Arshile Gorky Catalogue Raisonné
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Catalogue Entry

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Photo: Jerry L. Thompson
Inscription on the reverse of the original canvas, affixed to the painting's backing board
Photo: Jerry L. Thompson
P067
Composition No. 1
c. 1928–29
Oil on canvas
43 1/2 x 33 1/2 in. (110.5 x 85.1 cm)
Front not inscribed
Reverse, on canvas: ↑ / TOP / 1927 / A. GORKY / [paraph]
Private collection, New York
Exhibitions
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Abstract Painting in America, February 12–March 22, 1935, no. 46, ill. in b/w, as Composition No. 1.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Arshile Gorky Memorial Exhibition, January 5–February 18, 1951, no. 5, p. 46, as "Composition," dated 1927. Traveled to: Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, March 4–April 22, 1951; San Francisco Museum of Art, California, May 9–July 9, 1951.
Museum of Modern Art, New York, Arshile Gorky, 1904–1948, December 19, 1962–February 12, 1963, no. 6, ill. in b/w, p. 12, as "Composition." Traveled to: Washington Gallery of Modern Art, Washington, D.C, March 12–April 14, 1963.
University Art Museum, University of Texas at Austin, Arshile Gorky: Drawings to Paintings, October 12–November 23, 1975, as "Composition." Traveled to: San Francisco Museum of Art, December 4, 1975–January 12, 1976; Neuberger Museum, Purchase College, State University of New York, February 10–March 14, 1976; Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, Utica, New York, April 4–May 9, 1976.
Literature
Coates, Robert. "The Art Galleries." The New Yorker 26, no. 48 (January 20, 1951), discussed p. 60, as "Composition."
Loftus, John. "Arshile Gorky: A Monograph." M.A. Thesis, Columbia University, New York, 1952, pl. III, ill. in b/w, as "Composition."
Sawyer, Kenneth B. "The Grossman Collection: U.S. Collectors of Modern Art." Studio International (London) 169 (February 1965), ill. in b/w, p. 84, as "Composition."
Levy, Julien. Arshile Gorky. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1966. Monograph, pl. 45, ill. in b/w, p. 69, as "Composition," dated c. 1928.
Weegar, Sally. "Another view of Arshile Gorky." The Austin American-Statesman (TX), November 2, 1975, discussed p. 9, as "Composition."
Jordan, Jim M. "The Paintings of Arshile Gorky: New Discoveries, New Sources, and Chronology." In The Paintings of Arshile Gorky: A Critical Catalogue, by Jim M. Jordan and Robert Goldwater. New York and London: New York University Press, 1982, discussed pp. 26, 30–31, as "Composition."
Jordan, Jim M. "Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings." In The Paintings of Arshile Gorky: A Critical Catalogue, by Jim M. Jordan and Robert Goldwater. New York and London: New York University Press, 1982, no. 67, ill. in b/w, pp. 190–91, as "Composition."
Lader, Melvin P. Arshile Gorky. New York: Abbeville Press, 1985. Monograph, fig. 20, ill. in b/w, p. 27, as "Composition."
Notes
The painting was relined and the stretcher bars replaced. The inscription on the reverse of the original canvas is known from a photograph affixed to the painting's backing board.

Commentary

Gorky often backdated his paintings and also frequently reworked the same canvas over many years. Here, the date inscribed on the reverse of the original canvas, "1927," could refer to an earlier iteration of the painting. Stylistically, it is more likely that the painting was completed c. 1928–29. It should be noted, however, that when the work was shown in 1935 as part of Abstract Painting in America, the date 1927 was given.

Isobel (1904–1995) and I[sadore] Donald Grossman (c. 1893–1980), the first owners of the painting, visited Gorky's studio at 36 Union Square around March 1937 and purchased three paintings directly from the artist (P052, P067, and P174). Their introduction to Gorky was made through I. Donald's brother-in-law Sidney Janis (1896–1989) who later became one of the postwar era's most important art dealers and represented the Arshile Gorky Estate after he opened his New York gallery in 1948.

Recalling their purchase, Isobel Grossman later wrote: "Gorky's studio was large and empty of all but the painter's necessities. The floors were scrupulously clean, and the walls very high and white. . . . He had carefully arranged two folding chairs for the best possible viewing. . . . He described his method of working out ideas and problems in many drawings before transferring them to canvas. . . . A few days later Gorky arrived at our apartment with the three paintings [we had bought]. All at once the room became transformed and we drank champagne to celebrate the great event."1

In a letter to his sister Vartoosh Mooradian (née Adoian; 1906–1991), dated March 23, 1937, Gorky presents a differing account of the event: "[Wednesday] evening the brother-in-law of Mr. Cianovich [sic] [Sidney Janovitch/Janis] and his wife came here and they liked my three paintings a lot but we couldn't come to an agreement about the price. They said that they'll come back and somehow we'll make a deal. . . . [T]he others [collectors] flutter likewise."2

1. Isobel Grossman, "If Memory Serves," in Arshile Gorky: Drawings to Paintings, exh. cat. (Austin, T.X.: University Art Museum, University of Texas at Austin, 1975), 12.

2. Letter from Arshile Gorky to Vartoosh Mooradian, March 23, 1937, Arshile Gorky/Mooradian Archive, Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, New York; Arshile Gorky to Vartoosh Mooradian, March 23, 1937, in Matthew Spender, ed., Arshile Gorky: The Plow and the Song: A Life in Letters and Documents, trans. Father Krikor Maksoudian (Zurich: Hauser & Wirth Publishers, 2018), 150.

Related Work

Theme: Still Life