Lot 193
  • 193


200,000 - 300,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Arshile Gorky
  • Head
  • Signed A. Gorky (center left)
  • Oil on board mounted on canvas
  • 30 1/4 by 11 1/8 in.
  • 76.8 by 28.6 cm
  • Painted circa 1930-31.


Armenian War Relief Benefit (donated by the artist in 1942)
Mr. Haroutune Hazarian, New York (acquired from the above)
Margit Chanin, Ltd., New York (acquired by 1962)
Sale: Parke-Bernet Galleries, New York, January 27, 1965, lot 155
Gallery Gertrude Stein, New York
M.A. Griben, Tarzana, California
Michael Long, United States (acquired by 1982)
Solomon & Co., New York
Acquired from the above


New York, Art Students League of New York, Art Exhibition for the Benefit of the Armenian War Relief, 1942, no. 227
New York, The Museum of Modern Art & Washington, D.C., Washington Gallery of Modern Art, Arshile Gorky, 1962-63, no. 29 (titled Untitled)


Harold Rosenberg, "Arshile Gorky His Art and His Influence," in Art News Annual, vol. V, 1961, illustrated p. 104
Jim Jordan & Robert Goldwater, The Paintings of Arshile Gorky: A Critical Catalogue, New York, 1982, no. 87, illustrated p. 87


The board has been mounted to a canvas, inherent to the artist's process. There is craquelure throughout. Under UV light, there are two small areas of inpainting in the white pigments in the lower register. There is some flaking along the top edge and a loss to the white pigment in the upper right corner where the board did not completely cover the canvas it is mounted to. The varnish is slightly yellowed.
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

Picasso’s Seated Woman from 1927 was among the 100 or so modern works of art included in the 1930 exhibition Painting in Paris at New York's newly-established Museum of Modern Art. Gorky was familiar with the painting from an illustration in Cahiers d’Art, but seeing it first-hand moved him deeply and when it returned to the museum for a Picasso retrospective in 1939 he would apparently stand in front of it for an hour at a time. The present oil was painted during Gorky’s early immersion into the world of the great Spanish painter. Its construction, evocative palette and looping curves point to the elements of Seated Woman that spoke to him so strongly, as well as Picasso’s work more broadly—the narrow upright format for example, which is characteristic of Picasso’s work of the late 1910s but unusual in Gorky’s oeuvre. “I was with Cezanne for a long time” he said of this period, “and now naturally I am with Picasso” (quoted in Julien Levy, Arshile Gorky, New York, 1966, p. 56). Stuart Davis was among the few at the time who recognized this approach for what it was: assimilation rather than imitation. Gorky underscored his position: “Has there in six centuries been better art than Cubism? No. Centuries will go past—artists of gigantic stature will draw positive elements from Cubism” (quoted in “Stuart Davis,” in Creative Art, September 1931, p. 213). Gorky has long since been acknowledged as the vital link between European Modern art and American Abstract Expressionism and his early work was an important stage for his synthesis of the established with the revolutionary. As Diane Waldman writes, “Only after mastering this old language did he feel he could invent a new one” (Diane Waldman, Arshile Gorky (exhibition catalogue), The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, 1981, p. 22). Gorky had arrived in the United States in 1920 with little formal artistic education, but he was a determined autodidact and rapidly absorbed the lessons of Post-Impressionism, Analytic Cubism and Surrealism. On meeting Gorky in New York, de Kooning wrote, “I came in 1926 [from Rotterdam] and in a way I had more legitimate schooling in Holland, but the things I was supposed to know he knew much better” (quoted in Karlen Mooradian, The Many Worlds of Arshile Gorky, Chicago, 1980, p.217).

In April 1930 Gorky took part in his first group exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art (misleadingly stating in the catalogue that he was born in Russia and had studied under Kandinsky), but it was an inauspicious time to be pushing the boundaries of non-representational art in the United States. The crash of 1929 had initiated a conservative climate, such that being an artist at all was considered somewhat frivolous and to be an abstract artist was even more suspect. The collapse of the American avant garde during the economic slump was more complete than it had been in Europe and the traditional aesthetic of the Provincialist schools was more in tune with the prevailing mood. Gorky was undeterred. Despite strained financial circumstances, he lived off coffee and doughnuts rather than compromise on materials, and contemporaries often remarked on the high quality of his paints and canvases and how freely he got through them. In 1930 he even took a studio at 36 Union Square at a time when most fellow New York artists were painting in their bedrooms for lack of better quarters.

This work is recorded in the Arshile Gorky Foundation Archives under number P087.