Arshile Gorky Catalogue Raisonné
Print this page

Catalogue Entry

Photo: © The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA / Art Resource, NY
Charcoal, graphite pencil, and pastel on paper mounted on board
79 5/8 x 101 3/4 in. (202.2 x 258.4 cm)
Recto not inscribed
Verso not seen
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Arshile Gorky Memorial Exhibition, January 5–February 18, 1951, no. 94, p. 48 (exhibited in New York only). Traveled to: Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, March 4–April 22, 1951; San Francisco Museum of Art, California, May 9–July 9, 1951.
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, Drawings for Principal Paintings by Gorky, September 26–October 22, 1955, no. 29, as "Summation".
Museum of Modern Art, New York, Department of Circulating Exhibitions (organizer), The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Ben Heller, 1961–62, ill. in b/w, as "Summation". Traveled to: Art Institute of Chicago, September 22–October 22, 1961; Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, January 22–February 25, 1962; Cleveland Museum of Art, March 13–April 10, 1962; California Palace of the Legion of Honor, San Francisco, April 30–June 3, 1962; Portland Art Museum, Oregon, June 15–July 22, 1962; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, September 5–October 14, 1962.
Museum of Modern Art, New York, Arshile Gorky, 1904–1948, December 19, 1962–February 12, 1963. (Exhibition catalogue: Seitz 1962), no. 93, ill. in b/w, p. 39; p. 55, as "Summation". Traveled to: Washington Gallery of Modern Art, D.C., March 12–April 14, 1963.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 26 Artists from Museums and Friends Collections, July 16–September 8, 1963, as "Summation".
Museum of Modern Art, New York, The New American Painting and Sculpture: The First Generation, June 18–October 5, 1969, no. 24, as "Summation".
M. Knoedler & Co. Inc, New York, Gorky: Drawings, November 25–December 27, 1969. (Exhibition catalogue: Jordan 1969), no. 106, ill. in b/w, p. 43; p. 60, as "Summation".
Museum of Modern Art, New York, Drawn in America, March 1–May 29, 1972, no. 12, as "Summation".
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Arshile Gorky 1904–1948: A Retrospective, April 24–July 19, 1981, no. 247, ill. in b/w, p. 251, as "Summation". Traveled to: Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, September 12–November 6, 1981; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, December 3, 1981–February 28, 1982.
Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Modern Drawing: 100 Works on Paper from the Museum of Modern Art, October 29, 1983–January 3, 1984, discussed p. 184; ill. in color, p. 185, as "Summation".
Museum of Modern Art, New York, The New York School, September 17, 1998–January 12, 1999.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective of Drawings, November 20, 2003–February 15, 2004, no. 140, ill. in color, p. 241; p. 245, as "Summation," [exhibited in New York only]. Traveled to: Menil Collection, Houston, March 5–May 9, 2004.
Greenberg, Clement. "Art." The Nation (New York) 166 (March 20, 1948), discussed p. 332, as "an enormous drawing".
Kramer, Hilton. "Month in Review: Drawings from Gorky's Last Years." Arts Magazine (New York) 30 (October 1955), discussed p. 48, as "Summation".
33 Paintings by Arshile Gorky. New York: Sidney Janis Gallery, 1957. Exhibition catalogue (1957f New York), no. 37, ill. in b/w (in situ), as "Gallery View, Gorky Exhibition, September 1955".
Friedman, B.H. "The New Collector: Three Typical Collections." Art in America (New York) 46, no. 2 (Summer 1958), discussed, pp. 18–19; ill. in b/w, p. 19, as "Summation".
