Arshile Gorky Catalogue Raisonné
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Photo: Alex Jamison; © Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
P111
(Portrait of Vartoosh)
1933–34
Oil on canvas
20 1/4 x 15 1/8 in. (51.4 x 38.4 cm)
Front, incised, upper left: A. Gorky / [paraph]; lower left: A. Gorky / XXII
Reverse not seen
Exhibitions
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Arshile Gorky Memorial Exhibition, January 5–February 18, 1951, no. 1, as "Portrait of Vartoosh," dated 1922. Traveled to: Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, March 4–April 22, 1951; San Francisco Museum of Art, California, May 9–July 9, 1951.
Princeton University Art Museum, New Jersey, Arshile Gorky: A Loan Exhibition of Paintings and Drawings, October 6–26, 1952, no. 1, as "Portrait of Vartoosh," dated 1922.
Martha Jackson Gallery, New York, Two Lyric Abstractionists: Gorky, Works of the Middle Period / Trökes, Recent Gouaches and Drawings, March 31–April 24, 1954, no. 45, as "Portrait of Vartoosh."
Museum of Modern Art, New York, Arshile Gorky, 1904–1948, December 19, 1962–February 12, 1963, no. 10, ill. in b/w, p. 14, as "Portrait of Vartoosh." Traveled to: Washington Gallery of Modern Art, Washington, D.C, March 12–April 14, 1963.
Arts Council of Great Britain (organizer), Tate Gallery, London, Arshile Gorky, Paintings and Drawings, 1965, no. 12, ill. in b/w, as "Portrait of Vartoosh," [London: no. 12, ill. in b/w; Rotterdam: no. 13, ill. in b/w as Portret van Vartoosh / Portrait of Vartoosh"]. Traveled to: Tate Gallery, London, April 2–May 2, 1965; Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, May 22–June 27, 1965; Museum Boymans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, July 24–September 5, 1965. (Museum Boymans van Beuingen 1965)..
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C, The Golden Door: Artist Immigrants of America 1876–1976, May 20–October 20, 1976, no. 66, ill. in b/w, p. 195, as "Portrait of Vartoosh."
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C, Arshile Gorky: The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Collection, October 4–November 25, 1979, no. 4, ill. in color, p. 11; ill. in b/w, p. 21, as "Portrait of Vartoosh."
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Arshile Gorky 1904–1948: A Retrospective, April 24–July 19, 1981, no. 66, ill. in b/w, p. 114, as "Portrait of Vartoosh," dated mid to late 1930s. Traveled to: Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, September 11–November 8, 1981; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, December 3, 1981–February 28, 1982.
Sala de Exposiciones de la Fundación Caja de Pensiones, Madrid, Arshile Gorky, 1904–1948, October 17–December 23, 1989, no. 8, ill. in color, p. 73, as "Portrait of Vartoosh." Traveled to: Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, January 19–March 25, 1990.
Gagosian Gallery, New York, Arshile Gorky: Portraits, March 20–April 27, 2002, ill. in color, p. 63, as "Portrait of Vartoosh."
Fresno Art Museum and the Armenian Museum, California, Vosdanik Manouk Adoian a.k.a. Arshile Gorky, April 7–June 4, 2006, no. 7, ill. in color, p. 25, as "Portrait of Vartoosh."
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective, October 15, 2009–January 10, 2010, no. 25, ill. in color, p. 185, as "Portrait of Vartoosh." Traveled to: Tate Modern, London, February 10–May 3, 2010. (Gale 2010).; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, June 6–September 20, 2010.
Literature
Coates, Robert. "The Art Galleries." The New Yorker 26, no. 48 (January 20, 1951), discussed p. 60, as "portrait of his sister Vartoosh."
Genauer, Emily. "Art and Artists: The Whitney's Memorial Exhibit and the Arshile Gorky Tragedy." New York Herald Tribune, January 7, 1951, discussed p. 9, "The earliest picture in the show, a 1922 portrait of his sister, is straight blue-period Picasso."
Devree, Howard. "Whitney to Offer Arshile Gorky Art." New York Times, January 4, 1951, discussed p. 27, as "a portrait of his sister dated 1922."
Devree, Howard. "A Memorable Year: The Modern Movement at Its 1913 Pitch—The Whitney's Gorky Memorial." New York Times, January 7, 1951, discussed p. 89, as "the flatly realistic portrait of a sister in 1922."
Schwabacher, Ethel. Arshile Gorky. New York: The Macmillan Company for the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1957. Monograph, fig. 1, ill. in b/w, p. 24, as "Portrait of Vartoosh," dated 1922.
Barilli, Renato. "La Pittura di Arshile Gorky." La Biennale 43 (April–June 1961), ill. in b/w, p. 13, as "Portrait of Vartoosh."
Reiff, Robert F. "A Stylistic Analysis of Arshile Gorky's Art from 1943–1948." Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, New York, 1961, fig. 2, ill. in b/w, p. 280, as "Portrait of Vartoosh."
Lichtblau, Charlotte. "Gorky retrospective." Philadelphia Inquirer, December 23, 1962, ill. in b/w, p. 6, as "Portrait of Vartoosh."
Levy, Julien. Arshile Gorky. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1966. Monograph, pl. 26, ill. in color, p. 50, as "Portrait of Vartoosh," dated c. 1933.
Rand, Harry. Arshile Gorky: The Implication of Symbols. London and Montclair, N.J.: George Prior and Allanheld & Schram, 1980, 1981. Monograph, fig. 2–1, ill. in b/w, p. 13, as "Portrait of Vartoosh."
Morgan, S. "Becoming Arshile Gorky." Artscribe (London), no. 31 (October 1981), ill. in b/w, p. 19, as "Portrait of Vartoosh."
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. 33, as "Portrait of Vartoosh."
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. 111, ill. in b/w, pp. 238–39, as "Portrait of Vartoosh."
Lader, Melvin P. Arshile Gorky. New York: Abbeville Press, 1985. Monograph, fig. 53, ill. in color, p. 58, as "Portrait of Vartoosh."
Rand, Harry. Arshile Gorky: The Implication of Symbols. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991. Monograph, fig. 2–1, ill. in b/w, p. 15, as "Portrait of Vartoosh."
Herrera, Hayden. Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003, fig. 25, ill. in color, as "Portrait of Vartoosh."
Kolbe, Regina. "Dreams Form The Bristles Of The Artist's Brush: Arshile Gorky, The Last Great Surrealist." Antiques and The Arts Weekly (Newton, CT) (October 23, 2009), ill. in color, p. 69, as "Portrait of Vartoosh."
Matttison, Robert S. Arshile Gorky: Works and Writings. Barcelona: Ediciones Polígrafica, 2009. Monograph, ill. in color, p. 15, as "Portrait of Vartoosh."
Theriault, Kim S. Rethinking Arshile Gorky. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2009. Monograph, pl. 5, ill. in color, as "Portrait of Vartoosh."
Agee, William C. "Graham, Gorky, de Kooning: A New Classicism, an Alternate Modernism." In American Vanguards: Graham, Davis, Gorky, de Kooning, and Their Circle, 1927–1942. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012. Exhibition catalogue, fig. 44, ill. in color, p. 139, as "Portrait of Vartoosh."
Notes
The painting was relined and the stretcher bars replaced. No documentation of the reverse of the original canvas has been made available.

