Arshile Gorky Catalogue Raisonné
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Catalogue Entry

Photo: Alex Delfanne
(Portrait of Jacob Kainen)
c. 1934–37
Oil on canvas
22 x 18 in. (55.9 x 45.7 cm)
Front not inscribed
Reverse not seen
Private collection
Private collection (1975)
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, Paintings by Arshile Gorky from 1929 to 1948, February 5–March 3, 1962. (Exhibition catalogue: Sidney Janis Gallery 1962), no. 1, ill. in b/w, as "Portrait," dated c. 1929.
Arts Council of Great Britain, London (organizer), Arshile Gorky, Paintings and Drawings / Arshile Gorky: Schilderijen en Tekeningen, 1965, no. 10, as "Jongensportret / Portrait of a boy," dated c. 1929–39. Traveled to: 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).
Arts Council of Great Britain, London (organizer), Tate Gallery, Arshile Gorky: Paintings and Drawings, April 2–May 2, 1965, no. 10, as "Portrait of a Boy," dated c. 1929–39.
Arts Council of Great Britain, London (organizer), Arshile Gorky: Paintings and Drawings, 1975–77, no. 1, as "Portrait of a Young Artist," dated 1934–35. Traveled to: Southampton Art Gallery, United Kingdom, December 12, 1975–February 22, 1976; Graves Art Gallery, Sheffield, United Kingdom, April 3–May 2, 1976; Sunderland Art Gallery, United Kingdom, June 5–August 15, 1976; City Art Gallery, Dundee, United Kingdom, August 21–November 27, 1976; Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, United Kingdom, December 19, 1976–January 16, 1977; Serpentine Gallery, London, March 12–April 11, 1977.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Arshile Gorky 1904–1948: A Retrospective, April 24–July 19, 1981, [not in catalogue]. Traveled to: Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, September 12–November 6, 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. 10, ill. in color, p. 73, as "Portrait of Jacob Kainen," dated 1934–c. 1937. 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, pp. 70–71, as "Portrait of Jacob Kainen".
Ca'Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Art, Venice, Italy, Arshile Gorky: 1904–1948, May 8–September 22, 2019, ill. in color, p. 89, as "Portrait of Jacob Kainen".
Levy, Julien. Arshile Gorky. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1966. Monograph, pl. 29, ill. in b/w, p. 53, as "Portrait," dated c. 1929.
Kainen, Jacob. "Memories of Arshile Gorky." Arts Magazine (New York) 50, no. 7 (March 1976), ill. in color, p. 97, as "Portrait (Jacob Kainen)".
Kainen, Jacob. "Posing for Gorky." The Washington Post, June 10, 1979, ill., p. L1, as "Portrait of Jacob Kainen".
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. 51, 57, as "Portrait of Jacob Kainen".
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. 116, ill. in b/w, pp. 246–47, as "Portrait of Jacob Kainen".
Lader, Melvin P. Arshile Gorky. New York: Abbeville Press, 1985. Monograph, fig. 54, ill. in color, p. 58, as "Portrait of Jacob Kainen".
Herrera, Hayden. Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003, fig. 97, ill. in b/w, as "Portrait of Jacob Kainen".
The canvas was relined.


Gorky and the artist Jacob Kainen (1909–2001), an American-born son of Russian parents, were good friends. Kainen's studio was on Fourteenth Street, diagonally across Union Square from Gorky's. For this portrait, which Gorky started in the fall of 1934, Kainen sat about eight times, one session per week so that the most recent application of paint had time to dry. Kainen later described the process: "Each time I returned Gorky would scrape down the dried paint surface with a straight-backed razor and lay on the same colors again. What he wanted was a thick, even paint film, 'smooth like glass,' as he put it."1

The painting shares affinities of style with several portraits by Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780–1867), particularly in Gorky's desire to create a surface "smooth like glass," and for the angling and disposition of the pose (see also P116). In Kainen's own words, "Gorky sat at his easel under a large low skylight, selected a small canvas, and had me pose seated at a three-quarters angle, leaning my cheek against my left hand. Even then I knew the pose came from Ingres and Cezanne."2

1. Jacob Kainen, "Posing for Gorky: A Memoir of the New York Master," The Washington Post (June 10, 1979): L4.

2. Ibid.

Portraits (sitter identified): Jacob Kainen

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