The great art of our people lies hidden in ruins and amid the daily life of remote villages. Our great art has been created by an innocent people who were never accustomed and never had through the sad ages any opportunity to tell the world about their achievements. We are a race of artists. And art is far superior to war because art creates while war destroys. Art preserves beauty while war produces only ugliness and unhappiness. Someday the world will become better acquainted with the art of Armenia.
Gorky was born in Khorkom, Lake Van in 1904. As he was entering high school the Turks began the 1914 siege of Lake Van. Killed were both sets of his grandparents, six uncles and three aunts. His mother died in his arms on the 150 mile death march. One of his most famous paintings is that of his mother, depicting her as she was in his memory.
Gorky arrived in America on March 1, 1920. His father had left for America in 1908 to avoid the Turkish draft which was systematically putting to death the Armenians under the cloak of war.
In 1925 Gorky set up a studio in New York where he began his portrait painting. He adopted the name Arshile (provincial form of the name Arshak) and Gorky (Russian for “bitter”).
For 20 years Ashile Gorky had a productive life as an artist painting murals, teaching art and exhibiting his work. His work reflected his love for his homeland and his family. It was in 1945 at an exhibit at the Julien Levy Gallery that he was hailed by a critic as having produced the most original art in U.S. history.
It was at this time that tragedy struck Gorky yet again. He was never financially solvent in spite of his success. Then a fire in his Connecticut studio destroyed many of his paintings. An unfortunate automobile accident left his neck broken and his arm paralyzed, leaving him unable to paint. His wife and two children left him. Sad and alone, Gorky committed suicide by hanging.
Source: Avakian, Arra S. Armenia: A Journey Through History (The Electric Press, 1998).
Photography of Gorky and his Mother Painting of Gorky and his Mother
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