Arshile Gorky

Arshile Gorky

Vostanik Manoog Adoyan (April 15, 1904 – July 21, 1948), better known as Arshile Gorky, was an American abstract expressionist painter of Armenian descent, living and working in New York, where he was later strongly involved with American Surrealism. He was a very close friend of Willem de Kooning who respected him as a teacher in painting.

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  • I was with Cézanne for a long time, and now naturally I am with Picasso
    • Gorky Memorial Exhibition, Schwabacher pp. 28, as quoted in Movements in art since 1945, Edward Lucie-Smith, Thames and Hudson 1975, p. 31
  • I am an individual Gorky – and it is my individual feeling which counts for the most. Why? I do not know nor do I wish to know. I accept it as a fact, which does not need explanation.
    • unpublished letter, as quoted in “Astract Expressionist Painting in America’’, W.C, Seitz, Cambridge Massachusetts, 1983, p. 133
  • I like the heat the tenderness the edible the lusciousness the song of a single person the bathtub full of water to bathe myself beneath the water.. ..I like the wheatfields the plough the apricots those flirts of the sun. But bread above all. (1942):
    • Gorky Memorial Exhibition, Schwabacher pp. 28, as quoted in Movements in art since 1945, Edward Lucie-Smith, Thames and Hudson 1975, p 31
  • I don’t like that word 'finish'. When something is finished, that means it’s dead, doesn’t it? I believe in everlastingness. I never finish a painting – I just stop working on it for a while. I like painting because it’s something I never come to the end of. Sometimes I paint a picture, then I paint it all out. Sometimes I’m working on fifteen or twenty pictures at the same time. I do that because I want to – because I like to change my mind so often. The thing to do is always to keep starting to paint, never finishing painting.(1947)
    • Movements in art since 1945, Edward Lucie-Smith, Thames and Hudson 1975, p 32
  • It would be a sad thing for an artist if he knew how to paint. – so sad. An artist paints because it is a challenge to him – it is like trying to twist the devil. If you overcome it, there is no sport left. I don’t even like to talk about painting. It is impossible to talk about painting because I don’t know what it is. If I knew what it was I would get out a patent and then no one else would be able to paint.
    • 'A Painter in a Glass House', Talcott B Clapp, in The Waterbury Sunday Republican Magazine, 9 February 1948 (art quotes, Gorky).
  • ..poor art for poor people (critic on social realism art)
    • Abstract Expressionist Painting in America, W.C, Seitz, Cambridge Massachusetts 1983, p. 6
  • You know how fussy and particular I am in painting. I am ever removing the paint and repainting the spot until I am completely exhausted.
    • Gorky Memorial, Schwabacher, p. 12; as quoted in Abstract Expressionist Painting in America, W.C, Seitz, Cambridge Massachusetts 1983, p. 15
  • (Stuart Davis).. .. is one of but few, who realized his canvas as a.. .. two-dimensional surface plane. (1931)
    • Stuart Davis, Arshile Gorky, Creative Art 9, September 1931, p. 213
  • Movement is the translation of life, and if art depicts life, movement should come into art, since we are only aware of living because it moves.
    • unpublished letter, as quoted in Astract Expressionist Painting in America, W.C, Seitz, Cambridge Massachusetts, 1983, p. 64
  • Art comes instinctively to us, but it is so uncertain. I have in front of me photographs of all Picasso’s best works. The mere I admire them the further I feel myself removed from all art, it seems so easy, so limited! We are part of the world creation, and we ourselves create nothing.
    • artist quotations from a letter to his future wife Agnes Magruder (Mougouch), 7 Mai 1941; as quoted in “Arshile Gorky, – Goats on the roof”, ed. by Matthew Spender, Ridinghouse, London 2009, p. 168
  • Dear Dorothy, my biography is very short (for the MOMA, ed.)... ...I was born in Tiflis, Caucacus, South Russia, October 25th, 1904 and after the usual studies I came to America in 1920. I had been painting steadily since I was seven and continued to do so during my three and a half years at Brown University where I studied engineering. In 1925 I came to New York and taught at the Grand Central Art School for seven years. I have been living and working ever since in New York
    • a letter to Dorothy Miller, (at the staff on MOMA, New York, ed.), 26 June 1942; as quoted in "Arshile Gorky, – Goats on the roof", ed. by Matthew Spender, Ridinghouse, London 2009, p. 163
  • About a hundred and ninety-four feet away from our house (in Armenia, fh) on the road to the spring, my father had a little garden with a few apple trees which had retired from giving fruit. There was a ground constantly in shade where grew incalculable amounts of wild carrots, and porcupines had made their nests. There was a blue rock half buried in the black earth with a few patches of moss placed here and there like fallen clouds. But from where came all the shadows in constant battle like the lancers of Paolo Ucello’s painting? This garden was identified as the Garden of Wish Fulfilment and often I had seen my mother and other village women opening their bosoms and taking out their soft breasts in their hands to rub them on the rock. Above this all stood an enormous tree all bleached under the sun, the rain, the cold, and deprived of leaves. This was the Holy Tree. I myself don’t know why this tree was holy but I had witnessed many people, whoever did pass by, that would tear voluntarily a strip of their clothes and attach this to the tree. Thus through many years of the same ac, like a veritable parade of banners under the pressure of wind all these personal inscriptions of signatures, very softly to my innocent ear used to give echo to the sh-h—h-sh—h of silver leaves of the poplars.
    • Gorky Memorial Exhibition, Schwabacher pp. 22,23, as quoted in Astract Expressionist Painting in America, W.C, Seitz, Cambridge Massachusetts, 1983, p. 124
  • The stuff of thought is the seed of the artist. Dreams form the bristles of the artist's brush. As the eye functions as the brain's sentry, I communicate my innermost perceptions through the art, my worldview.
    • Abstract Expressionism, Barbara Hess, Taschen, 2005, p. 10

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Last modified on 17 April 2014, at 08:50