Levy, Julien. Arshile Gorky. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1966. Monograph, pl. 146, ill. in color, p. 170, as "Summation".
Three Generations of Twentieth-Century Art: The Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection of the Museum of Modern Art. New York: The Museum of Modern Art; distributed by the New York Graphic Society, Greenwich, CT, 1972, ill. in b/w, p. 185, as "Summation".
Kagitani, Y. "Arshile Gorky: A Man Who Lived in the Middle of Solitude." Mizue (Tokyo) 9, no. 858 (September 1976), ill. in b/w, p. 33.
Rathbone, Eliza E. "Arshile Gorky: The Plow and the Song." In American Art at Mid-Century: The Subjects of the Artist. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1978. Exhibition catalogue, fig. 18, ill. in b/w, p. 71, as "Summation".
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. 59, as "Summation".
Millard, Charles W. "Arshile Gorky." The Hudson Review (New York) 35, no. 1 (Spring 1982), discussed, pp. 110–111.
Lader, Melvin P. Arshile Gorky. New York: Abbeville Press, 1985. Monograph, fig. 102, ill. in color, p. 101, as "Summation".
Corrin, Lisa. "Toward Armenia: Notes of a Journey." In Arshile Gorky: 1904–1948. London: Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1990. Exhibition catalogue, fig. 1, ill. in b/w, p. 180, as "Summation".
Anfam, David. Abstract Expressionism. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1990, discussed p. 118, as "Summation".
Chan, Mary. "Drawings of the New York School." MoMA (New York) 1 (November–December 1998), discussed p.13, as "Summation".
MoMA Highlights: 325 Works from the Museum of Modern Art New York. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1999, ill. in color, p. 188, as "Summation".
Karmel, Pepe. "Arshile Gorky: Anatomical Blackboard." Master Drawings (New York) 40 (2002), fig. 11, ill. in color, pp. 18–19; ill. in color (detail), front and back covers, as "Summation".
Anfam, David. "Arshile Gorky: New York and Houston." The Burlington Magazine (London) 146 (March 2004), fig. 79, ill. in color, p. 205, as "Summation".
MoMA Highlights: 350 Works from the Museum of Modern Art, New York. New York: Museum of Modern Art, 2004, ill. in color, p. 188, as "Summation".
Princenthal, Nancy. "Line Readings: Arshile Gorky's Line Drawings." Art in America (New York) 92 (May 2004), ill. in color, pp. 138–39, as "Summation".
Beredjiklian, Alexandre. Arshile Gorky: sept thèmes majeurs. Suresnes, France: Alphamédian & Johanet; Lisbon: Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian, 2007. Monograph, discussed pp. 71, 72, as "Capitulation".
Matttison, Robert S. Arshile Gorky: Works and Writings. Barcelona: Ediciones Polígrafica, 2009. Monograph, ill. in color, p. 133, as "Summation".
Theriault, Kim S. Rethinking Arshile Gorky. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2009. Monograph, pl. 12, ill. in color, as "Summation".
Anfam, David. "Metamorphoses." In Arshile Gorky: Virginia Summer 1946, Candy Coleman, ed. London: Gagosian Gallery, 2010. Exhibition catalogue (2010 London), fig. 1, ill. in color, p. 6, as "Summation".
Gale, Matthew. Arshile Gorky: Enigma and Nostalgia. London: Tate Publishing, 2010. Exhibition catalogue (2009–10 Philadelphia), no. 46, ill. in color, p. 84, as "Summation".
It is uncertain if it was the artist who mounted the paper on the auxiliary support; no documentation of the verso of the original paper support or reverse of the auxiliary mount has been made available. The material makeup of the auxiliary support is uncertain. In a letter from 1947 the work is described as mounted on a "stretcher"; in the loan agreement for 1951a New York, it is described as mounted on "canvas." Subsequent references, from 1961 to the present, describe the mount as "composition board."


