Artist
Arshile Gorky
Armenian-American painter

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Arshile Gorky
Armenian-American painter
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Birth Date

April 15, 1904

Death Date

July 21, 1948

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Contributor

Arshile Gorky’s life was one long bummer. (Well, not that long.)

“Gorky told friends that his mother had called him ‘the black one, the unlucky one who will come to a no-good end.’” This was a lie because in general Gorky was a big, fat liar, but the sentiment turned out to be remarkably true.

Gorky, whose real name is Vostanik Manoug Adoian, was born somewhere between 1904 and 1906 (we don’t know the exact date because as I mentioned, he was a liar), just before the beginning of the Armenian Genocide. He was an odd bird and didn’t speak before he was six years old and when he did speak his first words were things like, “‘No, I won’t!’”; “‘I am here’”; “‘I am crying’”; or “‘Money, money, money. That’s all you ever talk about, money.’” Things only got worse when the genocide began (obviously). His father fled to America without them and his mother died of starvation in his arms in 1919. Eventually Gorky got out of the Ottoman Empire and went to America to meet up with his father but they didn’t exactly bond since he bailed on them and allowed Gorky’s mother to die. A damper on any relationship.

Eventually Gorky changed his name and claimed to be related to the Russian writer Maxim Gorky, which he apparently didn’t know was a pen name. At first his artistric style was mostly like bad fan art of Cezanne and Picasso but eventually he would come into his own. Unfortunately we cannot say the same for his relationships with women. Even his wife didn’t know his true identity (a testament to their deep connection I’m sure). One of his exes claimed, “You thought that at the back of his mind, even while having intercourse, he was thinking, ‘Oh my goodness, all my strength is going! I should save it up for painting!’” And then eventually he would beat them and threaten to commit suicide. He was not an altogether great guy. 

When he found “the one” it wasn’t long before his life completely fell apart. In chronological order: his studio burned down, he had a colostomy for rectal cancer, and his wife began an affair with his best friend, after which he pushed her down a flight of stairs in front of their children. He then got in an accident that temporarily paralyzed his painting arm and his wife, quite righteously, left him. So Gorky, at the tender age of 44 (a guess-timate because again, he lied a lot) hung himself and thus ended the career of one of the most influential artists of all time. RIP Gorky, because God knows you never had any peace while you were alive.

Sources

Sources

  1. Schjeldahl, Peter. Self-Made Man. (The New Yorker), February 18, 2015. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2003/09/08/self-made-man.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Arshile Gorky

Arshile Gorky (/ˌɑːrʃl ˈɡɔːrk/; born Vostanik Manoug Adoian, Armenian: Ոստանիկ Մանուկ Ատոյեան; April 15, 1904 – July 21, 1948) was an Armenian-American painter, who had a seminal influence on Abstract Expressionism. He spent most his life as a national of the United States. Along with Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, Gorky has been hailed as one of the most powerful American painters of the 20th century. As such, his works were often speculated to have been informed by the suffering and loss he experienced in the Armenian Genocide.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Arshile Gorky.