Arshile Gorky Catalogue Raisonné
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Catalogue Entry

Photo: Peter Schälchli
[Nighttime, Enigma, and Nostalgia: Fish and Head]
c. 1931
Graphite pencil on paper
21 3/8 x 30 1/8 in. (54.3 x 76.5 cm)
Recto not inscribed
Verso not seen
Private collection
Museum of Modern Art, New York, International Council (organizer), Arshile Gorky Drawings, 1962–68, MoMA no. 62.1037, as "Untitled Drawing," dated 1929–32, [Tokyo: no. 6, ill. in b/w; Germany: no. 6, ill. in b/w; UK: no. 6, ill. in b/w; Rotterdam: no. 27; Vienna: no. 6; Lisbon: no. 6; Oslo: no. 6; Lund: no. 6; Basel: no. 6; Zagreb: no. 6; Rotterdam: no. 27; Rome: no. 8, ill. in b/w; Caracas: no. 6; Bogotá: no. 6, ill. in b/w; Mexico City: no. 6]. Traveled to: Newcomb College, Tulane University, New Orleans, September 23–October 14, 1962; Chatham College, Pittsburgh, October 29–November 19, 1962; Watkins Institute, Nashville, January 9–30, 1963; Spiva Art Center, Joplin, Missouri, February 7–28, 1963; Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachusetts, March 15–April 5, 1963; Marshall College, Huntington, West Virginia, April 22–May 13, 1963; Seibu Gallery, Seibu Department Store, Tokyo, July 26–August 11, 1963; Westmar College, LeMars, Iowa, September 2–23, 1963; Washington University, Saint Louis, October 4–25, 1963; Arts Club of Chicago, November 10–December 15, 1963; Indiana University, Bloomington, January 2–23, 1964; Wells College, Aurora, New York, February 7–28, 1964; Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, March 16–April 6, 1964; Jewish Museum, New York, April 21–June 30, 1964; Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, Germany, July 6–August 5, 1964; Hamburger Kunstverein, Hamburg, Germany, August 7–September 4, 1964; Amerika Haus, Berlin, September 11–October 6, 1964; Folkwangmuseum, Essen, Germany, October 15–November 15, 1964; York City Art Gallery, United Kingdom, December 5–30, 1964; Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, January 6–February 13, 1965; Midland Group Gallery, Nottingham, United Kingdom, February 20–March 6, 1965; City Art Gallery, Bristol, United Kingdom, March 13–April 3, 1965; National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh, April 10–May 1, 1965; Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels, May 27–June 27, 1965; Boymans-van-Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Netherlands, July 24–September 5, 1965; Museum des 20ten Jahrhunderts, Vienna, September 18–October 17, 1965; Sociedade Nacional de Belas Artes, Lisbon, November 23–December 23, 1965; Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, January 22–February 13, 1966; Lunds Konsthall, Lund, Sweden, March 5–April 1, 1966; Öffentliche Kunstmuseum, Basel, Switzerland, April 30–June 5, 1966; Galerija Grada Zagreba, Zagreb, Yugoslavia, June 21–July 10, 1966; Galerija Doma Omladine, Belgrade, Yugoslavia, October 6–16, 1966; Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna, Rome, April 2–May 15, 1967; Centro de Artes Visuales del Instituto Torcuato di Tella, Buenos Aires, November 29–December 23, 1967 (as Sobre papel: Obras de Arshile Gorky); Museo de Bellas Artes, Caracas, January 21–February 14, 1968; Biblioteca Luis Angel Arango, Bogotá, Colombia, March 21–April 5, 1968; Galeria Universitaria Aristos, Mexico City, May 3–June 5, 1968.
Arts Council of Great Britain, London (organizer), Arshile Gorky, Paintings and Drawings / Arshile Gorky: Schilderijen en Tekeningen, 1965, no. 27, as "Tekening zonder titel / Untitled drawing," dated 1929–32. 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).
Hathorn Gallery, Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York, The Drawings of Arshile Gorky, October 21–November 9, 1969, no. 5, as "Untitled Drawing," 1929–32.
M. Knoedler & Co. Inc, New York, Gorky: Drawings, November 25–December 27, 1969. (Exhibition catalogue: Jordan 1969), no. 7, ill. in b/w, p. 20; p. 55, as "Untitled," dated 1929–32.
Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, Lausanne, Switzerland, Arshile Gorky: Œuvres sur Papier, 1929–1947; Arbeiten auf Papier, 1929–1947, September 21–November 11, 1990, no. 9, ill. in b/w, p. 54; p. 193, as "Untitled," dated c. 1929–32. Traveled to: Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna, January 16–February 27, 1991; Musée Cantini, Marseille, France, March 15–May 30, 1991; Musée d'art Moderne de Saint Étienne, France, June 20–September 2, 1991; Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt, September 25–November 10, 1991; Kunsthalle Bremen, Germany, November 19, 1991–January 26, 1992.
Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice, Italy, Arshile Gorky: Works on Paper / Opere su Carta, April–June 28, 1992, no. 5, ill. in b/w, p. 47, as "Untitled," dated c. 1932. Traveled to: Palazzo delle Esponsizioni, Rome, October 14–November 30, 1992; Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian, Lisbon, July 21–August 27, 1993.
Stephen Mazoh & Co. Inc, New York (organizer), Arshile Gorky and the Genesis of Abstraction: Drawings from the Early 1930s, 1994–96, no. 23, ill. in b/w, pp. 46–47, as "Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia," dated c. 1931–33. Traveled to: Art Museum, Princeton University, New Jersey, October 29, 1994–January 3, 1995; Milwaukee Art Museum, January 20–April 16, 1995; Stephen Mazoh & Co. Inc, New York, May–June 9, 1995; Baltimore Museum of Art, October 18, 1995–January 21, 1996.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective, October 15, 2009–January 10, 2010. (Exhibition catalogue: Taylor 2009a), pl. 42, ill. in color, p. 198; p. 386, as "Nighttime, Enigma, and Nostalgia". Traveled to: Tate Modern, London, February 10–May 3, 2010 (Gale 2010); Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, June 6–September 20, 2010 (Gale 2010).
Ca'Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Art, Venice, Italy, Arshile Gorky: 1904–1948, May 8–September 22, 2019, ill. in color, p. 148, as "Untitled".
Levy, Julien. Arshile Gorky. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1966. Monograph, pl. 59, ill. in b/w, p. 83, as "Untitled Drawing," dated 1929–32.
Ashton, Dore. The Life and Times of the New York School. New York: Bath Adams and Dart, 1972, fig. 5, ill. in b/w, p. 23, as "Untitled Drawing".
Karp, Diane. "Arshile Gorky's Iconography." Arts Magazine (New York) 50, no. 7 (March 1976), ill. in b/w, p. 82, as "Untitled Drawing".
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, fig. 21, ill. in b/w, p. 31, as "Untitled".
Karp, Diane. "Arshile Gorky: The Language of Art." Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1982, fig. 24, ill. in b/w, p. 192; fig. 26, ill. in b/w (detail), p. 194, as "Untitled Drawing (Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia)".
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, fig. 6, ill. in b/w, p. 37, as "Untitled".
Carrier, David. "New York Spring Exhibitions." The Burlington Magazine (London) 137 (August 1995), fig. 122, ill. in b/w, p. 573, as "Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia".
Herrera, Hayden. Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003, fig. 86, ill. in b/w, as "Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia".
Cooksey, Chelsea L. "Arshile Gorky: The Abstraction of Symbol, Figure, and Form." M.A. Thesis, Purchase College, State University of New York, 2009, fig. 12, ill. in b/w, p. 58, as "Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia".
Gale, Matthew. Arshile Gorky: Enigma and Nostalgia. London: Tate Publishing, 2010. Exhibition catalogue (2009–10 Philadelphia), no. 14, ill. in color, p. 37, as "Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia".
Kerr, Melissa. Arshile Gorky: Drawings from the Thirties. Brussels: Patrick Derom Gallery, 2014. Monograph, ill. in b/w, p. 22, as "Untitled (Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia)".


