Painting dates from the early 1940s, the crucial watershed in the life and art of Arshile Gorky. During this time period, he began the Garden in Sochi series, in which the artist found his own unique idiom. He distilled the exhaustive artistic experiments and profound erudition he had developed over the previous two decades, and merged them with his deeply felt nostalgia for his lost homeland, Armenia, from which he had long been an exile. The forms of Miró's paintings, formerly such a heavy influence, have loosened, giving way to something more ethereal and all the more evocative. The landscape of the American countryside, which he began to discover during precisely this period and where he would subsequently make his home, became a template upon which his pictures could transpose half-remembered figments from his childhood Armenia. In Painting, the similarities with the early pictures of Garden in Sochi are clear on every level, from the palette to the varied texture of the paint -- which in parts was already showing Gorky's increasing tendency towards thinness -- and to the enigmatic forms that hover elusively just beyond recognition.
It was in conveying this sense of the ungraspable, the not-quite-remembered, that Gorky's late paintings found such success and, later, became so recognized and influential. In Painting, Gorky combines instinct, memory and personal, emotional content in a unique and groundbreaking way. His visual idiom in this work touches upon some of his interests in Surrealism while also prefiguring Abstract Expressionism.
For Gorky, the elusive nature of his memories of his homeland helped make them all the more universal, despite their highly subjective and autobiographical origins. These images were designed for general consumption. While the elements that now came to fill his paintings were derived from specific objects and features in the long-lost garden in Sochi, they had melted, lost their specificity, and thereby became something infinitely evocative, something to which any viewer would relate. "Sweet Vartoosh, loving memories of our garden in Armenia's Khorkom haunt me frequently," he explained in a letter to his sister. "In my art I often draw our garden and recreate its precious greenery and life. Can a son forget the soil which sires him? Beloveds, the stuff of thought is the seed of the artist. Dreams form the bristles of the artist's brush. And as the eye functions as the brain's sentry, I communicate my most private perceptions through my art, my view of the world. In trying to probe beyond the ordinary and the known, I create an inner infinity. I probe within the confines of the finite to create an infinity" (A. Gorky, quoted in M. Auping, Arshile Gorky: The Breakthrough Years, exh. cat., Fort Worth & Buffalo, 1995, p. 17).