Arshile Gorky

“…And for some mysterious reason, he knew lots more about painting, and art, he just knew it by nature – things I was supposed to know and feel and understand – he really did it better. He had an extraordinary gift for hitting the nail on the head, very remarkable, so I immediately attached myself to him and we became very good friends.”



Gorky’s painting with his mother, Whitney Museum

The pioneer of American abstract expressionism, Arshile Gorky, came to US as a refugee of the 1915 Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Turkish Ottoman Empire in Western Armenia, and in his short life (15 April 1904 – July 21, 1948) he left an indelible mark on XX century art.

His masterpieces grace the walls of most major museums including The Metropolitan, MOMA, MOCA, LACMA, Whitney and National Art Gallery (which, incidentally, organized the American premiere of Vartanov‘s Parajanov: The Last Spring in Washington DC).

Gorky’s character appears in Oscar-nominated director Atom Egoyan’s film-in-film Ararat about the Armenian Genocide, and he is the subject of his granddaughter’s documentary Without Gorky starring his daughter Maro, also a painter. Maro’s home in Italy was the location of Bernardo Bertolucci‘s film Stealing Beauty with Liv Tyler.

“I have had quite a few friends commit suicide, but was never able to see the dramatic necessity for it that Marilee saw in Ibsen’s play. That I can’t see that necessity is probably yet another mark of my shallowness as a participant in a life of serious art. These are just my painter friends who killed themselves, all with considerable artistic successes behind them or soon to come: Arshile Gorky hanged himself in 1948. Jackson Pollock, while drunk, drove his car into a tree along a deserted road in 1956 […] Yes, and Mark Rothko, with enough sleeping pills in his medicine cabinet to kill an elephant, slashed himself to death with a knife in 1970.”

—KURT VONNEGUT (Bluebeard)

Parajanov-Vartanov Institute


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