In 1929, Gorky began a series of abstract works which is now referred to as "Nighttime, Enigma, and Nostalgia." While he continued working on this until 1936, it was between 1931 and 1934 that he was most dedicated to developing the composition. Ultimately, he produced nearly one hundred drawings and three related paintings. The body of work can be divided into subsets, such as Objects and Enigma, which were Gorky's own titles, as well as the posthumously titled "Column with Objects," "Écorché" and "Fish and Head," to which this drawing most closely relates.

The subset's composition is closely informed by Giorgio de Chirico's (1888–1978) painting The Fatal Temple of 1914 (Philadelphia Museum of Art). Gorky would have undoubtedly encountered the de Chirico at A.E. Gallatin's Gallery of Living Art in New York, where it was on view from 1927.1 Gallatin's museum is among those to which Gorky is known to have frequently returned. It was especially convenient for its close proximity to his two longest-held New York studios: 47a Washington Square South, which he rented from 1928 to 1930, and 36 Union Square, which he leased from 1930 until his death in 1948.

The drawing appears at upper center, behind Gorky's head, in a photograph of the artist in his 36 Union Square studio, taken c. 1933. 

1. In 1936, the Gallery was renamed the Museum of Living Art.

[Nighttime, Enigma, and Nostalgia: Fish and Head], c.  1931, D0181. Giorgio de Chirico, The Fatal Temple, 1914, oil on canvas, 13 1/8 x 16 1/8 inches (33.3 x 41 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art; A. E. Gallatin Collection, 1947 (1947-88-14).
Giorgio de Chirico, The Fatal Temple, 1914, oil on canvas, 13 1/8 x 16 1/8 inches (33.3 x 41 cm). Philadelphia Museum of Art; A. E. Gallatin Collection, 1947 (1947-88-14).
Photo: © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome
[Nighttime, Enigma, and Nostalgia: Fish and Head], c.  1931, D0181. Gorky in his studio at 36 Union Square, c. 1933. Photograph by Alexander Sandow. Courtesy Estate of Helen and Alexander Sandow; Lisa Sandow Lyons and Greg Sandow, executors.
Gorky in his studio at 36 Union Square, c. 1933. Photograph by Alexander Sandow. Courtesy Estate of Helen and Alexander Sandow; Lisa Sandow Lyons and Greg Sandow, executors.

After works by other artists: Giorgio de Chirico

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