working at the height of his creative powers, Gorky painted a number of his greatest paintings, among them “The Plough and the Song,” “Pastoral,” “The Calendars” (destroyed by fire in 1961), “The Betrothal I and II,” “The Opaque,” and “Agony.”

Gorky’s paintings of 1946, such as “Charred Beloved I” and “Nude,” tend to be based primarily on free-wheeling thin black lines, which are interspersed with areas of fluid color. In contrast, major pictures of 1947, such as “The Plough and the Song,” “The Betrothal I and II,” and “Agony,” are composed of more or less clearly outlined planes of color, recalling Gorky’s earlier Cubist design, and are solidly painted, scraped, and repainted, to create resonant and sensuous surfaces. There is, however, a marked variety in the formal means of the paintings of 1947, ranging from precisely edged forms and dense Cézanne-esque brushwork to loosely painted, disconnected areas that spill over the surface.

 The crushing events in Gorky’s life led him to paint sad, indeed tragic, pictures, such as “Agony.” Nonetheless, he continued to create some of his most buoyant canvases, among them “The Plough and the Song” and “Pastoral.” It was as if on the one hand Gorky sought to give voice pictorially to the pain in his life after 1946, and on the other hand, to recapture the joyful memories of nature in Virginia and Connecticut.

Gorky’s images, based as they are on analogy, are generally difficult, more often, impossible to identify with any exactness. However, in the case of “The Plough and the Song,” the central image is clearly an amalgam of a plough and a fallopian tube. The other forms are ambiguous. A jumble of vaguely figural shapes to the right of the plough seems to be guiding it as it unearths or gives birth to an embryonic hybrid organism whose only definable form is a four-petaled flower. In the lead of the plough, or perhaps pulling it, is a vertical abstract personage whose upper third is bird-like and who stands in an Armenian pointed slipper turned backwards.

The plough form is a nostalgic reference to Gorky’s boyhood love of old-fashioned horse-drawn ploughs, which as he said mournfully, tractors had made obsolete.20 The composite of plow and fallopian tube may also symbolize his hope for his own physical renewal. It can also be viewed as a life-giving metaphor for the link between humankind and the earth and a hymn to procreation in all living organisms, which, in this respect, are related or analogous. There is an erotic aspect to “The Plough and the Song”—plough as phallic, the fallopian tube as vaginal. Sexuality is pervasive in Gorky’s painting as a whole, but it tends to be sublimated and veiled. Unlike “The Plough and the Song” pictures, the “Agony” series most movingly expresses Gorky’s pathos. The dominant colors of the version in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) are fiery reds and smoldering reddish browns. It is evocative of its title. As if generated by the brooding atmosphere, a grotesque hybrid figure strides across the surface, followed by smaller biomorphs. They are executed in black lines, a number of which are stretched so thin that the drawing in itself evokes suffering. The activity of these subjects is ambiguous, but the tragic mood they give rise to is unbearably affecting. “The Betrothal I and II” are among Gorky’s most detailed and “finished” paintings. Their central image is a rider astride a horse. But such is its inscrutability that Gorky’s biographers, historians and friends have offered conflicting interpretations of what the image signifies. According to William Seitz, Gorky was inspired by heraldic figures and horses in combat or parade dress.21 In an early biography of Gorky, his student and friend Ethel Schwabacher wrote that his image was based on an equestrian in Uccello’s “Battle of San Romano” (1438 – 40), which Gorky had once sketched.22 In a recent biography, Hayden Herrera claimed that the “Betrothals” were inspired by medieval marriages, commenting that “the figure on the left [is] an equestrian bride wearing a wreath or a crown and, following her to the right, a helmeted male.” Herrera also suggests that the painting may be based on “memories of traditional Armenian weddings in which the groom would ride to fetch his bride in a procession, accompanied by the music of a drum and a horn.”23 The diversity of interpretations is a sign of the poetic potency of Gorky’s hybrid images.

