| Gorky, Arshile Biography
Armenian-born American oil painter, whose work combined geometric abstraction and quasi-figurative surrealism, and who acted as a major link between European surrealism and United States abstract expressionism. Arshile Gorky was born in Armenia. In 1920 he emigrated to the United States and studied art at the Rhode Island School of Design enthusiastically entering into the Bohemian life of Greenwich Village in New York City, occasionally passing himself off as a successful Russian portraitist who had studied in Paris and experimented with Automatism. His earliest oil paintings showed the influence of Paul Cezanne, European cubism, and especially Pablo Picasso. After 1939, his works were influenced by the European surrealists and by the abstractions of Wassily Kandinsky and Joan Miro. By bringing these styles to America, Gorky exerted great influence on later American oil painting. In particular, he had an effect on the developing abstract expressionist style of his contemporaries Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning. Gorky's later artworks, such as The Liver is the Cock's Comb (1944, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York) and Agony (1947, Museum of Modern Art, New York City), like surrealist paintings, are expressive of his subconscious fantasies. The erotic significance of the loosely painted forms and elegant, fine black lines is often made explicit in such titles as The Diary of a Seducer (1945) and The Betrothal II (1947). The years that saw Gorky finally emerge as one of the most important painters in the United States were marked by personal tragedy, however. In early 1946 Gorky lost many of his oil paintings in a studio fire, and soon after he underwent an operation for cancer. In June 1948 his neck was broken in an automobile accident and he lost the use of his painting hand. His wife left him the following month, and shortly thereafter he hanged himself.
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