by Melissa Kerr

Author's Note: Adapted and revised, with permission, from Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective, edited by Michael Taylor (Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2009), pp. 354-69.  Unless otherwise indicated, the catalogue numbers cited throughout the chronology refer to the paintings published in Jim Jordan and Robert Goldwater, The Paintings of Arshile Gorky: A Critical Catalogue (New York and LondonNew York University Press, 1982).


c. 1902

Vosdanig Adoian (Arshile Gorky) is born in the village of Khorkom, within the Armenian province of Van, on the eastern border of Ottoman Turkey.[1] Likely named after his mother’s hometown of Vosdan, he is later called Manoog to honor his paternal grandfather.[2] He is the first son of Setrag Adoian, a trader and sometime carpenter, and Shushanig (Shushan) der Marderosian, a descendent of priests of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Setrag and Shushan, who were both married previously and widowed in 1896, are already parents.[3] Setrag has a son, Hagop, and a daughter, Oughaper, and Shushan has two daughters, Sima and Akabi (called Ahko).[4] The couple already have one child together, a daughter named Satenig, born in 1901.[5]



27 September: Vosdanig’s sister Vartoosh is born.[6]



During his early childhood Vosdanig begins to draw and carve but is late in speaking. His sister Akabi will later recall: “He used to draw in his sleep. You could see his hand moving.”[7]

Setrag Adoian immigrates to the United States, arriving on 28 December at the Port of New York aboard the Saint Laurent. He moves to Providence, Rhode Island, where his son Hagop, who had arrived some months earlier, has settled.[8]

Setrag Adoian, Gorky's father, Providence, RI, 1910.  Unknown Photographer.


Vosdanig studies writing, vernacular Armenian, and drawing in a one-room school attached to the village church of Saint Vardan in Khorkom.[9]



10 February: His half sister Akabi marries Mkrdich (Muggerdich) Amerian, and the couple move to the city of Van shortly thereafter.

Summer: Hamaspiur der Marderosian, his maternal grandmother, dies. Memories of her funeral will later inform his painting The Orators (1947; Private Collection; Jordan and Goldwater 328).

September: Shushan’s relationship with her in-laws worsens in Setrag’s absence, and she moves to Vosdanig and Vartooshto Van city, where they rent a one-room apartment in an Armenian home on Galjunts Street. Vosdanig and Satenig attend the Husisian (Husisayeen) School, affiliated with the Armenian Apostolic Church. The curriculum includes religion, literature, math, science, geography, history, and the Armenian, Turkish, and French languages.

Two months after relocating to Van, Shushan moves her family to the suburb of Aikesdan, where they rent a house on Chaghli Street. Vartoosh will later describe the street as “very pretty. There were poplar trees and willows. . . . There were streams everywhere in the streets.”[10] Vosdanig and Vartoosh attend the American Mission School, where they are instructed in the English language for the first time.



In Van, Vosdanig poses with his mother for a photograph to send to Setrag in Providence. This picture will later inspire The Artist and His Mother paintings and drawings.



1 August: Germany declares war on Russia, marking the beginning of World War I. The Turkish government intensifies its persecution of its Armenian population and readies its campaign of genocide.

Late October: Turkey officially enters the war as an ally of Germany. The following month, robbery and looting are reported in Van province.



20 April: The Turkish army begins a siege of Van City. Armenians living in proximity to Turkish quarters or in mixed neighborhoods evacuate their homes and move to the center of Aikesdan, which is protected by an Armenian defense line. Between four and six thousand Armenians find shelter at the American Mission, including the Adoians.

May: Russian forces push back the siege on Van but withdraw from the city in late July, at which time General Nicolaieff orders “all the Armenians of the Van province, also the Americans and other foreigners, to flee for their lives.”[11]

Summer: The Adoians join more than a quarter million refugees on an eight-day, one-hundred-mile journey on foot to Russian Armenia. There are many deaths along the way from exhaustion, starvation, disease, and plundering by the Kurds. The family stops in Idgir and Ejmiadzin before reaching Erevan (present-day Yerevan).[12]

November: Having lived in temporary lodging since their arrival, the Adoians are finally able to rent a room in Yerevan on the first floor of a house at 18 Kaganovsky Street.[13] Vosdanig attends the Temagan Boys School, a parish school attached to Saint Sarkis Church. To help support the family, he carves combs and also works at an orphanage, a carpentry shop, and a printing press.



October: Mkrdich Amerian, who had previously immigrated to the United States, returns to Yerevan to collect his wife, Akabi, and their son, Gurken (later Jimmy). He also brings money from Setrag Adoian, which is to be used to bring Shushan and her three children to the United States, but the amount is enough for only one ticket. Shushan decides to send her oldest daughter, Satenig, with the Amerians. The four leave Yerevan for the States on the ninth and will eventually settle in Watertown, Massachusetts.[14]



28 May: The short-lived independent Republic of Armenia is established.

August: The threat of civil war causes the Adoians to flee Yerevan for Tiflis (present-day Tbilisi), Russia. Traveling by foot, they are forced to stop just eight miles outside Yerevan in the village of Shahab when Shushan becomes too weak from malnutrition to continue.



Winter: Brutal weather conditions and a severe food shortage cruelly tax the Armenian refugee community, and Shusan’s condition worsens.

December: Vosdanig, Vartoosh, and their mother return to Yerevan, where they find shelter in an abandoned room with a partial roof.[15]



20 March: Shushan dies of starvation at the age of thirty-nine. Family legend has it that Satenig marries Sarkis Avedisian in Watertown, Massachussetts, on this same day.

May: Vosdanig and Vartoosh begin what they hope will be a journey to the United States, traveling by train to Tiflis with a family friend, Kerza (Kertso) Dikran.[16]

July–August: The siblings arrive in the port city of Batum, where they remain for three weeks. The following month they sail to Constantinople, finding shelter in a refugee camp near the Haidar Pasha railroad station, located within the Uskudar district on the Asian side of the city. A wealthy doctor, Vergine (Verzhinay) Kelekian, and her husband, Setrag, later assist them with lodging, and their son Hambartzum, who works for a shipping company, eventually helps them secure tickets to the United States.[17]



25 January: The two sail to Athens, staying for fifteen days in the port city of Patras.

9 February: They board the Italian liner S.S. Presidente Wilson, stopping en route for one day in Naples before continuing on to the States by mid-month, where they arrive at Ellis Island on 26 February. The ship manifest of alien passengers submitted to the United States Immigration Officer at Port of Arrival includes “Manouk” and “Vartanouche” Adoian as students.[18] After being detained for several days, they are officially admitted to the United States and are met by Akabi and Mkrdich Amerian, a family friend from Van named Vosgian, and Hagop Adoian.[19]

The S.S. Presidente Wilson, the Italian ocean liner that brought Gorky and his sister Vartoosh
to the United States in 1920.  Photo courtesy The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc.

1 March: They travel to Watertown, Massachusetts, to stay with Akabi and Mkrdich at their home on Coolidge Hill Avenue.

After living in Watertown for about a month, Vosdanig goes to Providence to live with Setrag and Hagop and his family at 207 Pond Street and later at 22 Cranston Street. He works with his father and stepbrother at the Universal Winding Company, which specializes in making winding machines for the textile and electrical coil industries,on Elmwood Avenue in nearby Cranston and also attends the Old Beacon Street School in Providence.



January–June: Attends Samuel Bridgham Middle School in Providence, though he is much older than the other students.

Summer: Returns to Watertown to live with Akabi and her extended family at their new home on Dexter Avenue and begins working with Vartoosh and Satenig at the Hood Rubber Company, which employs a large number of Armenians, but he is fired after only two months for drawing on factory equipment.[20]

On his return to Providence in the fall, he attends the Technical High School, a preparatory school for Brown University’s School of Engineering.[21] Although most of the curriculum does not interest him, he is able to take art classes.



Gorky briefly attends the Scott Carbee School of Art in Boston sometime this year.[22]



Winter: He enrolls at the New School of Design and Illustration, located at 248 Boylston Street in Boston. Directed by Douglas John Connah, the school offers courses in drawing, painting, and design. Ethel Cooke, an instructor, later recalls that he “was very well equipped in drawing” and that his renderings “were as good as any of [John Singer] Sargeant’s even then when he was 18.”[23]

He frequents museums in Boston and finds employment washing dishes at a restaurant and drawing one-minute pictures of presidents between acts at the Majestic Theatre at 219 Tremont Street. He is most likely living on his own during this time.



8 June: Vartoosh marries Moorad Mooradian, a friend of Vosdanig’s from Aikesdan.



He becomes an assistant instructor for the New School of Design’s life-drawing class, his first teaching position. During noon recess one day, he executes a modest painting in a Post-Impressionist style, Park Street Church, Boston (Lowell Art Association / Whistler House Museum of Art, Lowell, MA; Jordan and Goldwater 3), signing the work “Gorky, Arshele,” the first known use of the pseudonym he will adopt for the remainder of his career.[24]  He will try out a number of variations of the two names, including Archele, Archel, and Gorki, before settling on Arshile Gorky in about 1932.

Late in the year, he moves to New York City after accepting a teaching job at a branch of the New School of Design opened by Douglas John Connah in 1923 at 1680 Broadway. According to Mark Rothko, one of his students there, he copies paintings by Franz Hals at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and is fond of the work of the French painter Adolphe Monticelli.[25]



9 January: Enrolls at the National Academy of Design at 109th Street and Amsterdam Avenue in a life-drawing class taught by Charles Hawthorne, but leaves after one month for unknown reasons.[26]

October: Registers at the Grand Central School of Art, which is directed by Edmund Greacen and located within the Grand Central Terminal on Forty-second Street. There he takes classes with Nicolay Ivanovich Feshin and soon begins teaching an evening antique class, which consists of making drawings after plaster casts. 

