Armen Elliott Photo

Arshille Gorky Retrospective in Philadelphia


I was lucky enough to see the Arshille Gorky retrospective exhibit on its last day at the Philadelphia Art Museum.  Gorky holds a place in art history as the last of the great surrealist painters and a pivotal precursor to American Abstract Expressionism.  As a teenager he witnessed the Armenian Genocide by the Ottoman Empire and the subsequent death of his mother.  His iconic self-portrait with his mother is shown in the museum’s pamphlet for the exhibit, displayed above.  After coming to the United States in 1920, he studied art, worked and befriended the artists Max Ernst, Andre Breton,Wifredo Lam and Yves Tanguy.  He was a prolific painter and, following a series of personal tragedies, took his own life at the age of 46.

The process itself of creating art is fascinating to me and so it was with great interest that I heard about his artistic influences and his “self-imposed” apprenticeships to masters like Paul Cezanne, Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro and De Chirico. I really liked seeing his preliminary sketches displayed right next to his finished paintings, which made the artistic process much more transparent.

I usually resent being funneled into the gift shop, but this time I noticed an album by Hasmik Harutyunyan and the Shoghaken Ensemble which performed at Lafayette College’s Williams Art Center. They also were playing my favorite Armenian flute music, performed by Djivan Gasparian.  I thought I heard it playing in the background of the self-guided audio tour of the exhibit.  So mournful, so beautiful…

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