In a series of late paintings, among them “Ante-Medusa” (1947), the painstaking calligraphy of earlier versions is replaced by lines drawn with a brush. The painterly drawing is freer and more abstract. It is embedded in loosely painted color fields. Why did Gorky eliminate well-defined hybrids in these canvases? We can only conjecture. I would guess that the detailed motifs of pictures like the “Betrothals” had become too familiar through repetition and that Gorky wanted to present himself with new challenges. One was to explore expression through abstract brushwork and color and perhaps to make painterly drawing and field color more compatible. Most likely, Gorky desired more directness and immediacy. In “Ante-Medusa,” he veers toward Abstract Expressionism, which seems to indicate a new direction in Gorky’s body of work.

Indeed, “Ante-Medusa” and related pictures introduce new questions about Gorky’s position within the avant-garde of the 1940s. Leading historians have considered him either the last great master of European Surrealism or the great precursor of American Abstract Expressionism, or even as one of its innovators. These either/ors have given rise to an ongoing controversy, which, six decades after Gorky’s death, still remains unsettled.

André Breton, Gorky’s friend and champion, claimed him for Surrealism. He had Gorky admitted into the coterie of the Surrealist émigrés (one of the few Americans let in). Beginning in 1945, Gorky was exhibited annually in the Julian Levy Gallery, a major Surrealist showplace, and was included in important Surrealist shows.

Breton said that Gorky was “of all the Surrealist artists, the only one who maintains a direct contact with nature—sits down to paint before her.”24 Breton quite rightly differentiated Gorky from the others in the movement, because his biomorphic “hybrids,” though fanciful, were the result of encounters with visual reality. In 1942, Breton was calling on his disciples in New York to investigate myths and the idea that humankind was surrounded by invisible beings, themes more in keeping with the Surrealist mentality. In this context, Gorky’s painting was out of place.

There are fundamental differences between Breton’s conception of Surrealism and Gorky’s painting. Breton had defined Surrealism as “Pure psychic automatism, by which it is intended to express […] the real functioning of thought […] in the absence of all control exercised by reason, and outside all aesthetic or moral preoccupation.”25 The very term “psychic automatism” naturally calls to mind the psychoanalytic practice of free association. Not surprisingly, critics and historians have used Surrealist rhetoric, notably the penchant for psychological analysis, to interpret Gorky’s paintings. Julien Levy, for example, wrote that Gorky uncovered “a new space, a psychological Space.”26 William Seitz claimed that Gorky’s drawings of botanical and biological organisms were shaped by “his own psychic pressures and processes.”27 Or, as Michael Taylor put it, his images “welled up from Gorky’s subconscious fantasies and daydreams.”28 Gorky had read Freud, but in his statements he talked about nature, that is, the external world, and his responses to it.29 Indeed, he was far more interested in nature than in his unconscious. When Gorky described his own work, he spoke of things in his life that moved him. “I like the heat the tenderness the edible the lusciousness […] I like the wheatfields the plough the apricots the shape of apricots, those flirts of the sun. And bread above all.”30

Most significantly, Gorky’s working method did not fit Breton’s conception of automatism. Breton did not recognize that by working in series, Gorky was not an automatist. Moreover, Breton ignored, or more likely misunderstood, the artist’s reason for working in this way, namely that it abetted his efforts to achieve masterliness. Thus, Gorky was able to continue the “classical” tradition of European art. This was his ambition from the beginning of his career in the New York art world of the 1930s.