By the end of this year, he likely has a rooftop studio at 19 West 50th Street.[27]



September: Becomes a full faculty member of the School of Painting and Drawing at the Grand Central School of Art, where he will remain until 1931. His biography printed in a 1926 school catalogue is almost entirely fabricated: “Born Nizhin Novgorod, Russia. Studied, School of Nizhin Novgorod, Julian Academia, Paris, under Albert Paul Laurens, also in New York and Boston. Member: Allied Artists of America. Represented in many exhibitions.”[28]

His appointment to the Grand Central faculty generates an article in the New York Evening Post, in which he is said to be the cousin of the writer Maxim Gorky, is reported to have a studio on West Fiftieth Street, and is quoted saying, “Cézanne is the greatest artist . . . that has lived.”[29] His work will exhibit the influence of Cézanne for several years, as seen in various still lifes, portraits, and landscapes.  His extensive knowledge of Cézanne comes not only from direct experience of his work in museums and galleries but also through reproductions of Cézanne’s paintings in his treasured collection of books, including Julius Meier-Graefe’s critical study Cézanne und sein Kreis (1922).[30]

Painting (c.1927-1928), Gorky's Cézannesque version of a Pietà. Reproduced in a catalogue of the 
Grand Central School of Art, New York, 1929-1930.  Collection Arshile Gorky Foundation Archives. 

November: Publishes a poem in the Grand Central School of Art Quarterly titled “Thirst,” whose wording is taken from a work by the Armenian poet Siamanto (Atom Yarjanian), who was killed during the Armenian Genocide.[31] Around this time, he has a portrait and a still life in a traveling exhibition of art by the faculty of Grand Central, perhaps the first time his work is exhibited.[32]

Possibly begins his two versions of the painting The Artist and His Mother (National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Jordan and Goldwater 114 and 115). He will rework the canvases in the years to come by sanding down the surfaces to attain a brushstroke-free porcelain-like finish derived from the paintings of Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, an artist he reveres. He studies the works of Ingres firsthand at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and visits the Frick Collection’s Comtesse d’Haussonville (1845) after its purchase in 1927.[33]

By the end of this year, Gorky moved to a studio at Sixth Avenue and Fifty-seventh Street, which he shares with fellow artist Stergis M. Stergis.[34]


Late 1920s

Looks to Henri Matisse, Joan Miró, and the Synthetic Cubism of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque as new sources of inspiration, becoming particularly fascinated with the work of Picasso for the next several years, examining his paintings in New York museums and galleries and also in illustrations in books and periodicals such as Cahiers d’art.[35]



Moves to a new studio at 47a Sullivan Street at Washington Square South.[36] From this location he is within walking distance of the recently opened Gallery of Living Art at New York University, which houses A. E. Gallatin’s collection of works by living or recently deceased artists, including Picasso, Miró, Giorgio de Chirico, and Fernand Léger. The collection makes a profound impact on him.[37]

Meets the artist Saul Schary, who will become a lifelong friend.



Hans Burkhardt enrolls in one of Gorky’s classes at Grand Central, and the next year will begin taking private lessons with him.[38] Gorky also meets Ethel Schwabacher, who will later become his student, patron, and first biographer.



Begins a tumultuous romance with Sirun Mussikian (Ruth March French), an Armenian model from Van. She lives with him for a short time but ultimately choses to end the relationship.[39]

Gorky with his sister Vartoosh Mooradian (left) and his girlfriend
Sirun Mussikian (right), Watertown, MA, c.1929-30.  Unknown photographer. 

His artistic circle expands. He is now a friend of John Graham (born Ivan Dabrowsky) and, through Graham or Paul Gaulois, meets Stuart Davis. Graham will later write of the trio: “Stuart Davis, Gorky and myself have formed a group and something original, purely american [sic] is coming out from under our brushes.”[40] He also becomes acquainted with Willem de Kooning, possibly at the opening of Graham’s 1929 exhibition at Dudensing Galleries, or at a party at the apartment of the Russian painter Mischa Reznikoff, and also meets the future dealer Sidney Janis, whose art advisor he will become.[41] And it is probably this year that he first meets the sculptor Isamu Noguchi, although the two will not become good friends until the latter half of the following decade.[42] Gorky is renowned in this group for his deep knowledge and love of art and for his technical abilities. As de Kooning will later report: “He knew lots more about painting and art—he just knew it by nature—things I was supposed to know and feel and understand. . . . He had an extraordinary gift for hitting the nail on the head.”[43]

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is founded in New York City by Miss Lillie P. Bliss, Mrs. Cornelius J. Sullivan, and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Alfred H. Barr, Jr., is appointed director.



12–26 April: Shows three still lifes in An Exhibition of Work of 46 Painters and Sculptors under 35 Years of Age at MoMA, his first major museum exhibition in New York. His erroneous biography in the accompanying catalogue states that he was born in 1903 in Nizhni-Novgorod and studied with Vasily Kandinsky for three months in 1920. One of the still lifes in the catalogue is listed courtesy of the J. B. Neumann Gallery. Neumann, perhaps through an introduction by Max Weber, becomes his dealer for a short time this year, Gorky’s first professional relationship with a gallery.

Moves to a large studio at 36 Union Square in Greenwich Village, which he will keep for the remainder of his life.[44]



1 January –10 February: Presents a work titled Improvisation at the Société Anonyme, founded by Katherine S. Dreier and Marcel Duchamp in 1920, for an exhibition organized to celebrate the opening of the new building of the New School for Social Research.

Over the course of the year, he sends the Downtown Gallery in New York a group of works ranging in price from $100 to $450. The exact nature of their relationship is unknown.

April: Mrs. John D. Rockefeller (Abby Aldrich Rockefeller) purchases from the Downtown Gallery a Cézannesque still life by Gorky titled Fruit (c.1928–29; Private Collection; Jordan and Goldwater 55) for $250.[45]

September: In an evaluation of Stuart Davis’s work for the magazine Creative Art, Gorky reveals his reverence for Cubism: “The twentieth century—what intensity, what activity, what restles nervous energy! Has there in six centuries been better art than Cubism? No.”[46]

18 November: The Whitney Museum of American Art opens in New York City. It will become a major supporter of Gorky’s work.

Fall: Meets Dorothy Miller and Holger Cahill, who study with him for a short time and who will both prove instrumental to his career, Miller as a curator at MoMA, and Cahill as head of the Federal Art Project of the Works Progress Administration (hereafter FAP/WPA).

Begins work on the Nighttime, Enigma, and Nostalgia series, his largest. Making variations on this theme through the mid-1930s, he will create more than fifty drawings and one painting.



Winter: The New York gallery owner Julien Levy examines a portfolio of his drawings at the suggestion of John Graham. During this meeting Gorky explains: “I was with Cézanne for a long time . . . and now naturally I am with Picasso.” Levy replies that he will give him an exhibition “someday, when you are with Gorky.”[47]

3 March: With Frank Jewett Mather, Jr., the Marquand Professor of Art at Princeton University, he debates “Two Views on Modern Art” at Wells College in Aurora, New York.[48]

10 May: Vartoosh and Moorad return to Armenia, which is now part of the Soviet Union.


Gorky in his studio at 36 Union Square, New York, c.1932.  Photo by Alexander Sandow.
Courtesy Estate of Alexander Sandow, Greg Sandow & Lisa Sandow Lyons, executors.


20 December: Joins the federal government’s Public Works of Art Project (PWAP) at a salary of about $37 a week. Shortly after being accepted into the program, he submits a proposal for a mural, describing his abstract work in a way that will suit the PWAP’s requirement that the piece capture the “American Scene”: “In the middle of my picture stands a column which symbolizes the determination of the American nation. . . . My intention is to create objectivity of the articles which I have detached from their habitual surroundings to be able to give them the highest realism.”[49]



Early in the year, the artist meets the painter Jacob Kainen, who sits several times for a portrait.  Unable to pay Kainen for his time, Gorky gives him two drawings.

January: Ethel Schwabacher and Mina Metzger begin private lessons with him three days a week, three hours a day, which they will continue through the summer of 1935. As a part of their studies, Gorky takes them to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they make drawings after artists such as Nicolas Poussin and Édouard Manet.[50]

17 January: He informs the PWAP that the subject of his mural will be “1934” and that the work will be appropriate for installation in a technical university, a building for engineering purposes, or the New York Port Authority.[51] He will be dropped from the PWAP roster on 29 April, however, and the mural never realized. Existing studies combine the motifs found within his drawings made around this time—such as Nighttime, Enigma, and NostalgiaColumn with Objects, and his abstract anatomical studies—revealing that the design may have been too abstract for the taste of PWAP administrators Juliana Force and Lloyd Goodrich.

2–15 February: His first solo exhibition opens at the Mellon Galleries in Philadelphia with thirty-seven untitled paintings dating from 1926 to 1930. The exhibition is likely arranged with the help of Gorky’s friend and patron Bernard Davis, later the director and founder of Philadelphia’s Philatelic Museum, who may have introduced him to the director of the Mellon Galleries, C. Philip Boyer.[52] The review in the Philadelphia Inquirer is mixed, calling the work “brilliant of pigmentation” but derivative in nature.[53] Shortly after the show opens, he learns that water damage from extinguishing a fire in Akabi’s house in Watertown has destroyed a group of his early paintings, including portraits of Vartoosh and Sirun Mussikian.[54]

28 February: At the opening of the First Municipal Art Exhibition at the Forum Gallery in New York he meets the art student Marny George, and they are married after a brief courtship. Their stormy relationship ends soon afterward, however. As Marny will later recall: “It seems the very moment we were married the battle began. . . . We loved and hated with equal violence.”[55] Gorky gives a still life painting to an attorney, Herman A. Greenberg, in payment for preparing the paperwork to annul their marriage.[56]

27 October: Designs and builds a large float—a tower of painted cardboard over a wooden framework, the whole having a Cubist effect—with the artist George McNeil for a demonstration organized by the Artists’ Committee of Action to demand a place for artists to show their work. He also attends meetings of the newly formed Artists’ Union during this time but never becomes a member. Stuart Davis later claims that it was Gorky’s lack of political commitment that caused their friendship to end this year.[57]

25 December: Vartoosh and Moorad return from Soviet Armenia after Vartoosh becomes ill. They stay with Gorky in his studio for several weeks before going back to Watertown to live with Akabi.

Around this time he begins a series of stylized portraits of himself and family members that are quite melancholy in tone.



Early in the year, Gorky takes in a lodger named Lorenzo Santillo.

12 February–22 March: He is included for the first time in one of the Whitney’s exhibitions, Abstract Painting in America. The catalogue includes an essay by Ethel Schwabacher and an introduction by Stuart Davis.

