Arshile Gorky Catalogue Raisonné
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Catalogue Entry

© 2017 Christie’s Images Ltd
Composition I
Ink, crayon, and graphite pencil on laid paper
18 1/2 x 24 1/2 in. (47 x 62.2 cm)
Not inscribed
Private collection
Museum of Modern Art, New York, Department of Circulating Exhibitions (organizer), Twelve Contemporary Painters, 1944–45, as Composition I, lent by the artist. Traveled to: Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, February 3–24, 1944; Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York, March 4–25, 1944; Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, April 3–24, 1944; College of Fine Arts, University of Texas at Austin, May 8–29, 1944; Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, June 11–July 2, 1944; San Francisco Museum of Art, July 19–August 15, 1944; University of Oregon, Eugene, October 6–27, 1944; Pomona College, Claremont, California, November 10–December 1, 1944; Museum of New Mexico, Santa Fe, January 19–February 9, 1945; Society of Liberal Arts, Joslyn Memorial Museum, Omaha, February 23–March 16, 1945; Hamline University, St. Paul, Minnesota, March 26–April 16, 1945; Wayne University, Detroit, April 26–May 17, 1945.
Museum of Modern Art, New York, Arshile Gorky, 1904–1948, December 19, 1962–February 12, 1963. (Exhibition catalogue: Seitz 1962), no. 50, p. 54, as Composition I. Traveled to: Washington Gallery of Modern Art, D.C., March 12–April 14, 1963.
M. Knoedler & Co. Inc, New York, Gorky: Drawings, November 25–December 27, 1969. (Exhibition catalogue: Jordan 1969), no. 63, ill. in b/w, p. 34; p. 58, as Composition I.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Arshile Gorky 1904–1948: A Retrospective, April 24–July 19, 1981, no. 136, ill. in color, p. 168, as Composition I. Traveled to: Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, September 12–November 6, 1981; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, December 3, 1981–February 28, 1982.
Cleveland Museum of Art, The Art of Collecting Modern Art, February 12–March 30, 1986, ill. in color, fig. 16, as Composition I.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective of Drawings, November 20, 2003–February 15, 2004, no. 71, ill. in color, p. 137; p. 243, as Composition I, [exhibited in New York only]. Traveled to: Menil Collection, Houston, March 5–May 9, 2004.
Levy, Julien. Arshile Gorky. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1966. Monograph, pl. 111, ill. in color, p. 135, as Composition I, dated 1943.
Jordan, Jim. M. "Arshile Gorky at Crooked Run Farm." Arts Magazine (New York) 50, no. 7 (March 1976), discussed pp. 102, 103 fn20, as Composition I.
Waldman, Diane. "Arshile Gorky: Poet in Paint." In Arshile Gorky 1904–1948: A Retrospective. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. in collaboration with The Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation, 1981. Exhibition catalogue, discussed p. 53, as Composition I.
Lader, Melvin P. Arshile Gorky. New York: Abbeville Press, 1985. Monograph, fig. 78, ill. in b/w, p. 82, as Composition I.
Spender, Matthew. "Origines et développement de l'oeuvre dessiné de Arshile Gorky / Quellen und Entwicklung von Arshile Gorkys zeichnerischem Werk." In Arshile Gorky: Œuvres sur Papier, 1929–1947 / Arbeiten auf Papier, 1929–1947, Erika Billeter, ed. Lausanne: Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, 1990. Exhibition catalogue, fig. 16, ill. in b/w, p. 32, as Composition I.
Beredjiklian, Alexandre. Arshile Gorky: sept thèmes majeurs. Suresnes, France: Alphamédian & Johanet; Lisbon: Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian, 2007. Monograph, discussed p. 49, as Composition I.
Watermark / Stamp: Arches
Arches paper with watermark, lower left: U.F.P.C [three flowers] [MBM MADE IN FRANCE INGRES D'ARCHES]

Verso, in pencil, lower right [not in artist's hand]: Gorky / Composition #1 / 44.152.

The verso inscription information and marking are known from a photograph provided by Christie's, New York.


Gorky titled the drawing Composition I when he loaned it to the Museum of Modern Art's circulating exhibition, Twelve Contemporary Painters, which appeared at a dozen venues between February 1944 and May 1945.

The drawing's first owner, Dr. Harry Weiss (?–1955), was Gorky's physician from the early 1930s until his death in 1948. Gorky became a patient of Dr. Weiss' at the suggestion of his early pupil and longstanding patron, Mina Boehm Metzger (1877–1975), when seeking treatment for undiagnosed lead poisoning. Weiss ultimately linked this to the artist's use of lead white pigments.1

Gorky often paid for his doctors' bills with artwork and it is possible that the drawing was exchanged in this manner, rather than gifted.2 The majority of Gorky's visits to Weiss occurred in the period after his cancer diagnosis in the winter of 1946. 

1. Hayden Herrera, Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003), 236.

2. Herrera, Arshile Gorky, 236, 510–11, 592.

Related Work
(Housatonic)1943 D0285
Ink, crayon, and graphite pencil on laid paper
Ink, crayon, and graphite pencil on laid paper