Arshile Gorky, “Enigmatic Combat,” 1936-1937. Oil on canvas, 35 3/4 x 48”. Collection SFMOMA, Gift of Jeanne Reynal; © The Arshile Gorky Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Gorky’s strive for artistic quality was poles apart from Breton’s primary aim, which was to revolutionize humankind’s psychology and society. Breton believed that art could be of use in this undertaking but that it was “a lamentable expedient.”31 The Surrealists often put down artists who prized virtuosity and scoured art history for models of painterly facility as “producers” or “men with a profession.” Matisse was denigrated by Breton as “an old lion, discouraged and discouraging.”32 Breton claimed that automatism was beyond the realm of aesthetics. As the Surrealist critic, Nicolas Calas summed it up, “What is there worth saying that is worth saying for art’s sake? The Surrealist answer is: NOTHING.”33

Masson, evidently with Breton in mind, claimed that “the spiritual directors of Surrealist painting” were men of letters who were “very liberal in matters of [artistic] structure.”34 Matta himself recognized the difference in attitude between himself and Gorky. Matta suggested that Gorky and his other American artist friends, “were very professional. They knew a great deal […] even more than we Surrealists knew about art history. Their studios were covered with reproductions of pictures pasted to the walls, while in our case there was not so much reference to these things.”35

In The Triumph of American Painting: A History of Abstract Expressionism, published in 1970, I considered Gorky an abstract Surrealist. I had in mind the calligraphic hybrid biomorphs of “The Plough and the Song,” “The Betrothals,” and “Agony,” and their references to sex. I concluded then that Gorky did “not extend known ideas to the point where they seem radical and new.”36 But in my view today, neither did Pollock’s mythic paintings of the time, nor de Kooning’s Gorky-inspired improvisations of 1946 – 47. They too were transitional.

However, the question remains: What is the relation of Gorky’s work to “mature” Abstract Expressionist painting, which can be thought to have begun around 1947, the year of the “breakthroughs” of de Kooning, Pollock, Clyfford Still, and Hans Hofmann, soon to be followed by Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Estaban Vicente, Franz Kline, Philip Guston, and others? It seems to me that the painterly and abstract “Ante-Medusa,” in which calligraphic hybrids have been expunged relate more to, say the gesture or painterly pictures of Hofmann or Guston (of the 1950s and 1960s), on the one hand, and on the other, the color fields of Clyfford Still, than to those of any Surrealist.

Arshile Gorky, “The Betrothal,” 1947. Oil on canvas, 50 5/8 x 39 1/4”. The Katharine Ordway Collection. © 2010 The Arshile Gorky Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

If Gorky is considered within American Abstract Expressionism, where would he fit? To begin with, it is important to understand that Abstract Expressionism is not a unified movement. It encompasses artists who sought to continue the “classical” tradition of European art (de Kooning, Hofmann, Guston), on the one hand, and on the other, those who rejected that history and forged what Clement Greenberg termed a modernist American-type painting (Still, Newman, Pollock).37 I believe that if Gorky had lived beyond 1948 to become a “mature” Abstract Expressionist, he would have stood with the “classicists,” acknowledging his roots in European art and desiring to extend its traditions in fresh directions. In this sense, he would have been more European than the European Surrealists. But Gorky was an American artist, if only because he was American. Of course, we’ll never know how Gorky’s painting would have evolved, but it would be expected that an artist of his gifts, intelligence, and spirit would have continued to surprise us.

In the end, it is time to put to rest the argument over Gorky’s relation to Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. Gorky is Gorky. In the 1940s, he synthesized diverse styles, was both innovative and traditional—and created an extraordinary body of work.

This essay was given the permission to be published in the Rail by the author and Gagosian Gallery.