He exchanges letters in Armenian with his cousin Ado Adoian in Yerevan during this year and the next.[58]

March: Lorenzo Santillo takes Corinne Michael West, a student of Hans Hofmann’s, to meet Gorky one evening at 36 Union Square. The two quickly begin a romance and later maintain a long-distance relationship through letters and visits after West moves to Rochester, New York, the following year.[59]

25 March: Vartoosh gives birth to a son whom they name Karlen, a contraction of the names of Karl Marx and Vladimir Lenin. Later this year, the Mooradians return to New York, where they stay with Gorky until the fall of 1936.

July: Gorky applies to the Emergency Relief Bureau, then a city program, for work and housing relief and begins receiving $24 a month. His status with the bureau qualifies him for a position with the FAP/WPA when it is established one month later under the directorship of his friend Holger Cahill. He is assigned to the mural division, earning a monthly salary starting at $103.40, and begins designing a series of murals titled Aviation for Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn, which are to incorporate photographs of airplanes and airports taken by Wyatt Davis, Stuart Davis’s brother.[60]

September: A selection of his drawings is on view at Philadelphia’s Boyer Galleries. Corinne West borrows her father’s car, and she, Gorky, Lorenzo Santillo, and a woman named Geraldine drive to Philadelphia to see the show. Gorky also gives a lecture on abstract art while there, which a local reporter sardonically states “made everything quite clear.”[61]

October: The Guild Art Gallery opens at 37 West Fifty-seventh Street, New York. Although Gorky’s name is not included on the inaugural exhibition announcement, according to a review in the New York Timeshe is among those represented in the show, where, they report, his “handsome abstract decoration . . . may be said to dominate.”[62]

12 November: Signs a three-year contract with the Guild Art Gallery.

24 November: Delivers a lecture, “Methods, Purposes, and Significance of Abstract Art,” at the Guild in response to the interest arroused by Fernand Léger’s current exhibition at MoMA.[63]

16 December: Presents eighteen works in Abstract Drawings by Arshile Gorky at the Guild, his first solo exhibition in New York. Holger Cahill writes a paragraph for the catalogue, citing Gorky’s “extraordinary inventiveness and fertility in creating special arrangments both precise and harmonious, . . . [which contribute] to contemporary American expression a note of intellectual fantasy.” Reviews are mixed, however, with Howard Devree commenting in the New York Times on Gorky’s “serious attempts to express certain spatial and linear relationships,” and Carlyle Burrows, in the Herald Tribune, opining: “His is a difficult expression to disentagle from its sources in Picasso, Braque and others, and to tell where originality begins and where inspiration leaves off.”[64] Katherine S. Dreier of the Société Anonyme buys one of his Nighttime, Enigma, and Nostalgia drawings for $85.[65]

27 December: A sketch for his airport mural is presented in Murals for Public Buildings, an exhibition celebrating the opening of the Federal Art Project Gallery. Mayor Fiorella H. La Guardia, who attends the opening and is photographed speaking with Gorky, is quoted in the paper as saying about the sketch: “I am conservative in my art, as I am a progressive in my politics. That’s why I perhaps cannot understand it.”[66]



Spring: During a lecture at the Artists’ Union, he chastises the Social Realists, calling their propagandistic illustrations “poor art for poor people.”[67]

May–September: The New York Art Commission gives preliminary approval to his aviation murals, but by this time the focus of the project has changed.[68] The murals are now intended for the Newark Airport Administration Building, and the design excludes the photographs of Wyatt Davis. For the final project, Gorky paints ten panels in the seventh-floor workshop of the Federal Art Project Building at 6 East Thirty-ninth Street.

Gorky at work on Activities on the Field, 1936.  New York Federal Art
Project Photo; Collection: Estate of Arshile Gorky. 

14 September–12 October: One of his Newark panels, Activities on the Field, is shown in MoMA’s exhibition New Horizons in American Art, which highlights the first year’s work done under the FAP/WPA. The exhibition catalogue gives the title of the full mural cycle as Aviation: Evolution of Forms under Aerodynamic Limitations.[69]

10 November–10 December: Gorky’s painting Organization (National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Jordan and Goldwater 146) is shown in the Third Biennial Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting at the Whitney. Hereafter he will regularly be included in the Whitney’s painting and drawing annuals.[70] Sometime during November, the Mooradians move to Chicago.

11 December: He submits an essay about his Newark Airport murals to the Washington office of the FAP/WPA. The text is intended to be one of a number of essays to be included in a national illustrated report (never realized).[71] Besides giving a formal analysis of his panels, Gorky’s essay discusses the educational purpose of mural painting: “Since many workers, school children, or patients in hospitals (as the case may be, depending on the type of institution) have little or no opportunity to visit museums, mural painting could and would open up new vistas to their neglected knowledge of a far too-little popularized Art.”[72]

18 December: The architect and stage designer Frederick Kiesler publishes “Murals without Walls: Relating to Gorky’s Newark Project,” the first magazine article on the artist, in Art Front.

In response to a perceived lack of respect for modernist artists, American Abstract Artists is founded by a group that includes Josef Albers and A. E. Gallatin. Gorky attends several meetings but never joins.[73]

Julien Levy publishes his book Surrealism. According to his later recollections, Gorky immediately reads the entire book in the back room of his gallery.[74]



12 May: Gorky writes to Vartoosh from the Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., mentioning that he is in the nation’s capital to give a speech before the American Federation of Arts. According to Vartoosh, the subject of the lecture is camouflage.[75]

9 June: The Newark Airport murals are unveiled. The following day, an article by Gerard Sullivan in the Newark Ledger cites the public’s reactions, including the assessment that they look “like a hangover after an Atlantic City convention!”[76] Despite the negative reception, the murals are officially accepted by the Newark Art Commission on 24 June.

During the remainder of the summer, and through the summer of 1941, Gorky continues as an employee of the FAP/WPA Mural Division, although he is never assigned to another FAP mural project, instead being permitted to make easel paintings in his studio.

August: Begins working on sketches for murals for the 1939–40 New York World’s Fair Marine Transportation Building and Aviation Building. By October, his Aviation proposal is accepted, but his project for the Marine Building is rejected in favor of a mural by Lyonel Feininger.[77]

10 November–12 December: After his inclusion in their fall painting annual, one of Gorky’s works, titled simply Painting (1936-37; Jordan and Goldwater 173), is purchased by the Whitney, his first sale to a museum.

John Graham publishes System and Dialectics of Art, mentioning Gorky in a section called “Good Taste,” along with André Breton, Paul Éluard, Tristan Tzara, and Christian Zervos.



Early in the year, Gorky begins a relationship with the violinist Leonore Gallet (later Portnoff), who becomes the subject of several drawings.[78]

Takes a trip to Provincetown, Massachusetts, with the artists Rosaline Bengelsdorf and Byron Browne.[79]

May–July: The Whitney lends Gorky’s Painting to an exhibition in Paris titled Trois Siècles d’Art Américain (Three Centuries of American Art). Organized by MoMA, this large survey is installed at the Musée du Jeu de Paume. Painting is also reproduced in James Johnson Sweeney’s article “L’art contemporain aux Etats-Unis” for the 1938 issue of Cahiers d’art.



16 January: He temporarily leaves the FAP/WPA to work on his project for William Lescaze’s Aviation Building at the New York World’s Fair. The finished mural, Man’s Conquest of the Air (now destroyed), is unveiled for the fair’s opening on April 30.

5–27 May: Picasso’s Guernica (now in the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid) is displayed for the first time in the United States at the Valentine Gallery, New York. Gorky takes part in a panel discussion there with fellow artists Leo Katz and Walter Pach. Dorothea Tanning is in the audience and later recalls that “the controlled passion in his voice . . . illumined the painting with a sustained flash of new light.”[80]

20 May: Gorky becomes a U.S. citizen.

9 June: He is reinstated on the FAP/WPA.

September: World War II begins with Germany’s invasion of Poland. Many European artists subsequently flee to the United States. The Chilean artist Roberto Matta arrives from Europe this year, meeting Gorky shortly thereafter, possibly at an exhibition of his work at the Julien Levy Gallery in the spring of 1940.[81]

Late in the year, Gorky applies for a John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, which includes the following plan:  “To attempt to evolve a form of abstract painting free from foreign influences; to reveal in new designs, form and color the sources of American cultural traditions; to interpret in abstract form the art and customs of the American Indian, the pioneer, the ranch, farm and folk-life in this country.”  Alfred H. Barr, Holger Cahill, A. Conger Goodyear, Juliana Force, and William Zorach act as references, but his application is ultimately rejected.[82]



Begins the series of works titled Garden in Sochi.

3 September: In a letter to the Mooradians, he mentions a request he has made to teach a class on camouflage at the Grand Central School of Art. Because of the draft, he is told to wait several months to see how many students will be available before offering the class.[83]

Fall: With the help of Isamu Noguchi and the architect Willie Muschenheim, he receives a commission to paint murals (now destroyed) on the curved walls that flank the stage at the Riviera Club in Fort Lee, New Jersey, owned by Ben Marden. The murals are finished the following summer and are discussed in an article in the New York Sun in which Gorky explains: “I call these murals non-objective art, but if labels are needed this art may be termed surrealistic.”[84]

9 December: In response to the institution of a new rule, he resigns from the WPA because he has been employed for eighteen months. He reapplies and is back on the project by 17 December.

Abby Aldrich Rockefeller gives Gorky’s lithograph Mannikin (c. 1931; see to MoMA, their first acquisition of his work. During Gorky’s lifetime, the museum will also acquire Argula (1938; Jordan and Goldwater 218) and Objects (1932; see in 1941, and Garden in Sochi (1941; Jordan and Goldwater 248) in 1942.[85]



January: Through the coaxing of Elaine Fried (later de Kooning), he meets the woman who will become his second wife, nineteen-year-old Agnes Magruder, at a party.[86] He soon nicknames her Mougouch, an Armenian term of endearment.

Agnes Magruder (Mougouch), c.1939. Photograph by Essie or
John H. Magruder.  Collection: Estate of Arshile Gorky. 

January–February: Attends the Surrealist painter Gordon Onslow Ford’s lecture series at the New School for Social Research, also visiting Ford’s apartment several times to learn more about Surrealism.[87]

19–27 April: His painting Argula, now owned by MoMA, is included in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Special Exhibition of Contemporary Painting in the United States, which in June begins traveling in South America as La pintura contemporana norteamericana, co-organized by MoMA, the Met, the Brooklyn Museum, the Whitney, and the Coordinator of Commercial and Cultural Relations between American Republics.

