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    Sale 2255

    The Modern Age: The Collection of Alice Lawrence

    5 - 6 November 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 49

    Arshile Gorky (1904-1948)


    Price Realised  


    Arshile Gorky (1904-1948)
    oil on canvas laid down on masonite
    38 x 26 in. (96.5 x 66 cm.)
    Painted in 1936

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    Arshile Gorky's Abstraction of 1936 is a premier example of the artist's work of the 1930's. The late 1930's were a painful but productive period of assimilation and discovery for the artist, through which he found the complex formal vocabulary that would serve as a crucial bridge between European Surrealism and the newly nascent Abstract Expressionism. Gorky assimilated the pictorial innovations of Cézanne, Picasso, Kandinsky, Miró and the Surrealists. As demonstrated in Abstraction, his unique combinations and re-interpretations would create a new vision for painting in the coming decades that would inform the work of his fellow artists from Willem de Kooning to Clyfford Still.

    As demonstrated in Abstraction, Gorky integrates figure and ground, expressing his vision through the influence of Miró with abstract forms. However, unlike Miró, Gorky's shapes remain relatively flat without modeling and spatial illusionism. In Abstraction, the angular blocks of yellow, blue and soft grey and the large wedge of red, are all suspended in a thickly painted and flat white space, linked by a bold black border that weaves form to form. In this technique of surrounding the figures with heavy black outlines or metal bands (cloisons), we see a strong influence from Picasso's Expressionist/Surrealist or "cloisonné" Cubism of the late 1920's and 1930's. Other traces of Cubist technique from still life can be glimpsed in Gorky's paintings of the 1930s, including Abstraction, where certain forms, such as the profile of face are vaguely identifiable in the composition. Gorky had no formal art training, and largely taught himself by copying masters such as Cézanne and Picasso. By the late 1930's, the artist had found his own mature style of painting.


    Mr. and Mrs. Hans Burkhardt, New York.
    Anon. sale, Sotheby Parke-Bernet, New York, 13 December 1972, lot 68.
    Allan Stone Gallery, New York.
    Associated American Artists, New York.
    Acquired from the above by the late owner.

    Pre-Lot Text



    J.-L. Bordeaux, "Arshile Gorky: His Formative Period (1925-1937)," in American Art Review, vol. 1, no. 4, May-June 1974, pp. 105 and 107 (illustrated in color).
    R. Goldwater, The Paintings of Arshile Gorky: A Critical Catalogue, New York, 1982, p. 311-312, no. 168 (illustrated).


    Pasadena Museum of Art, Paintings by Arshile Gorky, January- February 1958.
    La Jolla Museum of Art, Arshile Gorky Paintings and Drawings 1927-1937: The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Hans Burkhardt, February-March 1963, nos. 3 and 4 (illustrated).
    New York, Associated American Artists, The Artists of Union Square, October 1987, no. 22.