Arshile Gorky

Turkey (Armenia) 1904 – United States of America 1948

Arshile Gorky was born Vosdanic Adoian on 15 April 1904 in Khorkom, a village on the shores of Lake Van in Turkish Armenia. Under the pressure of persecution he fled Turkey with other members of his family and arrived in the United States in 1920. In 1922 he enrolled at the New School of Design, Boston, and by 1924 was an assistant instructor in the life-drawing class. It was at this time that he began to use the name Arshile (the Caucasian form of the Armenian royal name Arshak, or the Greek Achilles) Gorky (Russian for 'bitter'). He moved to New York at the end of 1924 and the following year studied briefly at the National Academy of Design. He then enrolled at the Grand Central School of Art, and by 1926 had become an instructor of painting there, a position he held until 1931.

By 1929 he had met John Graham, David Burliuk, Willem de Kooning and Stuart Davis, and in 1930 participated in a group exhibition of young artists at the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gorky had his first solo exhibition at the Mellon Galeries, Philadelphia, in 1934. From 1935 until 1941 he was employed in the mural division of the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration and regularly submitted paintings to the Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. His first museum exhibition was held at the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1941 and in 1944 he participated in the touring exhibition Abstract and Surrealist Art in the United States organised by Sidney Janis. Julien Levy became his dealer in 1945 and Gorky held regular solo exhibitions with Levy from then on. In 1945 he moved from New York to Sherman, Connecticut. His studio there caught fire in 1946, destroying the contents. Sickness and accidents also plagued Gorky at this time, and when his marriage broke down in 1948 he was unable to cope. He suicided in Sherman on 21 July 1948.

See more works by this artist in the NGA collection

Arshile Gorky Untitled 1944 © Arshile Gorky. ADAGP/Copyright Agency Purchased 1972 Learn more

Arshile Gorky Plumage landscape 1947 © Arshile Gorky. ADAGP/Copyright Agency Purchased 1973 Learn more