July: After his friend Jeanne Reynal arranges to have his work exhibited in San Francisco, Gorky resigns from the WPA on 2 July to drive across the country with Mougouch, Isamu Noguchi, Noguchi’s sister, and two other friends, arriving on 17 July.

9–24 August: His first solo exhibitionat a museum opens at the San Francisco Museum of Art with twenty-one works, including a painting from Reynal’s collection, Enigmatic Combat (1936–37; Jordan and Goldwater 176), which she will give to the museum later this year.

Late in the year, Edmund Greacen approves Gorky’s class on camouflage at the Grand Central School of Art. The course announcement reads: “An epidemic of destruction sweeps the world today. The mind of civilized man is set to stop it. What the enemy would destroy, however, he must first see. To confuse and paralyze this vision is the role of camouflage. Here the artist and more particularly the modern artist can fulfill a vital function for, opposed to this vision of destruction is the vision of creation.”[88] The gallery owner Betty Parsons, who is enrolled in the class, later recalls that Gorky “was witty and brilliant as a camouflage teacher . . . I think Gorky probably knew more about aesthetics than anybody I ever met in my life, then and now.”[89]

15 September: On the return trip he and Mougouch are married in Virginia City, Nevada.[90] They visit the Mooradians in Chicago on 26 September, returning to New York in early October.

12 November–30 December: Exhibits two works in the Whitney’s exhibition Paintings by Artists under Forty.

28 December: Writes to Vartoosh about camouflage and his possible role in the ensuing war: “It seems I too shall be called to do camouflage painting. We artists are getting organized so that if called we shall serve as painters and not as soldiers.”[91] However, the draft board later rejects him as too old.



Summer: He and Mougouch spend time at Saul Schary’s home in New Milford, Connecticut. Mougouch will write in a letter the next year: “Last summer we spent 2 weeks in the country away from N.Y. and during those two weeks Gorky did some very inspiring drawings from nature which have given him great impetus in his work and something quite new and miraculous is resulting.”[92]

June: In response to a request from Dorothy Miller, he writes a free-form poem on his Garden in Sochi paintings, one of which is acquired by MoMA on 1 July. In the poem he describes “an enormous tree” from his childhood, a “Holy tree” on which people hung strips of their clothing that they had torn off.[93]

30 June –9 August: Shows Bull in Sun, a rug woven for him by the New York company V’Soske, and two related preliminary studies and a design in gouache in MoMA’s exhibition New Rugs by American Artists.

December: One of his paintings of his sister Akabi (Jordan and Goldwater 179) is included in MoMA’s exhibition Twentieth Century Portraits. Titled in the catalogue “My Sister Ahko,” its date is erroneously given as 1917.



Winter: Visits relatives in Watertown for what will turn out to be the last time.



February: He and Mougouch host a dinner for Fernand Léger, who maintains a studio on West Fortieth Street during this time. Mary Burliuk, wife of the painter David Burliuk, will later report that Gorky was “overwhelmed with emotion” to have the great artist in his studio.[94]

20 March: Joseph H. Hirshhorn buys seventeen of Gorky’s paintings and will add thirteen more to his collection in the following years.[95]

5 April: Gorky’s first daughter, Maro, is born.

17 June –25 July: His painting Garden in Sochi (1941) is included in MoMA’s exhibition Recent Acquisitions: The Work of Young Americans.

Summer: Travels to Lincoln, Virginia, with his family to stay at Crooked Run Farm, recently acquired by Mougouch’s parents, Admiral and Mrs. John H. Magruder II. There he creates more than one hundred drawings before returning to New York in November.[96]



Early in the year, Noguchi introduces him to André Breton, the chief proponent of Surrealism, who becomes a good friend and major supporter of his work.

April: James Johnson Sweeney’s article “Five American Painters” is published in Harper's Bazaar, discussing Milton Avery, Morris Graves, Roberto Matta, Jackson Pollock, and Gorky, whose latest work, Sweeney writes, “shows his realization of the value of literally returning to the earth.”[97] Also in April, Gorky finishes his masterpiece The Liver is the Cock’s Comb (Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY; Jordan and Goldwater 281), which is based on a drawing executed during the previous summer at Crooked Run Farm. Jeanne Reynal writes to Mougouch shortly after its completion: “Did Arshile feel satisfied when he painted that great canvas. God knows he well might. I’m glad it’s so successful. Did he really finish it in a week?”[98] Sidney Janis will include a reproduction of the work in his book Abstract and Surrealist Art in America, published later this year, in which he cites Gorky’s description of the painting, couched in the Surrealist “automatic” style: “The song of a cardinal, liver, mirrors that have not caught reflection, the aggressively heraldic branches, the saliva of the hungry man whose face is painted with white chalk.”[99]

Spring: Returns to Crooked Run Farm with his family, where he draws and paints prolifically for nine months. Following his return to New York late in the year, Peggy Guggenheim buys from him another work, titled Painting (Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice.  The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; Jordan and Goldwater 285), which was executed during this time.

Gorky drawing in a field at Crooked Run Farm, summer 1944.
Photograph by Agnes Magruder Gorky.

December: Reaches an arrangment with Julien Levy (formalized in a letter from Levy on 20 December) to give the gallery twelve paintings and thirty drawings a year in return for a monthly stipend of $175. Levy also agrees to give him a one-man show, which he will do annually until Gorky’s death.[100]



January: The Gorkys move to Roxbury, Connecticut, where they stay in David Hare’s house for the next nine months while he is away. Their neighbors include the sculptor Alexander Calder and the French Surrealist painters Yves Tanguy and André Masson and their wives Kay Sage, an American Surrealist, and Rose Masson.

6 March: The exhibition Arshile Gorky opens at the Julien Levy Gallery, featuring paintings created during the previous year, including The Leaf of the Artichoke is an Owl (Museum of Modern Art, New York; Jordan and Goldwater 287), One Year the Milkweed (National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Jordan and Goldwater 279), Water of the Flowery Mill (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Jordan and Goldwater 292), and How My Mother’s Embroidered Apron Unfolds in My Life (Seattle Art Museum, WA; Jordan and Goldwater 296). André Breton, who before the show had helped Gorky title the paintings, writes a foreword for the catalogue titled “The Eye-Spring: Arshile Gorky,” in which he describes the artist as “the first painter to whom the secret has been completely revealed! . . . Here is an art entirely new . . . a leap beyond the ordinary and the known to indicate, with an impeccable arrow of light, a real feeling of liberty.”[101] Because Levy had forgotten to mail out the announcements on time, almost no one attends the opening.

24 March: Clement Greenberg’s review of Gorky’s exhibition in The Nation unconstructively focuses on what is seen as the derivative nature of his early work: “Until a short while ago he struggled under the influences of Picasso and Miró. That he fell under such influences was ten years ago enough proof of his seriousness and alertness—but that he remained under them so long was disheartening.”[102]

Breton’s essay “The Eye-Spring: Arshile Gorky” is included in a new edition of his book Surréalisme et la peinture (Surrealism and Painting), first published in 1928.

14 May –7 July: Gorky is included in the exhibition A Problem for Critics at 67 Gallery, New York, along with Adolph Gottlieb, Lee Krasner, Pollock, Rothko, and others. In a statement accompanying the exhibition, the gallery owner Howard Putzel, Peggy Guggenheim’s former assistant and advisor, declares: “I believe we see real American painting beginning now.”[103]

4 July: He writes to Vartoosh from Roxbury noting that this is the first year he is working without any financial worries.[104]

8 August: His second daughter, Yalda, is born. She is renamed Natasha some months later.

September: When David Hare returns to Roxbury, Gorky moves with his family to Sherman, Connecticut, where they live with their friends the architect Henry Hebbeln and his wife, Jean, who convert a barn on the property into a studio for him.

11 October–9 December: His painting How My Mother’s Embroidered Apron Unfolds in My Life is exhibited in the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh.

Late November: Travels with Mougouch to New York for the opening on the twenty-seventh of the Whitney annual, which includes his painting Diary of a Seducer (Museum of Modern Art, New York; Jordan and Goldwater 300), and to attend a dinner honoring Breton, who is about to leave on a cultural tour of Haiti. Enrico Donati, Marcel Duchamp, Max Ernst, Esteve Francés, and Frederick Kiesler are among the other artists at the dinner.



26 January: A fire in Gorky’s Sherman studio destroys more than twenty paintings, including two on the theme of The Plow and the Song, several portraits of Mougouch, and works similar in style to They Will Take My Island (Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto; Jordan and Goldwater 288). Many of his drawings and cherished books are also lost.[105]

5 March: Following a diagnosis of rectal cancer, he undergoes a colostomy at Mount Sinai Hospital, New York.

Gorky with his daughter Maro in Washington Square, New York, early 1946, shortly before
his operation for cancer. Photograph by Agnes Magruder Gorky.  Collection: Estate of Arshile Gorky. 

19 March: Receives an art fellowship of $1,000 from the New-Land Foundation in New York. Wolfgang Schwabacher, the foundation’s president and Gorky’s patron, helps secure the grant.[106]

9 April–4 May: Paintings by Arshile Gorky opens at the Julien Levy Gallery. The exhibition includes Charred Beloved II (1946; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; Jordan and Goldwater 306), a painting that memorializes the works lost in the studio fire earlier in the year, and other recent paintings, such as The Unattainable (1945; Baltimore Museum of Art; Jordan and Goldwater 302) and Nude (1946; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC; Jordan and Goldwater 307). Clement Greenberg has a change of heart, writing in his review in The Nation: “Gorky’s present show of eleven oils . . . provides not only reassurance but also some of the best modern painting ever turned out by an American.”[107]

Summer–November: The family again spends the season at Crooked Run Farm. Shortly before they return to New York, Gorky writes to Vartoosh: “This summer I completed a lot of drawings—292 of them. Never have I been able to do so much work, and they are good too.”[108]

10 September–8 December: Dorothy Miller’s exhibition Fourteen Americans opens at MoMA. A room devoted to Gorky includes his early masterpiece The Artist and His Mother (1926-1936; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York), as well as paintings from the previous year, such as Diary of a Seducer (Museum of Modern Art, New York), The Unattainable (Baltimore Museum of Art), and Landscape Table (Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Jordan and Goldwater 299). Among the other artists represented are David Hare, Robert Motherwell, Isamu Noguchi, Theodore Roszak, Saul Steinberg, and Mark Tobey.

