Arshile Gorky, a great American artist of the 20th century

Arshile Gorky, a great American artist of the 20th century

"He had an uncanny instinct for all art…an extraordinary gift for hitting the nail on the head." - Willem de Koonig

Who he was

Arshile Gorky was a major figure in surrealism and one of the founders of the abstract expressionism movement. He is considered one of the great American artists of the 20th century. 

Born Vosdanig Manoug Adoyan in the Ottoman Empire sometime between 1902 and 1904 he was an eyewitness to the Armenian Genocide, during which his mother died of starvation. He immigrated to the United States an orphan and changed his name to start anew, though the horrific experiences of his early years would remain with him and even influence his art.  

After enrolling in art school Gorky began showing off his talent through various exhibitions. Although he was strongly influenced by Pablo Picasso and Paul Cezanne, he gradually developed a distinctive style that secured him a place among the best artists of his time. The active domestic and international art scene that converged upon New York City, where Gorky lived, led to a friendship with Dutch artist Willem de Koonig and an occasionally fierce rivalry with Jackson Pollock.

Severely depressed after a number of personal tragedies, including the destruction of many of his paintings in a studio fire, Gorky committed suicide. His work continues to be exhibited in major museums across the world.  

Interesting fact

He claimed he was a relative of Russian writer Maxim Gorky, though the writer himself had also changed his name from Alexey Maksimovich Peshkov. 

Learn more about him

Arshile Gorky Foundation

Arshile Gorky’s Art

Guggenheim: Arshile Gorky