The drawing is the culmination of several earlier and smaller studies, completed between 1946 and 1947 (D1483, D1484, and D1485), and is the largest known work on paper by Gorky.

On July 5, 1947, Gorky wrote to his wife Agnes "Mougouch" (1913–1921), triumphantly sharing news of its completion: "I just this afternoon finish [sic] a very large drawing [D1486]. ('from [Ethel and Wolfgang] schwabacher[s'] drawing [D1484]') it is very large one about 80 x 102 inches, and it looks very good."1

During the period the monumental drawing was created, Gorky worked alone in his studio at 36 Union Square, while Mougouch, Maro (b. 1943), and Natasha (b. 1945), spent the hot summer months in Castine, Maine. In a letter to Mougouch, sent soon after the family's departure in early June, the Gorkys' close friend, Jeanne Reynal (1903–1989), reported on Gorky "working and very well. . . . The drawings are beautiful and I think he is finding great satisfaction in their magnitude [D1486; likely also D1337, D1403, and D1492]. He does not show them to anyone and so I feel honored that I have seen them."2 As Gorky’s ensuing letter to Mougouch conveys, he was determined to resolve Summation before turning his attention to painting and his next solo exhibition at the Julien Levy Gallery, scheduled for February 1948: "I am to begin to paint coming monday. I am sorry my darling for not writing to you sooner. as you see I had to finish that drawing."3

Julien Levy (1906–1981), of the eponymous gallery, and the drawing's first owner, remembered Summation as one of "4 extraordinary and large drawings" that he received directly from Gorky before the artist’s death in July 1948 (see also D1337, D1059, and D1492).4 In a letter dated March 9, 1949, Levy explained, "the category for these [drawings] was never determined. . . . I sold another (mural size) [D1486] after Gorky's death and turned over the proceeds without any commission to Mrs. Gorky ($1,000)."5 When the drawing came into Leo Castelli's (1907–1999) possession, it was given the title Summation, under which appellation it was first shown in 1955 and has been known since. Many years later, Castelli recalled acquiring the drawing from Levy "under amusing circumstances."6 In his words, it "wasn't framed yet, just lying on the floor," yet he "fell in love with it," purchasing it for $900 across monthly installments of one hundred dollars.

According to Ethel Schwabacher (1903–1984), Gorky once said of the summative drawing, "This is a world."8

1. Of the six large-scale drawings that were completed during this period (D1486, D1059, D1284, D1337, D1403, and D1492), the measurements of D1486 match those noted by Gorky. Letter from Arshile Gorky to Mougouch Gorky, Saturday [July 5, 1947], in Matthew Spender, ed., Arshile Gorky: The Plow and the Song: A Life in Letters and Documents (Zurich: Hauser & Wirth Publishers, 2018), 430.

2. Given the period in question, the other drawings Reynal references likely include: Drawing, Agony (D1337); Gray Drawing (Pastoral) (D1403); and The Betrothal (D1492). Letter from Jeanne Reynal to Mougouch Gorky, June 26, 1947, in Spender, ed., The Plow and the Song, 425.

3. Letter from Arshile Gorky to Mougouch Gorky, Saturday [July 5, 1947], in Spender, ed., The Plow and the Song, 430.

4. Letter from Julien Levy to William (Lee) Pfister, March 9, 1949, Julien Levy Gallery records, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Library and Archives.

5. Ibid.

6. Annie Cohen-Solal, Leo & His Circle: The Life of Leo Castelli, trans. Mark Polizzotti with the author (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2010), 178.

7. In a 1991 interview, Mougouch Gorky separately remembers that the drawing was not titled by Gorky; see: Agnes Gorky Fielding, interview by Matthew Spender, March 7, 1992, transcript, p. 10, Matthew Spender Papers, AGF Archives. Leo Castelli, interview by Annie Cohen-Solal, November 5, 1995, as quoted in Cohen-Solal, Leo & His Circle, 178.

8. Arshile Gorky, as quoted in Ethel K. Schwabacher, Arshile Gorky (New York: Macmillan Company for the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1957), 120.

(Summation), 1947, D1486. Summation, as displayed in the entrance hall to the Heller apartment at 151 Central Park West.
Summation, as displayed in the entrance hall to the Heller apartment at 151 Central Park West.
Photo: © Collection of Ben Heller
Related Work