André Breton publishes a book of poems in English and French titled Young Cherry Trees Secured against Hares / Jeunes cerisiers garantis contre les lièvres,which includes reproductions of drawings by Gorky and a cover illustration by Marcel Duchamp; a small deluxe edition is also issued, with each of the twenty-five copies including two original drawings by Gorky.



15–28 February: He is included in the exhibition Bloodflames at the Hugo Gallery, New York. Organized by the Surrealist poet and art critic Nicolas Calas, the show also features works by David Hare, Wifredo Lam, Roberto Matta, and Isamu Noguchi, among others.

18 February–8 March: Arshile Gorky: Colored Drawings opens at the Julien Levy Gallery. A review in ARTnews is less than glowing, declaring: “As he is in no sense a draftsman, they must be appraised as doodlings, for psychological rather than formal interest.”[109]

Joan Miró arrives in New York during the month of February to work on a mural commissioned for the Terrace Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Gorkys host a dinner party in his honor at 36 Union Square.

Summer: Mougouch and the children spend the season in Castine, Maine, with her great-aunt. Except for a short visit to see them in August, Gorky remains in New York, producing such masterpieces as The Betrothal (Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT; Jordan and Goldwater 340), Agony (Museum of Modern Art, New York; Jordan and Goldwater 323),and the large drawing Summation (Museum of Modern Art, New York; see

Gorky and his daughter Natasha, Castine, ME, summer 1947.  
Photograph by John H. Magruder II.  Collection: Estate of Arshile Gorky.

December: The family returns to Sherman, Connecticut, to stay at the Hebbelns’ remodeled farmhouse, known as the Glass House. Gorky shows serious signs of depression after the move and begins speaking of suicide.[110]

Late December: His father dies in Providence. He does not attend the funeral.[111]



February: The renovation of the Glass House is the subject of an article in Life magazine titled “Old House Made New,” which includes photographs of the Gorky and his family in the interior.[112]

29 February–20 March: His fourth solo exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery includes paintings from the previous year, such as Soft Night (Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; Jordan and Goldwater 350), Making the Calendar (Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Utica, New York; Jordan and Goldwater 319), and The Limit (Private Collection; Jordan and Goldwater 318). Greenberg writes in The Nation: “Gorky at last arrives at himself and takes his place . . . among the very few contemporary American painters whose work is of more than national importance.”[113]

17 June: Under pressure from increasing marital difficulties, Mougouch arranges to have a babysitter watch the children and leaves Sherman for a few days, during which time she has a brief affair with Matta. Shortly after her return, she takes Maro and Natasha to Crooked Run Farm for their grandfather’s birthday.

26 June: Gorky spends the day with Julien Levy and his wife. While Levy is driving him home in the rain, he loses control of the car, which skids down a hill, turning over onto its side. Gorky breaks his neck and collarbone, after which he spends more than a week in traction in the hospital, in pain and uncomfortable because of his previous colostomy and the lack of privacy.

The Glass House, Sherman, CT, late 1940s.  Photo: Anne Dickey
5 July: Still in pain and troubled by fears that he will not be able to paint again, he is released from the hospital wearing a leather and metal collar that leaves his painting arm immobilized. After a short time alone with Mougouch, convalescing, the children return.
Mid-July: His depression deepens and his rages and marital troubles worsen, and on 16 July, while they are in New York together, Mougouch leaves him, taking the children with her to Crooked Run Farm. She writes to Ethel and Wolf Schwabacher on 18 July, explaining: “The situation looks untenable & I know I can no longer hold on.”[114]

21 July: After removing his neck brace, Gorky hangs himself in a shed near the Glass House. A note written on a wooden crate nearby reads, “Goodbye My Loveds.”[115] He is buried in a small cemetery on a grassy hill next to a church in Sherman.

 Gorky’s birth date, like that of the rest of his siblings, is uncertain due to the absence of formal birth and baptismal records. It is often cited as 15 April 1904, which is what he declared on his citizenship papers. In a letter to his sister Vartoosh, he reported: “Sweet one, today I received the two letters you had sent in which you had asked what age I have put down in my American citizenship papers. I have written that I was born on April 15, 1904.” See Karlen Mooradian, Arshile Gorky Adoian (Chicago: Gilgamesh Press, 1978), p. 265. (This letter was misdated by Mooradian to 28 October 1940, which is too early. Gorky goes on to discuss a camouflage course he is about to teach at the Grand Central School of Art, something he did in late 1941.) A letter from Vartoosh to Gorky’s patron Mina Metzger on 26 December 1948, however, cites his birth date as 1905; Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Frances Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. The manifest of the ship that brought Gorky to the United States lists his arrival date as 26 February 1920, and his age as seventeen, which would place his birth date in 1903; The Statue of Liberty—Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., (accessed 4 January 2008). Gorky worsened the confusion by providing galleries and museums with various birth dates and birth places throughout his lifetime. Those that he provided to the Museum of Modern Art, New York, for instance, and that were printed in its exhibition catalogue Fourteen Americans, were 25 October 1904 (likely an homage to Picasso, who was born 25 October 1881), and Tiflis (Tbilisi), Russia. See Dorothy Miller, ed., Fourteen Americans (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1946), p. 23. Nouritza Matossian reports that his older sisters maintained that he was born in 1902 or 1903 (Vartoosh continued to insist on 1904) and that the date of 1902 is corroborated by other boys his age; Matossian, Black Angel: The Life of Arshile Gorky (New York: The Overlook Press, 2000), p. 8. Hayden Herrera believes he was probably born “at the turn of the century,” though this seems too early; Herrera, Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2003), pp. 20–21. Since Shushanig married Setrag in 1899 and the couple had one baby together before Gorky, the 1902 birth date seems most plausible.

[2] As Vartoosh recalled: “Though Gorky’s baptismal name was Vosdanig our paternal grandfather’s name was Manoog, and when he died they called Gorky Manoog after him.” Vartoosh Mooradian to Ethel Schwabacher, 8 February 1955, Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Francis Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

[3] During the years 1894–96, Sultan Abdul Hamid II ordered the annihilation of Turkey’s Armenian population. Somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 Armenians were killed during this time and almost half a million left homeless. Along with relatives on both sides of Gorky’s family, Setrag’s and Shushan’s first spouses were killed.

[4] When Shushan married Setrag in 1899, she was forced to give up one of her daughters as part of the arranged marriage. She kept Akabi and sent Sima to an orphanage in Van, where she may have been killed or abducted during one of the raids by Turkish soldiers; see Matossian, Black Angel, pp. 20–21.

[5] Satenig gave her birth date as 1901, but she may have been born earlier. Armenian village wives were inclined to have children shortly after marriage, as it improved their status with their husband’s extended family. See Herrera, Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work, p. 638.

[6] Like Gorky’s, Vartoosh’s birth date is uncertain due to a lack of official documentation. Although her son Karlen Mooradian cites her birthday as 27 September 1906, in his publications on Gorky (see Bibliography), the manifest from the ship that brought her to the United States in 1920 records that she was sixteen, which would make her birth date 1904; The Statue of Liberty—Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., (accessed 4 January 2008).

[7] Matossian, Black Angel, p. 23. It is often said that Gorky began drawing at the age of three, but since his birth date is unknown, it is difficult to pinpoint what year he began to draw.

[8] The ship manifest lists Setrag’s last residence as Batsuni [Batumi], Russia, and his age as thirty-five; The Statue of Liberty—Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., (accessed 4 January 2008).

[9] For Gorky’s time at Saint Vardan, I am relying on the dates assigned in Karlen Mooradian’s books on the artist (see Bibliography). The reader should treat this information cautiously. Gorky’s sister Satenig recalled that he did not speak until he was six years old, and thus he may have started school later than most boys his age. See Satenig Avedisian to Mina Metzger, 31 March 1949, Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Francis Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. If Gorky was born in 1904 and did not speak until he was six, it seems unlikely that he started school in 1909. But since his birth date was probably earlier than 1904, it is also plausible that he began school before 1909.

[10] Matossian, Black Angel, pp. 46–47. The quotation and the information regarding Gorky’s schooling were taken from an interview Matossian conducted with Vartoosh Mooradian in 1990.

[11] Viscount James Bryce, The Treatment of the Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, 1915–16: Documents Presented to Viscount Grey of Fallodon, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, ed. Arnold Toynbee (London: H. M. Stationery Office, Sir J. Causton, 1916), p. 43. This quotation is taken from the contemporary account of Grace Higley Knapp, a teacher at the American School in Van who was present during the siege and evacuation. According to Knapp, the evacuation order was issued on 30 July.

[12] Vartoosh later reported that they left Van on 15 June, stopped in Igdir on 23 June, and on 25 June reached Ejmiadzin, where they stayed for three weeks before arriving in Yerevan on 16 July. See Karlen Mooradian, “A Sister Recalls: An Interview with Vartoosh Mooradian,” in “A Special Edition on Arshile Gorky,” Ararat 12 (Fall 1971), pp. 10–11. Hayden Herrera has pointed out that they likely departed in early August, which seems accurate, since the mass evacuation was not ordered until late July; Herrera, Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work, pp. 83–86, 649.

[13] Vartoosh recalled that they lived at 14 Milyonulitz Street until 30 July, and then stayed at 39 Vagzalsky Street until November; Mooradian, “A Sister Recalls,” p.11.

[14] Karlen Mooradian states that the sisters left on 9 October; Mooradian, Arshile Gorky Adoian, p. 7, and Mooradian, “Chronology of Vosdanik Adoian (Arshile Gorky),” in “A Special Issue on Arshile Gorky,” p. 4. But Vartoosh remembered only that they left in October; Mooradian, “A Sister Recalls,” p. 11.

[15] Vartoosh reported: “Mother could not work. There was no food and she was starving and her stomach swelled up and she was very weak. And when the winter got worse the ceiling of our room began to leak, and so each morning before Gorky and I went to work we would lift mother up and put her in the window so that she would not get wet from the leaking roof. By evening we would return and mother was the same way”; Mooradian, “A Sister Recalls,” p. 12.

