Arshile Gorky Catalogue Raisonné
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Catalogue Entry

Photo: Alex Jamison; © Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
[Nighttime, Enigma, and Nostalgia: Fish and Head]
c. 1932
Ink on paper
20 1/8 x 28 3/4 in. (51.1 x 73 cm)
Recto, in ink, upper right: Gorky
Verso not seen
Guild Art Gallery, New York, Abstract Drawings by Arshile Gorky, December 16, 1935–January 5, 1936, no. 15, as "Enigmatic Triptych," n.d. lent by Wm. [William] Muschenheim.
Everett Ellin Gallery, Los Angeles, Arshile Gorky: Forty Drawings from the Period 1929 thru 1947, April 9–May 5, 1962, no. 2, ill. in b/w, as "Enigma," dated c. 1930.
University Art Museum, University of Texas at Austin, Drawings & An Exhibition at The University Art Museum of The University of Texas, February 6–March 15, 1966, p. 18, as "Enigma".
M. Knoedler & Co. Inc, New York, Arshile Gorky: Works on Paper, January 9–February 1, 1975, no. 1, as "Enigma".
University Art Museum, University of Texas at Austin, Arshile Gorky: Drawings to Paintings, October 12–November 23, 1975. (Exhibition catalogue: University of Texas at Austin 1975), ill. in b/w, p. 38; p. 104, as "Study for Enigma," dated c. 1932. 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.
Bell Gallery, List Art Building, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island, Graham, Gorky, Smith, & Davis in the Thirties, April 30–May 22, 1977, no. 8, ill. in b/w, p. 14, as "Study for Enigma".
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Arshile Gorky 1904–1948: A Retrospective, April 24–July 19, 1981, no. 46, ill. in b/w, p. 100, as "Study for Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia". Traveled to: Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, September 12–November 6, 1981; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, December 3, 1981–February 28, 1982.
Boca Raton Museum of Art, Florida, Masterpieces of American Modernism: Selections from the Harvey and Françoise Rambach Collection, March 10–April 23, 1995, ill. in b/w, pp. 40–41, as "Study for Enigma".
Nassau County Museum of Art, Roslyn Harbor, New York, American Vanguards, January 21–April 28, 1996, ill. in b/w, p. 82, as "Study for Enigma".
Boca Raton Museum of Art, Florida, Surrealism and American Art, 1932–1949, November 20, 1997–January 11, 1998, no. 14, ill. in b/w, p. 31, as "Study for Enigma," 1932, Collection of Harvey and Françoise Rambach.
Pierpont Morgan Library, New York, New York Collects: Drawings and Watercolors, 1900–1950, May 20–August 29, 1999, no. 121, ill. in color, p. 273, as "Nighttime, Enigma, and Nostalgia".
Gerald Peters Gallery, New York, American Modernism: The François & Harvey Rambach Collection, September 30–November 20, 1999, pp. 279–80; ill. in color, p. 131, as "Study for Nighttime, Enigma, and Nostalgia".
National Academy of Design, New York, Surrealism USA, February 17–May 8, 2005, no. 12, ill. in color, as "Study for Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia". Traveled to: Phoenix Art Museum, June 5–September 25, 2005.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective, October 15, 2009–January 10, 2010. (Exhibition catalogue: Taylor 2009a), pl. 45, ill. in color, p. 201; p. 387, 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).
Seldis, Henry J. "In the Galleries: Show Traces Gorky's Stylistic Development." Los Angeles Times, April 13, 1962, ill. in b/w, p. 5, as "Enigma".
Bremer, Nina. "Arshile Gorky: Works on Paper." Pantheon (Munich) 33 (July–August 1975), discussed, p. 277, as "Enigma," dated c. 1930.
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. 31.
Karp, Diane. "Arshile Gorky: The Language of Art." Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1982, fig. 37, ill. in b/w, p. 205, as "Study for Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia".
Schwan, Gary. "Surrealism's shock wears off, but quirky art a delight." The Palm Beach Post (Palm Beach, FL), November 30, 1997, discussed, p. 2J, as "study for the painting Enigma," dated 1932.
"La Chronique des Arts: Principales Acquisitions des Musées en 2000: États-Unis." Gazette des Beaux-Arts (Paris) 137 (March 2001), no. 246, ill. in b/w, p. 61, as "Étude pour La nuit, énigme et nostalgie".
Nilsen, Richard. "America, the Surreal." Arizona Republic (Phoenix), June 5, 2005, ill. in b/w, p. E2, as "Study for Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia".
Watermark / Stamp: Strathmore
Strathmore paper with blindstamp, lower left: STRATHMORE / [thistle] / [illegible]


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 are 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.

This 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's first owners, the architect William Muschenheim (1902–1990) and his wife Lisa (1912–1967), met Gorky in 1931 through a mutual friend. The couple saw the artist frequently in New York and at their family home in Hampton Bays, Long Island, until the early 1940s. Of Gorky and his visits, William Muschenheim later recalled: "We always immensely enjoyed the hours with [Gorky]. Conversations were always stimulating. They were usually about art, people, attitudes towards daily and more significant occurrences. . . . He frequently spoke about his childhood, his experiences on the beaches of the Caspian Sea, and of his mother. We did not see much of him after his last marriage [to Agnes "Mougouch" Magruder (1921–2013) in September 1941], particularly after they moved to Connecticut [in December 1944]."2 

1. Letter from William Muschenheim to Karlen Mooradian, May 18, 1966, AGF Archives.

2. Ibid.

[Nighttime, Enigma, and Nostalgia: Fish and Head], c.  1932, D0187. 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

After works by other artists: Giorgio de Chirico

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