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Arshile Gorky (1904-1948)
Property from an Important American Collection 
Arshile Gorky (1904-1948)


Arshile Gorky (1904-1948)
signed 'A. Gorky' (upper left)
graphite and gouache on paper
image: 14 x 12 in. (35.6 x 30.5 cm.)
sheet: 17 7/8 x 12 in. (45.4 x 30.5 cm.)
Painted circa 1941. (4)
Arnold Herstand & Co., New York
Harvey and Françoise Rambach, Locust, New Jersey, 1987
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Boca Raton Museum of Art, Masterpieces of American Modernism: Selections from the Harvey and Françoise Rambach Collection, March-April 1995, pp. 42-43 (illustrated).
Roslyn Harbor, Nassau County Museum of Art, American Vanguards, January-April 1996, pp. 68 and 90, no. 46 (illustrated in color).
Youngstown, Butler Institute of Art, Masterpieces of American Modernism: The Rambach Collection, January-April 1998, p. 12 (illustrated in color).
New York, Gerald Peters Gallery, American Modernism: The Françoise and Harvey Rambach Collection, pp. 129 and 280 (illustrated in color).
Philadelphia Museum of Art; London, Tate Modern and Los Angeles, Museum of Contemporary Art, Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective, October 2009-September 2010, p. 250, no. 89 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

The origins of the colorful interlocking forms in Arshile Gorky's Untitled can be traced back to the artist's involvement with the New York Surrealist movement of the 1920s and 1930s. Strong colors and robust forms had always played an important role in Gorky's artistic life due to his Armenian background and his love of the brightly colored folkloric paintings of his homeland. His prominent position within New York art circles had bought him into contact with many of the leading lights of the Surrealist movement who had moved to the United States due to the outbreak of hostilities in Europe. He eagerly sought out the work of artists like Pablo Picasso, Giorgio de Chirico, and Joan Miró in New York's museums and devoured all the art magazines, books and exhibition catalogues that he could lay his hands on. The converging of these influences resulted in Gorky developing a lexicon of painting that was neither full-blown automatism nor recognizable representational painting. Untitled exemplifies this new style of painting that resulted in free-floating images, shapes, and forms that derived much from Miró's nature-based abstractions of the 1930s. Similar to his three Garden in Sochi masterworks, painted during the first few years of the 1940s, the organic and biomorphic forms in Untitled jostle and crowd each other for attention; but yet, Gorky refuses to allow any one of the forms to become dominant, with each retaining its own individual identity and dignity.

Untitled represents an important step in Gorky's journey from his early work to the mature style he was developing during this period, just a few years before his untimely death in 1948. His unique style has meant that he is one of the most pivotal artists in the development of 20th century American art who, after absorbing lessons of Post-Impressionism, Analytic Cubism , and especially Surrealism, began creating works in his own unique visual language. His synthesis of modernism's many inventions, combined with his passionate embrace of nature, created a new vision for painting that would inform the work of his fellow artists of the 1940s and 1950s, from Willem de Kooning to Clyfford Still. It is in works such as Untitled that we see this pure, autonomous, highly fluid, unpredictable line which begins in nature and ends in pure expression.

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