[16] My source for the timeline of Vosdanig and Vartoosh’s journey from Yerevan to Patras is the chronology provided in Mooradian, Arshile Gorky Adoian, pp. 7, 10–11, and Mooradian, “Chronology of Vosdanik Adoian (Arshile Gorky),” p. 4. To my knowledge, there are no existing official documents to pinpoint the exact dates of their journey until their arrival at the Port of New York.

[17] See Mooradian, “A Sister Recalls,” p. 14. Vartoosh stayed in the Kelekian’s home in Bebek, but Gorky preferred to stay in the tents outside with his comrades. Vartoosh remembers that after several months he finally came to stay with her in Bebek.

[18] Their names are on the second and third lines of the passenger manifest; The Statue of Liberty—Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., (accessed 4 January 2008).  The manifest lists the arrival date as 26 February, which is one day earlier than the date listed in the New York Times' “Shipping and Mails” reports for 25 - 28 February 1920.  The Presidente Wilson is listed as having left Naples on both 11 and 14 February, which I have generalized as mid-month in the text.    

[19] Karlen Mooradian states that they were held for three days upon their arrival, but Vartoosh recalled that they “stayed there three or four days.” See Mooradian, Arshile Gorky Adoian, p. 11, and “Chronology of Vosdanik Adoian (Arshile Gorky),”p. 4; also Mooradian, The Many Worlds of Arshile Gorky (Chicago: Gilgamesh Press, 1980),p. 35.

[20] According to Vartoosh, Gorky was fired after being caught drawing on the frames used to transport shoe soles. He also angered his employers by drawing on the factory roof. See Mooradian, “A Sister Recalls,” p. 15.

[21] Ethel K. Schwabacher, Arshile Gorky (New York: Macmillan for the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1957), p. 28.

[22] Herrera, Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work, pp. 116, 652 (Herrera is citing an interview she conducted with Will Barnet). According to fellow student Norris C. Baker, Gorky left the class after he was chastised for not adhering to Carbee’s methods.

[23] Mooradian, The Many Worlds of Arshile Gorky, p. 60, n. 23.

[24] Katherine Murphy to Elaine de Kooning, 29 July 1951, Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Francis Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Murphy recalled that a parishioner from the church offered Gorky five dollars for Park Street Church if he would make the figures more distinct and looking less like peasants. He was furious and refused. Murphy purchased the painting for ten dollars.

[25] See Mooradian, The Many Worlds of Arshile Gorky, p. 197. Rothko was a student in a class for which Gorky served as the monitor. As of 1925, the Metropolitan Museum Art owned several works by Hals: Young Man and Woman in an Inn (1623), Merrymakers at Shrovetide (c. 1615), Portrait of a Man (early 1650s), The Smoker (c. 1623–25), and Portrait of a Woman (c. 1650). A painting in the style of Hals titled Malle Babbe, acquired by the Met in 1871 and originally thought to be by Hals, was likely the source for Gorky’s Copy after Frans Hals’ “Lady in the Window” (Private Collection; Jordan and Goldwater 5).

[26] Herrera, Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work, pp. 129, 654. When he applied to the National Academy, Gorky used the address of the New School of Design as his residential address and gave his date and place of birth as April 1902 in Kazan, Russia. The date on which he left the academy comes from his file card there, which reads, in red ink, “2/9 left.”  A questionairre filled out by Gorky in 1945 for the Museum of Modern Art sheds further light on his departure: “Dismissed from National Academy, N.Y.C. first criticism by Charles Hawthorne, 1925”; Arshile Gorky File, Archives of the Department of Painting and Sculpture, Museum of Modern Art, New York (reproduced in Matthew Spender, Arshile Gorky, Goats on the Roof: A Life in Letters and Documents (London: Ridinghouse, 2009), p. 274).  As Michael Taylor has pointed out, Hawthorne may have provided a crucial stepping-stone in Gorky’s growth as an artist. Hawthorne had participated in the exhibition program at the Grand Central School of Art in the mid 1920s, and would have been well aware of the school’s curriculum. Because Gorky was already proficient at what was being taught in the life class at the National Academy, it is plausible that Hawthorne recommended study at Grand Central.  See Michael Taylor, “Learning from ‘Papa Cézanne’: Arshile Gorky and the (Self - ) Invention of the Modern Artist,” in Cézanne and Beyond, ed. Joseph Rishel and Katherine Sachs, exh. cat.(Philadelphia: Philadelphia Museum of Art in association with Yale University Press, 2009), p. 558, n. 21.

[27] Gorky’s early pupil Mrs. Helen [Nat] Austin recalled that in 1921 the artist “had a rooftop studio loaned him [sic] by Sigurd Skou;” see Jordan and Goldwater, The Paintings of Arshile Gorky, p. 94, n. 2. Although the date given by Mrs. Austin is too early, Gorky likely knew Skou by late 1925.  A Norwegian-born American artist who painted in the Impressionist manner, Skou was an instructor and founding member of the Grand Central School of Art. His residence -- 19 West 50th Street -- corresponds to the address Gorky would later cite in a September 1926 interview in the New York Evening Post (see note 29).  Skou’s address was confirmed in a 1927 article in the New York Times, which sadly reports the untimely death of his 10-year-old son; see “Artist, Back on Liner, Told of Son’s Death,” New York Times, 27 October 1927, p. 25.  

[28] Grand Central School of Art catalogue for the school year 1926–27, p. 19, The Arshile Gorky Foundation Archives. The birthplace that Gorky cites could refer to the writer Maxim Gorky, who was born in Nizhni Novgorod in 1868.  As it is now well known, the artist likely adopted the surname Gorky because he admired the Russian writer, even claiming to be both his nephew and cousin on separate occasions.

[29] “Fetish of Antique Stifles Art Here, Says Gorky Kin,” New York Evening Post, 15 September 1926; reproduced in Harold Rosenberg, Arshile Gorky: The Man, the Time, the Idea (New York: Grove Press, 1962), p. 125 and Matthew Spender, Arshile Gorky, Goats on the Roof, pp. 46-48. 

[30] For Gorky’s interest in Cézanne and a discussion of the availability of works by Cézanne in New York at that time, see Michael Taylor, “Learning from ‘Papa Cézanne’: Arshile Gorky and the (Self - ) Invention of the Modern Artist,” in Cézanne and Beyond, pp. 407–31. Julius Meier-Graefe published two works on Cézanne in the early 1920s: Cézanne und sein Kreis: Ein Beitrag zur Entwicklungsgeschicte (Munich: R. Piper and Co., 1922) and Paul Cézanne (Munich: R. Piper and Co., 1923). A list of books in Gorky’s library, compiled by Matthew Spender and now in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. (Research material regarding Arshile Gorky, 1957–1999, Reel 4982), includes the first study (no. 58 in the list). Gorky acquired this book by 1927, if not earlier, according to Revington Arthur, one of his students at Grand Central: “I had at that time never heard of Cézanne. When I went there in 1927, Gorky was already speaking about Cézanne, so we looked at the book by Meier-Graeffe [sic], the German critic who wrote on Cézanne.” See Matossian, Black Angel, p. 151.

[31] Schwabacher, Arshile Gorky, p. 21; also Spender, From a High Place: A Life of Arshile Gorky (New York: A.A. Knopf, 1999), p. 73.

[32] “Grand Central Faculty Show,” ARTnews 25, no. 20 (19 February 1927), p. 4. This announcement states that “Archole Gorky” exhibited “a portrait and a study in still life.” The tour of the exhibition included stops at the Manchester Institute of Arts and Science, Manchester, N.H.; Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine; The Art Institute of Chicago; Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, N.Y.; Dayton Art Institute, Dayton, Ohio; Cincinnati Museum Association, Columbus, Ohio; Gallery of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Fla.; Art Gallery of Tampa, Fla.; and Grand Central Galleries, New York. Since the exhibition ended in New York in February, it seems likely that the multicity tour began late in 1926, after Gorky’s teaching appointment commenced in September.

[33] The Metropolitan Museum acquired two paintings by Ingres in 1918: Jacques-Louis Leblanc (1823) and Madame Jacques-Louis Leblanc (1823).  Joseph-Antoine Moltedo (c.1810) was bequethed in 1929.  Gorky would have also had the opportunity to see a number of drawings by the artist, most notably the 1929 acquisition of Madame Guillaume Guillon Lethiére, née Marie-Joseph Vanzenne, and her son Lucien Lethiére (1808).  A copy of this drawing can be found within a Gorky sketchbook that is now in the Met’s collection.

[34] Nathan I. Bijur, a student and early patron, began taking lessons from Gorky in 1926 and obtained one of his paintings during a class at the Fifty-seventh Street studio; Nathan I. Bijur to Mrs. David Metzger, November 1949, Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Francis Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

[35] Gorky’s options for viewing Picasso’s work in New York were numerous. For a comprehensive record of the exhibitions that included works by Picasso during this time, see Julia May Boddewyn, “Selected Chronology of Exhibitions, Auctions, and Magazine Reproductions, 1910–1957,” in Michael FitzGerald,Picasso and American Art, exh. cat. (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art in association with Yale University Press, 2006), pp. 328–77. Gorky likely also saw books and magazines containing reproductions of Picasso’s work during his regular visits to Erhard Weyhe’s art bookstore on Lexington Avenue in New York, where he sometimes traded art for books; see Mooradian, The Many Worlds of Arshile Gorky, p. 215.

[36] According to Saul Schary, Gorky had moved to the Sullivan Street studio by 1927, the year they met; Mooradian, The Many Worlds of Arshile Gorky, p. 203. However, Gorky’s pupil Helen Austin recalled that he had this studio “around 1928”; Jordan and Goldwater, The Paintings of Arshile Gorky, p. 94 n. 2.

[37] For example, Giorgio de Chirico’s The Fatal Temple of 1914 was probably a source for Gorky’s Nighttime, Enigma, and Nostalgia series of the 1930s. Picasso’s Still Life of 1914 was the likely source for Gorky’s Still Life (Private Collection, on permanent loan to the Whistler House Museum of Art, Lowell, MA; Jordan and Goldwater 62).  Albert E. Gallatin ultimately gave his collection to the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1952.  De Chirico’s The Fatal Temple (Acc. # 1947-88-14), Picasso’s Still Life (Acc. # 1952-61-95) and other works from the Gallatin Collection are availablefor viewing at

[38] See the Hans Burkhardt interviews, by Paul J. Karlstrom, Los Angeles, 25 November 1974, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., (accessed 1 May 2008). Burkhardt’s letter to Ethel Schwabacher on 10 May 1949 reveals a different timeline: “I therefore enrolled at the Grand Central School of Arts [sic], where Gorky was teaching. This was the semester of 1926–27;” Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Francis Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Burkhardt studied with Gorky on and off until 1937, when he moved to California.