Commentary

The titling of this painting has a less complicated history than the marjority of the seventeen paintings that Joseph H. Hirshhorn purchased directly from the artist between 1941 and 1943. The variation in the Hirshhorn titles begins with a list of the collector's purchases, thought to be composed by the artist's wife Agnes "Mougouch" Gorky (1921–2013) and dated March 20, 1943, on which the painting is titled Portrait of My Sister, Vartoosh.1 When the painting entered the collection of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in 1966, it was assigned the title Portrait of Vartoosh. While preparing the Hirshhorn’s 1979 exhibition dedicated to the museum’s collection of Gorky paintings and drawings, correspondence with the artist's nephew Karlen Mooradian (1935–1990) further suggested that the painting was a portrait of his mother (the artist's younger sister) Vartoosh Mooradian (née Adoian; 1906–1991).2 The title Portrait of Vartoosh was accordingly retained for its 1979 showing.3

The painting’s title, as it appears here, is based on Jim M. Jordan’s catalogue raisonné, where it is published as Portrait of Vartoosh, yet set within quotes, indicating—erroneously—that it was a lifetime designation.4 Joseph Hirshhorn later claimed that Gorky had never provided him with titles for the works he had acquired, but the 1943 checklist presents the possibility that Gorky did assign a title to this work, namely, Portrait of My Sister, Vartoosh.5 

Gorky backdated the painting to 1922 at the time of Hirshhorn's purchase in the early 1940s. 

1. “Sold to Mr. Joseph H. Hirshhorn,” March 20, 1943, AGF Archives. Letter from Agnes Gorky Phillips to Phyllis Rosenzweig, November 12, 1977, AGF Archives. On Agnes's authorship, see: Phyllis Rosenzweig, “Catalog,” in Arshile Gorky: The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Collection Smithsonian Institution, exh. cat. (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1979), 8, fn. 1.

2. Rosenzweig, “Catalog,” 8.

3. Rosenzweig, "Illustrations and Text," 20.

4. Jim M. Jordan, "Catalogue Raisonné of Paintings," in Jim M. Jordan and Robert Goldwater, The Paintings of Arshile Gorky: A Critical Catalogue (New York and London: New York University Press, 1982), 238–39.

5. “Gorky never gave me titles or a bill for these pictures and if he did I do not remember receiving one.” Letter from Joseph H. Hirshhorn to Wolfgang Schwabacher, February 21, 1949, AGF Archives.

Portraits (sitter identified): Vartoosh Adoian Mooradian (artist's sister)

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