Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work

The Star, Malaysia
April 2 2004

Book Review:
Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work
Author: Hayden Herrera
Publisher: Bloomsbury

BORN in Turkey around 1900, Vosdanik Adoian escaped the massacres of
Armenians in 1915 only to watch his mother die of starvation and his
family scatter in their flight from the Turks.

Arriving in America in 1920, Adoian invented the pseudonym Arshile
Gorky and obliterated his past.

Claiming to be a distant cousin of the novelist Maxim Gorky, he found
work as an art teacher in Boston, then New York, and undertook a
programme of rigorous study, schooling himself in the modern painters
he most admired, especially Cezanne and Picasso.

By the 1940s, Gorky had developed a style that is seen as the link
between European modernism and American abstract expressionism. His
masterpieces influenced the great generations of American painters
who came of age after World War II, even as Gorky faced a series of
personal catastrophes: a studio fire that destroyed dozens of his
paintings, a wasting battle with cancer, and a car accident that
temporarily paralysed his painting arm. Further demoralised by the
dissolution of his seven-year marriage, Gorky hanged himself in 1948.

Hayden Herrera is the author of Mary Frank, Matisse: A Portrait and
Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo. She lives and works in New York.

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