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Arshile Gorky

(1904—1948) Turkish-born American painter

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Armenian-born US painter, who has been described as the last of the great surrealists and the first of the abstract expressionists.

Gorky arrived in the USA in 1920 and in 1925 moved to New York in order to study and later teach at the Grand Central School of Art. He deliberately set out to emulate and master the styles of old and modern masters: the influence of Picasso, in particular, can be seen in his early work. His first one-man show was in 1934 after he had given up teaching, and the following year he began work on an abstract mural at Newark airport for the Federal Arts Project.

The personal style for which he is best known appeared in the early 1940s in such paintings as Garden in Sochi (1941) and The Liver is the Cock's Comb (1944). It was an abstract style using biomorphic forms not unlike those of Miró;, characterized by thin painting, bright colours, and sinuous black lines. The surrealistic element in his work is evident in the ambiguity of its hybrid forms, which replaced the literal idiom of earlier surrealism. The accidental destruction by fire of much of Gorky's late work in 1946 began a series of misfortunes that included illness and injury and ended in the artist's suicide.

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