Arshile Gorky

"My beloved one, aesthetic or true art is art with depth and feeling. It is the product of a sensitive artist who is expressing his universal feelings for no reason other than the very human desire to communicate his deepest thoughts to his fellow man. It is saturated with thought and must force the viewer to give up a part of himself in order to extract as much as possible out of the particular work."

Arshile Gorky, 1946.

Arshile Gorky was one of the pioneering Abstract Expressionist painters in America. He was interested in the new abstract and experimental work emerging in Europe, in particular the work of the Cubists and the Surrealists. He studied both old and modern masters very attentively.

Though largely self-taught, Gorky studied and later taught at the Grand Central School of Art. In the 1930s, he worked on a large mural for the Federal Arts Project for the Newark airport creating one of the earliest public abstract murals. His early works explored a number of stylistic movements, before settling on the biomorphic shapes created with spare black lines and brilliant applications and washes of colour. Unlike the more spontaneous or automatic approaches of the surrealists and abstract expressionists, Gorky worked out his compositions through careful studies and sketches.

In the 1940s, at the height of his powers, Gorky experienced a number of personal misfortunes, his studio was destroyed by fire, he developed cancer, he was in a serious car accident and his wife left him. Charred Beloved II memorializes the loss of his studio. Gorky's work was instrumental in developing the ground for a new generation of artists and his influence was felt by a number of artists in particular Willem de Kooning.