Executed circa 1946, this work will be included in the forthcoming Catalogue Raisonne of Arshile Gorky, currently being prepared by The Arshile Gorky Foundation and Melissa Kerr.
E. Weyhe, New York (acquired directly from the artist circa 1946)
Thence by descent to the present owner
Untitled, circa 1946, once belonged to Erhard Weyhe, the owner of the venerable Weyhe Book Store and Gallery at 794 Lexington Avenue. Erhard emigrated from England on the eve of World War I and soon opened the doors to his shop that specialized in the sale of art books. His shop soon became the center of modernist artistic activity, and as such, it became a favorite haunt for Gorky, whose beautiful collection of art books was quite impressive. Described as a "fervent scrutinizer" of art books, Mr. Weyhe recalled the following, "Gorky would always come in the morning and sit in a certain chair. He never had any money but he was very welcome here and felt at home...O he loved to see every new book. He'd sit here and use it as a library." (In Hayden Herrera, Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work, New York, 2003, p. 212). Mr. Weyhe was well known for allowing many artists to take books away on credit, and similarly, when Gorky wanted a book he could not afford, Wehye would allow him to buy the book on exchange. It is this practice which is presumably the reason for the dedication and the inscribed date of 1934, likely the date upon which Gorky assumed a debt to Weyhe. As Gorky was rarely, if ever, in a financial position to pay for the debt prior to 1944, it is most likely that when the time came to settle the debt, Weyhe preferred a work of art.
The present drawing, which bears extraordinary iconographic likeness to the imagery in Diary of a Seducer, 1945, in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, is rendered with a disciplined engagement to the aesthetic theories of the Surrealist movement – a movement highly influential to Gorky and other New York school artists in the 1940s. Gorky wholeheartedly adopted the "automatic écriture" which accounts for his sinuous lines that meander across the controlled biomorphic forms, with a controlled yet explorative force. A powerful and confident drawing, Untitled, was executed at the pinnacle of a life and career marred by tragedy, within the years of the first critically well-received exhibition of Gorky's work at the Julien Levy Gallery on April 9, 1946. It is likely, that upon hearing the praise, Mr. Wehye astutely visited Gorky in order to secure drawings for his collection, and the inclusion in this sale represents the first time this masterful work is unveiled in the public domain.
We are grateful to Mrs. Magouch Gorky Fielding for her generous assistance in the research and cataloguing of this lot.
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