Immigrants, such as Gorky and his friend Willem de Kooning, possessed a special gift for forging grand syntheses, whether of one's past with the present or of artistic traditions with radical innovations. Unlike de Kooning, Gorky had no formal art training, and taught himself by copying masters such as Cézanne and Picasso. Yet, Surrealism was the catalyst that fired Gorky toward a new level of experimentation which merged his interest in Cubist space with his impulse toward fantastical imagery. Gorky was steeped in the writings and works of the Parisian Surrealists many years before they arrived in New York. He saw their art in museums, visiting seminal shows such as Fantastic Art, Dada, Surrealism at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1937. He consumed books and journals borrowed from his friend, the artist John Graham. As early as 1932, his work appeared in Surréallisme, Julien Levy's first major show in his new Manhattan gallery. Showcasing the work of Max Ernst, Salvador Dalí and Man Ray, Levy was one of the few gallerists in New York at that time and soon became the premiere destination and major resource for young artists interested in Surrealist art in the 1930s and 1940s. Levy’s 1936 book titled Surrealism had a deep impact on the young Gorky as Michael Taylor relates in his essay for the 2009 retrospective of Gorky's work, recounting that “the artist immediately read the entire volume in the back room of the gallery and soon borrowed it to take back to his studio, where he swiftly responded to its black-and-white reproductions in his own work. Levy's book appears to have encouraged Gorky to move away from his interest in the spatial effects of Cubism, which had culminated in the recently completed painting Organization (1933-36), toward a new form of abstraction that incorporated biomorphic shapes derived from Redon, Miró and Hans (Jean) Arp, while also bearing his own, unique imprint.” (Exh. Cat., Philadelphia Museum of Art, Arshile Gorky: a Retrospective, 2009, pp. 97-98) Levy would become Gorky's dealer and champion in the 1940s and mount one-man shows of his work. Indeed, Impatience was one of twelve paintings in Gorky’s second solo show at Julien Levy Gallery (1946) along with two related paintings also from 1945: Landscape Table (Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris) and Hugging (also referred to as Good Hope Road II) (Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza,Madrid).
Surrealism was the ideal aesthetic doctrine for the expression of Gorky's biomorphic compositions of line and color, engendering hybrids that were equal parts description, memory and pure abstraction. Gorky's Armenian hometown of Khorkom and his childhood garden were the wellspring for the inventive forms, rhythms, lines, colors and creatures of his vision that weave throughout the pictorial vocabulary of the paintings of 1938 to 1948 which comprise his mature career. From his past, landscape and nature were Gorky’s touchstone for deep emotion, remembrance, loss and celebration, but it was his Summer 1943 visit to his in-laws in the Virginia countryside that occasioned his liberation to the landscape-inspired visions that brought him acclaim among critics and fellow artists. On his return to New York from his 1943 sojourn in Virginia, Gorky shared his new work with close friends such as Dorothy Miller and was assured that they were a breakthrough in his oeuvre. Miller, the far-sighted curator at the Museumof Modern Art in New York, remembered. “[Gorky] came back with this huge portfolio full of those wonderful pencil drawings – crayons with pencil in them. I was crazy about them.” (Nouritza Matossian, Black Angel: a Life of Arshile Gorky, London, 1998, p. 351) Inspired by this support, Gorky experienced a burst of creative activity that would produce paintings such as Impatience, One Year the Milkweed (1944, Collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C.) and How My Mother’s Embroidered Apron Unfolds in My Life (1944, SeattleArt Museum) which are the pinnacle of his fame and influence.
When Gorky and his wife relocated to Connecticut, he was not alone in his retreat to the country surrounding New York City. Andre Breton, the author of the 1924 Surrealist Manifesto who looked to Gorky as the premiere American interpreter of the genre “frequently left New York for excursions into the surrounding countryside, especially to the Surrealist enclave that Gorky, along with Peter Blume, Alexander Calder, Malcolm Cowley, Masson and Tanguy and his wife Kay Sage, had formed in rural Connecticut, which served as a safe haven for displaced artists and writers. Many of them found inspiration in the animal and plant life they found in the country." (Ibid., p. 112) The anthropomorphic forms in Tanguy’s Les Jeux Nouveau of 1940 and the thin veils of paint in the amorphous background are instructive corollaries to Gorky’s finely attuned eye for line and color in Impatience. Traces of the influence of Joan Miró, whom Gorky would finally meet in 1947, also inform the jewel-like color tones and vast cosmos of abstracted forms that flow across the undefined space of the artist’s Impatience. Miró’s masterful balance of drawing and pigment within his paintings was formative to Gorky’s work, but unlike Miró, Gorky's shapes remain relatively flat without modeling and spatial illusionism. Ultimately, the unique character of Gorky’s genius can be traced to his linear genius whether on paper or in canvases such as Impatience. When Matta suggested to Gorky that he thin his pigments into veils of color, one of the motivations was to preserve the primacy of drawing in Gorky’s art. His contemporaries prized the spontaneity of Gorky’s draftsmanship and appreciated its indispensable role in his brilliant reinvention of form as metaphor and as subject matter. Despite his shared affinities for color, line, anthropomorphism and automatism with Tanguy, Miró and Matta, among others, Gorky’s compositions are refined and distilled to their formal essentials. In Impatience, velvety blacks underpin and interweave the delicate outlines of fantastical forms. Figure and ground are merged, creating a sense of floating imagery, encompassed by the jewel-like tones of green, yellow, orange, blue and red. The hint of a warming fire punctuates the almost limitless space, and serves as a grounding counterpart to the broad swathes of green and yellow that exist outside the linear forms.
As such, Impatience aptly demonstrates Gorky’s unique historical position as an artist welcomed by the Surrealists and championed as the bridge between their arrival and in the 1940s and the hegemony of American art of the 1950s. A year before Impatience was painted, his friend, Willem de Kooning paid homage to Gorky as a pioneering artist by purposefully correcting the impression that he was an influence on Gorky and acknowledging that the opposite was true. "When, about fifteen years ago, I walked into Arshile's studio for the first time, the atmosphere was so beautiful that I got a little dizzy and when I came to, I was bright enough to take the hint immediately. If the bookkeepers think it necessary continuously to make sure of where things and people come from, well then, I come from 36 Union Square [Gorky's studio]. ...I am glad that it is about impossible to get away from his powerful influence." ("Letters to the Editor," Art News, April 1944, pp. 122-24)
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