Gorky, Arshile (ärˈshĪl gôrˈkē) [key], c.1900–48, American painter, b. Armenia as Vosdanig Adoian. He escaped the Turkish slaughter of Armenians, emigrated to the United States in 1920, studied at Boston's New School of Design, and moved to New York City in 1925. An extraordinarily fluid draftsman inspired by Ingres, Picasso, and several other artists, Gorky developed a figurative style of great refinement. A more radical turn in his art was prompted by the spontaneous automatism found in surrealism and in the works of Miró and Matta. Gorky began (c.1940) to create abstractions consisting of involved, voluptuously organic shapes and glowing colors, all enveloped in an aura of mystery. In these works he became a pioneer in the development of abstract expressionism. His reputation had already been established when, after a series of personal and professional disasters, he committed suicide at the age of 44. Gorky is well represented in American collections, e. g., in New York City, Water of the Flowery Mill is in the Metropolitan Museum and there are works at the Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum.
See catalog by J. Levy (1966); biographies by D. Waldman (1987), M. Spender (1999), and H. Herrera (2003); H. Rosenberg, Arshile Gorky: The Man, the Time, the Idea (1962, repr. 1981); K. Mooradian, The Many Worlds of Arshile Gorky (1981); H. Rand, Arshile Gorky: The Implications of Symbols (1981); C. Zwerin, dir., Arshile Gorky (documentary film, 1982).
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