[39] See Karlen Mooradian’s extracts from an interview with Mussikian on 10 December 1972, in The Many Worlds of Arshile Gorky, p.223 n. 42, p. 224 n. 49.

[40] John D. Graham to Duncan Phillips, 28 December 1931, The Phillips Collection Records, 1920–1960, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; cited in Spender, From a High Place, p. 84.

[41] For Janis’s memories of meeting Gorky, see John Gruen, The Party’s Over Now: Reminiscences of the Fifties—New York Artists, Writers, Musicians, and Their Friends (New York: Viking Press, 1972), p. 244.

[42] Noguchi told Maro Gorky that he met her father just before the stock-market crash of 1929; Spender, From A High Place, p. 79. But on another occasion he recalled that he met him “around 1933 or 1934,” when he was having “an exhibition at the Marie Harriman gallery on 57th street;” Mooradian, The Many Worlds of Arshile Gorky, pp. 180–81. This exhibition of Noguchi’s work actually took place somewhat later, from 29 January to 16 February 1935.

[43] See Barbara Hess, Willem de Kooning, 1904–1997: Content as Glimpse (Los Angeles: Taschen, 1959), p. 14.

[44] The date of Gorky’s move to the Union Square studio was initially published in Schwabacher, Arshile Gorky, p. 48. Some sources give a slightly earlier date, but this does not appear to be correct. Gorky’s student H. C. Klinger remembered that he obtained drawings from Gorky between 1927 and 1930, and that his studio was then still on Sullivan Street. See H. C. Klinger to Lloyd Goodrich, 9 March 1978, Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Francis Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Stuart Davis remembered that Gorky still lived at Sullivan Street when they met in 1929; Davis, “Arshile Gorky in the 1930s: A Personal Recollection,” Magazine of Art  44, no. 2 (February 1951), p. 56. Dorothy Miller, who met Gorky in the fall of 1931, also recalled that the studio was “quite new to him then for he had just earlier obtained it”; Mooradian, The Many Worlds of Arshile Gorky, p.170.

[45] Gorky’s short-lived relationship with the Downtown Gallery, in 1931, likely came about through Stuart Davis, who regularly exhibited there. The records for the gallery are located in the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Insitution, Washington, D.C., and the Gorky inventory can be viewed on their website under Downtown Gallery Records, 1824–1974 bulk 1926–1969, Series 4: Business Records, 1925–1974, Stock Books, Stock, A–N (3 of 5), 1926–1940 (Reel 5604, frame 776). The gallery also included Gorky in three group shows in 1931 (see Exhibition History).

[46] Arshile Gorky, “Stuart Davis,” Creative Art 9, no. 3 (September 1931), pp. 213–17; reproduced in Rosenberg, Arshile Gorky,pp. 128–29.

[47] Julien Levy, foreword to Arshile Gorky: Paintings, Drawings, Studies, by William C. Seitz (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1962), p. 7.

[48] The debate was likely organized with the assistance of John Graham, who taught at Wells College from 1931 through 1933.

[49] Project Card, 22 December 1933, PWAP, Record Group 121, box 4, entry no. 117, National Archives and Records Administration, College Park, Md.; cited in Francis V. O’Connor, “Arshile Gorky’s Newark Airport Murals: The History of Their Making,” in Ruth Bowman, Murals without Walls: Arshile Gorky’s Aviation Murals Rediscovered (Newark, N.J.: Newark Museum, 1978), p. 22.

[50] “Notes on a conversation between Lloyd Goodrich and Ethel Schwabacher,” 14 February 1957, Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Francis Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

[51] Public Works of Art Project, selected administrative and business records, roll DC 113, frames 287–98, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; cited in O’Connor, “Arshile Gorky’s Newark Airport Murals,” p. 22.

[52] Boyer would later include Gorky’s work in exhibitions at the Philadelphia and New York locations of the Boyer Galleries. He would also represent the artist for several years and, according to Dorothy Miller, was an unscrupulous businessman: “That awful man named Boyer stole a great may drawings from him.” See Herrera, Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work, p. 220.

[53] C. H. Bonte, “In Gallery and Studio,” Philadelphia Inquirer, 11 February 1934.

[54] Matossian, Black Angel, pp. 220–21.

[55] Marny George to James Thrall Soby, 15 March 1951, Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Francis Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

[56] See Jordan and Goldwater, The Paintings of Arshile Gorky, p. 256. As Marny was a minor, the marriage was annulled; Herrera, Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work, p. 234.

[57] Although Davis was insistent that their friendship ended in the early part of 1934, they may have fallen out with one another later. Corinne Michael West, who became involved with Gorky in 1935, later wrote in a notebook dedicated to their relationship that he “was constantly meeting Stuart Davis at Romany Marie’s at 12 o’clock at night.” More specifically, she recalled that Gorky met Davis after he had returned with West from seeing his September 1935 exhibition at the Boyer Galleries in Philadelphia: “Finally we reached N. York at about 2 o’clock in the morning—maybe 1 o’clock. . . . After this mind you Gorky went an [sic] hurried to Romany Maries to meet Stuart Davis!” I am indebted to Roberta and Stuart Friedman, who shared this notebook with me; Corinne Michael West Archives, Collection of Roberta and Stuart Friedman, NY School Art Gallery, Yorktown Heights.

[58] See Adoian’s description of their correspondence in Mooradian, The Many Worlds of Arshile Gorky, pp. 89–92.

[59] See Corinne Michael West’s notes dated August 1978, Corinne Michael West Archives, Collection of Roberta and Stuart Friedman, NY School Art Gallery, Yorktown Heights. According to the existing correspondence and telegrams in the West archive, it appears that West moved to Rochester in the summer of 1936. This seems likely, as Gorky began an affair in the summer or fall of this year with the painter Mercedes Carles (later Matter), daughter of the Philadelphia painter Arthur B. Carles. Although Gorky and West eventually parted ways, they kept in touch for several years. For instance, West visited Gorky in New York during the 1939 World’s Fair. See “Notes on Gorky—Corinne Michael West,” Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Francis Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

[60] Gorky’s salary was reduced in November 1938 and again in August 1939, leaving him with a final wage of $87.60 a month.

[61] C.H. Bonte, “In the Gallery and Studio,” Philadelphia Inquirer, 29 September 1935.

[62] The exhibition announcement, which can be found in the Guild Art Gallery Records, ca. 1935–1939, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., lists the following artists: Boris Aronson, Don Forbes, Henry Major, Rosa Newman, Philip Reisman, Ben-Shmuel, and Ary Stillman. For Gorky’s inclusion in this exhibition, see Edward Allen Jewell, “Pop Hart, the Artist and the Man, New York Times,13 October 1935, sec. X.

[63] See the undated press release, Guild Art Gallery Records, ca. 1935–1939, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C. The following month, at the invitation of the Guild’s co-owner Anna Walinska, Léger viewed Gorky’s show of drawings at the Guild and also visited his studio. Walinska later asked Gorky about the visit, and he admitted that he panicked and hid his paintings at the last moment. See Spender, From a High Place, pp. 138–39.

[64] Guild Art Gallery Records, ca. 1935–1939, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; Howard Devree, “Abstractions,” New York Times, 22 December 1935; Carlyle Burrows, “Abstract Drawings,” New York Herald Tribune, 22 December 1935. James W. Lane, in a review in Parnassus 8 (March 1936), p. 27, proclaimed: “He is an abstractionist in the style of Miro, but his better-knit compositions have more rhythm and harmony than the Spaniard’s.”

[65] Guild Art Gallery records, ca. 1935–1939, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Gorky did not stay with the gallery for three years. A note on the contract by Margaret Lefranc (co-founder of the Guild Art Gallery; also known as Margaret Schoonover), dated 1 May 1981, states: “The Julian Levy Gallery offered Gorky a contract with a stipend of abt. $25.00 weekly, as we could not match that + we knew Gorky had financial difficulties, we released him of this contract.” While the agreement between the Guild Art Gallery and Gorky was indeed dissolved, the reasoning was faulty, as Levy did not offer Gorky a formal contract until 1944. Gorky did, however, receive $700 from Levy in the mid-1930s so that he could continue painting; see Spender, From a High Place, pp. 151–52.

[66] “W.P.A. Murals Are Too Much for La Guardia,” New York Herald Tribune, 28 December 1935.

[67] See Herrera, Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work, p. 258.

[68] In fact, the Bennett Field commission was given to Eugene Chodorow, whose more conservative proposal was favored by Mayor La Guardia.

[69] Holger Cahill, New Horizons in American Art (New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1936), p. 139.

[70] For a list of the works that Gorky included in the painting and drawing annuals and biennials, see Peter Hastings Falk, ed., The Annual and Biennial Exhibition Record of the Whitney Museum of American Art (Madison, CT: Sound View Press, 1991), pp. 184–85.

[71] By September 1939, the FAP/WPA had suffered a rigorous administrative reorganization, and the book project was eventually liquidated. The manuscript was later resurrected by Francis V. O’Connor in a volume titled Art for the Millions (Greenwich, CT: New York Graphic Society, 1973), which includes a history of the planned publication.

[72] Besides appearing in O’Connor’s 1973 study (ibid.), this essay is reproduced in Bowman, Murals without Walls, pp. 13–16.

[73] For Gorky’s involvement with this group, see Mooradian, The Many Worlds of Arshile Gorky, pp. 109–10, and George McNeil, “American Abstractionists Venerable at Twenty,” ARTnews 55, no. 3 (May 1956), pp. 64–65.

[74] See Julien Levy, Memoir of an Art Gallery (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1977), p. 284, and Levy’s forward to Seitz, Arshile Gorky: Paintings, Drawings, Studies, p. 8.

[75 ] This letter was first published in Mooradian, The Many Worlds of Arshile Gorky, pp. 251–52.

