Born in Turkey in 1904, Vosdanik Adoian escaped the massacres of Armenians in 1915 only to watch his mother die of starvation, his sister abandoned to an orphanage (where she disappeared), and his remaining family scattered in their flight from the Turks. Arriving with another sister in Massachusetts, in 1920, Adoian invented the pseudonym Arshile ...
Born in Turkey in 1904, Vosdanik Adoian escaped the massacres of Armenians in 1915 only to watch his mother die of starvation, his sister abandoned to an orphanage (where she disappeared), and his remaining family scattered in their flight from the Turks. Arriving with another sister in Massachusetts, in 1920, Adoian invented the pseudonym Arshile Gorky - and obliterated his past. Claiming to be a distant cousin of the novelist Maxim Gorky, trained at the Rhode Island School of Design, he found work as an art teacher, moved to New York, and meanwhile undertook a program of rigorous, solitary study, schooling himself in the modern painters he most admired, especially Cezannes and Picasso. By the thirties Gorky was recognized as a leader by Willem de Kooning and David Smith, among others, but it was only in 1939 that he entered his most fruitful period and developed the style known as Abstract Surrealism. His masterpieces - enigmatic works that both baffled viewers and moved them to tears - established Gorky's genius, and influenced the great generation of postwar American painters, even as Gorky faced a series of personal catastrophes. Hayden Herrera's biography is the first to interpret Gorky's work in depth. The result of more than three decades of scholarship - and a lifelong engagement with Gorky's paintings - ARSHILE GORKY traces the progress from apprentice to master of the man Andre Breton called 'the most important painter in American history'.
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Publishers Weekly, 2003-05-05 Most recently seen as a silent, enigmatic figure in the Armenian-Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan's Ararat, modernist painter Gorky (1900?-1948) is fastidiously served in this comprehensive biography. Born near Lake Van in Ottoman-held Armenia, the young Gorky witnessed the Armenian genocide, a horror that Herrera (Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo) covers with extreme care. Following Gorky's emigration to the U.S. in 1920 and his name change from Manouk Adoian (he claimed to be the cousin of Russian writer Maxim Gorky), Herrera establishes the bulk of the narrative around Gorky's paintings, describing what he was working on when and under what circumstances. Most of Gorky's work life was based in New York, where, by the 1930s, he was paid a salary by the WPA for murals and other work in his surrealist style, largely derived from Miro and Leger, as the 64 pages of color and b&w images affirm. Herrera expects and encounters many difficulties in untangling the secretive Gorky's feelings and mostly confines herself to quoting others extensively, including long passages from the letters of Gorky's American wife, Agnes Magruder (or as Gorky called her, "Mougouch"). Herrera's restraint and suspension of judgment can flatten out events, yet she lingers for paragraphs on Gorky's many paintings, describing them, speculating on their meanings with lucidity and documenting their sales. The result is a book that, exhaustive in its research, will be a starting point for scholars and critics, but that will fail to engross casual readers. Conversely, readers already familiar with Gorky who are looking for political meanings to his suicide, shown here as undertaken in physical and marital distress, may find less than they are looking for. (July) Forecast: The Gorky of the film Ararat is an early Gorky, who paints in an autobiographically realist style. This book will find some readers looking for more than the movie gave them, but the lack of a forthcoming major Gorky retrospective is a drawback. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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