  1. Roberto Matta Echaurren, “Conversation with Maro Gorky,” May 29, 1997, at Maro Gorky’s house in Paris, Matthew Spender, Arshile Gorky, Goats on the Roof: A Life in Letter and Documents (London: Ridinghouse, 2009), p. 197.
  2. Harold Rosenberg, Arshile Gorky: The Man, The Time, The Idea (New York: Horizon Press, 1962), p. 25.
  3. Meyer Schapiro, “Introduction,” Arshile Gorky by Ethel K. Schwabacher (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1957), p. 11.
  4. Meyer Schapiro, “Introduction,” Arshile Gorky by Ethel K. Schwabacher (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 1957), p. 11.
  5. Rosenberg, Arshile Gorky, p. 66.
  6. Schapiro, Introduction, p. 11.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Reuben Nakian, “My Fellow Countryman,” Arshile Gorky: Drawings to Paintings (Austin: University of Texas Art Museum, 1975), p. 94.
  9. Robert Goldwater, “The Genius of the Moujik,” Saturday Review, May 19, 1962, p. 38.
  10. John D. Graham, System and Dialectics of Art (New York: Delphic Studios, 1937), p. 94.
  11. Kim S. Theriault, in Rethinking Arshile Gorky (University Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2009, p. 96, devotes only part of a paragraph to the American Abstract Artists. The group is not mentioned in Michael R. Taylor, ed., Arshile Gorky A Retrospective (Philadelpia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2009). Mondrian does not appear in Taylor’s essays, “Rethinking Arshile Gorky” and “Gorky and Surrealism.” Hayden Herrera, in Arshile Gorky His Life and Works (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003), pp. 260-263, does deal with the American Abstract Artists.
  12. Willem de Kooning, “A Desperate View,” talk delivered at the Subjects of the Artist School, February 18, 1949. First published in Thomas B. Hess, Willem de Kooning (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1969), p. 15.
  13. Alice Mason, “Concerning Plastic Significance,” American Abstract Artists (New York, 1938), sec. 6, n.p.
  14. Schapiro, Introduction, p. 12.
  15. James Johnson Sweeney, “Five American Painters,” Harper’s Bazaar, April 1944, pp. 12 – 24.
  16. Matta Echaurren, Conversation with Maro, p. 197.
  17. André Breton, “The Eye-Spring: Arshile Gorky” (New York: Julien Levy Gallery, 1945), n.p.
  18. Ibid. Gorky’s hybrid images appear in his Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia series as early as 1931-34.
  19. Jim M. Jordan and Robert Goldwater, The Paintings of Arshile Gorky: A Critical Catalogue (New York and London: New York University Press, 1982), p. 65.
  20. While he was painting The Plough and the Song, Gorky made a small wood replica of an Armenian plough for his daughter Maro.
  21. William C. Seitz, Arshile Gorky: Paintings Drawings Studies (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1962), p. 43.
  22. Schwabacher, Gorky, p. 131.
  23. Herrera, Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work, p. 573.
  24. Breton, “The Eye-Spring: Arshile Gorky,” n.p.
  25. Julien Levy, Foreword, in Seitz, Arshile Gorky, p. 10.
  26. Seitz, Gorky, p. 29.
  27. Michael R. Taylor, “Gorky and Surrealism,” Arshile Gorky: A Retospective (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2009), p. 110.
  28. Herrera in Arshile Gorky mentions Freud only once in the text. On p. 485, Mougouch Gorky, in a letter to Jeanne Reynal wrote of her husband that “He read Freud.” Matthew Spender, in From a High Place: A Life of Arshile Gorky (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991, p. 326, in one of two references to Freud, both negative, quotes Jeanne Reynal as saying, “Attacking Freud . . . was one of Gorky’s favorite set pieces.”
  29. Arshile Gorky, statement, June 1942, Collections Archives, the Musuem of Modern Art.
  30. William Rubin, “Toward a Critical Framework,” Artforum, vol. V, no. 1 September 1966, p. 36.
  31. Nicolas Calas, “Surrealism Hits Back,” Arts Magazine, May 1968, p. 24.
  32. André Masson, “Painting is a Wager,” Yale French Studies, No. 31 (1964), p. 124.
  33. Matta and Peter Busa, “Concerning the Beginnings of the New York School: 1939 – ’43,” Art International, Summer 1967, p. 17.
  34. Irving Sandler, The Triumph of American Painting: A History of Abstract Expressionism (New York: Praeger, 1970), p. 60.
  35. This conception of Abstract Expressionism was refined during a conversation with Alex Katz on May 9, 2011.

The Brooklyn Rail

JUL-AUG 2013

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