[76] See Gerard Sullivan, “Mr. Gorky’s Murals the Airport They Puzzle!” Newark Ledger, 10 June 1937; reproduced in Bowman, Murals without Walls, p. 39.

[77]Gorky to Vartoosh Mooradian, 12 October 1938, Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Frances Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Regarding the project, he wrote: “I am beginning on the sketches as soon as my studio is done. I believe they will be acceptable and worth about $3000. These are the murals in the Aviation Building.”

[78] When Gallet later sold some of the works by Gorky in her collection, she provided signed typed statements that read: “I was a student and friend of Arshile Gorky in the years 1938–40, and bought this drawing during that period,” The Arshile Gorky Foundation Archives. Their relationship must have begun early in 1938, as Gorky gave Gallet an inscribed painting as a Valentine in February of that year. See Graham, Gorky, Smith, and Davis in the Thirties, exh. cat. (Providence, RI: The Bell Gallery, Brown University, 1977), p. 17.

[79] Mooradian, The Many Worlds of Arshile Gorky, p. 113.

[80] See Herrera, Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work, p. 308.

[81] Peter Busa recollected that Gorky and Matta met at a small gathering and not at a gallery opening. See Provincetown Art Association and Museum, Life Colors Art: Fifty Years of Painting by Peter Busa, exh. cat.(Provincetown, MA: Provincetown Art Association and Museum, 1992), p. 51.

[82] John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Archives.  Gorky also asked Max Weber to write a letter of recommendation, which is reproduced in Matthew Spender, Arshile Gorky, Goats on the Roof,  p. 147. 

[83] Gorky to the Mooradians, 3 September 1940, Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Frances Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. “The other day,” he wrote, “I went to see Mr. Green [Greacen], [to ask] if he would put a classroom at the Grand Central School at my disposal. He said he would be glad to, but since there is a draft going on, he advised me to wait a few months, until he can tell more definitely how large an enrollment he would have.”

[84] Malcolm Johnson, “Café Life in New York,” New York Sun, 22 August 1941; reproduced in Spender, Arshile Gorky, Goats on the Roof, p. 172.

[85] Garden in Sochi entered the collection in exchange for Khorkom (Private Collection; Jordan cat. #212), a painting donated a year earlier by Ethel and Wolfgang Schwabacher. For a reproduction of Objects (1932), see Janie C. Lee and Melvin P. Lader, Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective of Drawings, exh. cat. (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art, 2003), no. 11.

[86] Author’s phone conversation with Agnes Gorky Fielding, 14 October 2008.

[87] See Martica Sawin, Surrealism in Exile and the Beginning of the New York School (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995), p. 158. This information was confirmed by Hayden Herrera in a telephone conversation with Ford; Herrera, Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work, pp. 382, 696.

[88] Brochure for Gorky’s camouflage course, 1942, Grand Central School of Art, New York, Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Francis Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. The biography within the brochure includes the usual falsehoods: “Born in Russia: Studied art at Julian Academy, also at various schools in Paris, Providence, Boston, New York, etc. Studied engineering at Polytechnic Institute, Tiflis, Russia.”

[89] Parsons, quoted in Mooradian, The Many Worlds of Arshile Gorky, p. 188.

[90] Arshile and Agnes Gorky to Vartoosh and Moorad Mooradian, 15 September 1941, Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Francis Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. The telegram, on a card from the Storey County Courthouse, reads: “We just got married and are sending our love to you.”

[91] Arshile and Agnes Gorky to Vartoosh, Moorad, and Karlen Mooradian, 28 December 1941, Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Francis Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

[92] In her 1957 biography of the artist, Schwabacher writes that Gorky spent three weeks at Schary’s home (Arshile Gorky, p. 93), but the trip was probably shorter. Besides Mougouch’s recollection, which we have in a letter she sent to Nathalie Campbell in February 1943 (reproduced in Spender, Arshile Gorky, Goats on the Roof, p. 213), there is Gorky’s letter to Vartoosh, dated 17 February 1943, which mentions a similar duration: “Last summer Agnes and I spent two weeks outdoors, in the sun, and it worked wonders for us;” Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Francis Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

[93] See Schwabacher, Arshile Gorky, p. 66; also Ethel Schwabacher Papers, roll N69-64, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

[94] See Schwabacher, Arshile Gorky, p. 102; also Ethel Schwabacher Papers, roll N69-64, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

[95] Phyllis Rosenzweig, Arshile Gorky: The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Collection, Smithsonian Institution, exh. cat. (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1979), p. 8.  A list in the archives of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., indicates that Hirshhorn purchased the works on 20 March 1943. This list was included in a letter from Wolfgang Schwabacher to Joseph Hirshhorn on 24 December 1948 (also in the Hirshhorn archives), and was presumably made by Agnes Gorky Fielding. Mougouch recalled seeing Gorky date a number of works in 1942, immediately before Joseph Hirshhorn purchased them, which argues for an earlier date for the transaction. See Jordan and Goldwater, The Paintings of Arshile Gorky, cat. 70, p. 196 n. 1.

[96] Mougouch recalled about this time: “He’d never seen fireflies before. He’d never seen milkweed before. We were there until late November. We had a change of seasons—the ripening in the fields. . . . He made well over 100 drawings. This summer was the real release of Gorky.” See Herrera, Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work, p. 414.

[97] James Johnson Sweeney, “Five American Painters,” Harper's Bazaar 78, no. 4 (April 1944), p. 122; reproduced in Spender, Arshile Gorky, Goats on the Roof, p. 220.

[98] Jeanne Reynal to Mougouch, April 28, [1944], Jeanne Reynal Papers, 1942–1968, roll N69-66, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. This letter was typed and dated 28 April by Reynal, but the year “1943” is handwritten, perhaps by another hand. The subject of the letter, the painting The Liver Is the Cock’s Comb, indicates that it was written in 1944.

[99] Sidney Janis, Abstract and Surrealist Art in America (New York: Reynal & Hitchcock, 1944), p. 120. This book was published in conjunction with the exhibition Abstract and Surrealist Art in the United States, which traveled in 1944 to the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Denver Art Museum, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and the San Francisco Museum of Art. A separate, shorter exhibition catalogue, with the same name as the exhibition and also by Janis, was published as well (San Francisco: San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1944).

[100] The contract is reproduced in Spender, Arshile Gorky, Goats on the Roof, pp. 252-253.

[101] Only a small number of exhibition catalogues were printed, but a copy of the catalogue can be found within the Julien Levy Archives, Philadelphia Museum of Art.  For a reproduction, see Spender, Arshile Gorky, Goats on the Roof, pp. 257-258.

[102] Clement Greenberg, “Art,” The Nation 160 (24 March 1945), pp. 342–43. After Gorky’s death, Greenberg wrote to Wolf Schwabacher on 17 December 1948, about this review: “I did not review Gorky’s 1947 show of drawings, but I did cover his 1945 show, in the Nation of March 24, 1945—and now regret a good many of the things I said, largely out of pedantry.” Earlier that year, in a letter to H. B. Bradbury on 25 August, Greenberg wrote: “Gorky was among the four or five most important painters alive in this country at the time he died. I would also say that he was one of the most important painters of his generation anywhere in the world and would have more than held his own in Paris, London, and Rome.” Both these letters can be found in the Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Francis Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

[103] Sawin, Surrealism in Exile and the Beginning of the New York School, p. 368.

[104] Gorky to Vartoosh Mooradian, 4 July 1945, Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Francis Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

[105] Gorky’s letter to Vartoosh Mooradian on 5 February indicates that the fire occurred ten days earlier, or on 26 January; Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Francis Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. But Mougouch wrote to Jeanne Reynal in January 1946 that it happened on Wednesday, 16 January, and that Gorky lost “all the drawings of these past 3 yrs except for some few at Juliens—[and] about 20 canvases.” See Spender, Arshile Gorky, Goats on the Roof, pp. 289-292. As Spender has noted, it is likely that the losses were exaggerated, as Gorky would not have taken his entire cache of drawings to Sherman; Spender, From A High Place, pp. 303–4.

[106] W. S. Schwabacher to Arshile Gorky, 19 March 1946, Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Francis Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. The New-Land Foundation was originally founded to assist refugees from Nazi countries.

[107] Clement Greenberg, “Art,” The Nation 162 (4 May 1946), p. 552.

[108] Gorky to Vartoosh Mooradian, 17 November 1946, Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Francis Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Gorky wrote that the family would return to New York City the “day after tomorrow,” or on 19 November.  The slightly different translation of “not tomorrow but the day after” appears in Spender, Arshile Gorky, Goats on the Roof, p. 316.

[109] “Reviews and Previews,” ARTnews 46, no. 1 (March 1947), p. 43.

[110] Spender, From a High Place, p. 352. Spender interviewed Elena Calas, wife of the Surrealist poet Nicolas Calas, who took a walk with Gorky and his daughters one day after lunch during this time. Gorky, who had brought a rope with him, apparently asked Maro to choose an appropriate tree from which to hang himself. See also Herrera, Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work, p. 557.

[111] Regarding Setrag’s death, Vartoosh recalled: “Our father died about 6 months before Gorky did, but Gorky never learned of this since I didn’t want to tell him because of Gorky’s condition”; Vartoosh Mooradian to Ethel Schwabacher, 8 February 1955, Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Francis Mulhall Achilles Library, Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. George Adoian, however, recalled that it was Satenig’s job to inform the family, and that she contacted Gorky with the news; Spender, From a High Place, p. 398 n. 337.

[112] “Old House Made New,” Life 24 (16 February 1948), pp. 90–92.

[113] Clement Greenberg, “Art,” The Nation 166 (20 March 1948), p. 331.

[114] Schwabacher, Arshile Gorky, p. 144 (emphasis in original).

[115] Peter Blume and Malcolm Cowley found Gorky’s body, and each had a different recollection of the note he left. Cowley remembered that the wording was “Goodby all my loved,” with the idea being that Gorky intended on writing “Goodby all my loved ones,” but the chalk had broken. Blume recalled the phrase as being “Goodby my loves.” See Mooradian, The Many Worlds of Arshile Gorky, pp. 104, 121. In his foreword to the 1962 exhibition catalogue Arshile Gorky: Paintings, Drawings, Studies, Julien Levy wrote (p. 9) that Gorky’s words in the note were “Goodbye My Loveds,” and this has become the form most often quoted.