Arshile Gorky Catalogue Raisonné
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Catalogue Entry

Photo: Jon Etter
The Limit
Oil on paper mounted on canvas
50 3/4 x 62 in. (128.9 x 157.5 cm)
Front, upper right: A Gorky / 47 / [paraph]
Reverse not inscribed
Private collection
Julien Levy Gallery, New York, Arshile Gorky, February 29–March 20, 1948, no. 9, as The Limit.
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Arshile Gorky Memorial Exhibition, January 5–February 18, 1951, no. 48, p. 47, as The Limit. 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. 19, as The Limit.
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, Arshile Gorky in the Final Years, February 16–March 14, 1953, no. 17, as The Limit.
Minneapolis Institute of Art, American Paintings 1945–1957, June 18–September 1, 1957, no. 50, ill. in b/w, p. 21, as The Limit.
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, 33 Paintings by Arshile Gorky, December 2–28, 1957 (Exhibition catalogue: Sidney Janis Gallery 1957), no. 26, ill. in color, as The Limit.
Museum of Modern Art, New York, International Council (organizer), The New American Painting, 1958–59, no. 18, as The Limit. Traveled to: Kunsthalle Basel, Switzerland, April 19–May 26, 1958 (as Die neue amerikanische Malerei); Galleria Civica d'Arte Moderna, Milan, June 1–30, 1958 (as La Nuova Pittura Americana); Museum Nacional de Art Contemporaneo, Madrid, July 16–August 11, 1958 (as La Nueva Pintura Americana); Hochschule für Bildende Kunste, Berlin, September 1–October 1, 1958 (as Die neue amerikanische Malerei); Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, October 17–November 24, 1958 (as Jong Amerika schildert); Palais des Beaux-Arts de Bruxelles, Brussels, December 6, 1958–January 4, 1959 (as La nouvelle peinture américaine); Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, January 16–February 15, 1959 (as Jackson Pollock et la nouvelle peinture américaine); Tate Gallery, London, February 24–March 22, 1959; Museum of Modern Art, New York, May 28–September 8, 1959; Albany Institute of History and Art, New York, September 25–October 25, 1959 (Only part of the exhibition traveled here as Recent American Painting: 17 Abstract Expressionists).
XXXI Biennale di Venezia: Internazionale d'Arte, U.S. Pavillion, Venice, Italy, Arshile Gorky, June 16–October 7, 1962, no. 22, p. 114, as "Il limite."
Museum of Modern Art, New York, Arshile Gorky, 1904–1948, December 19, 1962–February 12, 1963, no. 108, ill. in b/w, p. 44, as The Limit. 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. 89, ill. in b/w, as The Limit, [London: no. 89, ill. in b/w; Rotterdam: no. 116, ill. in b/w as "De uiterste grens"]. 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)..
M. Knoedler et Cie, Paris, Six peintres américains: Arshile Gorky, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, October 19–November 25, 1967, ill. in b/w, as The Limit.
M. Knoedler & Co. Inc, New York, Gorky, de Kooning, Newman, June 26–September 20, 1969, as The Limit.
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940–1970, October 18, 1969–February 8, 1970 (Exhibition catalogue: Geldzahler 1969), no. 96, as The Limit.
Arts Council of Great Britain, London (organizer), Arshile Gorky: Paintings and Drawings, 1976–77, no. 16, ill. in b/w, as The Limit. Traveled to: Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, United Kingdom, December 19, 1976–January 16, 1977; Serpentine Gallery, London, March 12–April 11, 1977.
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York (organized in collaboration with the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York), Abstract Expressionism: The Formative Years, March 30–May 14, 1978 (Exhibition catalogue: Hobbs and Levin 1978); (Exhibition catalogue: Levin 1978a); (Exhibition catalogue: Levin 1978b), as The Limit. Traveled to: Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo, June 17–July 12, 1978; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 5–December 3, 1978.
Xavier Fourcade Inc, New York, Arshile Gorky: Important Paintings and Drawings, April 3–28, 1979, ill. in color, as The Limit.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Arshile Gorky 1904–1948: A Retrospective, April 24–July 19, 1981, no. 248, ill. in color, p. 252, as The Limit. Traveled to: Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, September 11–November 8, 1981; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, December 3, 1981–February 28, 1982.
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo (organizers), Arshile Gorky: The Breakthrough Years, 1995–96, no. 42, ill. in color, p. 173, as The Limit. Traveled to: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C, May 7–September 17, 1995; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, October 13–December 31, 1995; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Texas, January 13–March 17, 1996.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective, October 15, 2009–January 10, 2010, no. 183, ill. in color, p. 346, as The Limit. Traveled to: Tate Modern, London, February 10–May 3, 2010. (Gale 2010).; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, June 6–September 20, 2010.
Gagosian Gallery, New York, Arshile Gorky: 1947, May 6–July 1, 2011, as The Limit.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Joan Miró and Arshile Gorky: In Dialogue, October 16, 2013–May 19, 2014, as The Limit.
Royal Academy of Arts, London, Abstract Expressionism, September 24, 2016–January 2, 2017 (Exhibition catalogue: Devaney and Wurst 2016), no. 31, ill. in color, p. 163, as The Limit. Traveled to: Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao, Spain, February 3–June 4, 2017.
Ca'Pesaro International Gallery of Modern Art, Venice, Italy, Arshile Gorky: 1904–1948, May 8–September 22, 2019, ill. in color, p. 211; details ill. in color, pp. 212–13, as The Limit.
Hauser & Wirth, New York, Arshile Gorky: Beyond The Limit, November 16–December 23, 2021, ill. in color, p. 8; ill. in color (details), cover, pp. 4–7, as The Limit. Traveled to: Hauser & Wirth, Zurich, February 4–March 19, 2022.
Ballard, Louis. "Art." Arts & Architecture (Los Angeles) 68 (May 1951), discussed p. 11, as The Limit.
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, as The Limit.
Coates, Robert M. "The Art Galleries." The New Yorker 29 (February 28, 1953), discussed p. 83, as The Limit.
McBride, Henry. "Success at last." Artnews (New York) 52 (April 1953), discussed p. 67, as The Limit.
Coates, Robert M. "The Art Galleries." The New Yorker 33 (December 14, 1957), discussed p. 142, as The Limit.
Sawin, Martica. "Arshile Gorky." Arts Magazine (New York) 32, no. 3 (December 1957), discussed p. 52, as The Limit.
Schwabacher, Ethel. Arshile Gorky. New York: The Macmillan Company for the Whitney Museum of American Art, 1957. Monograph, pl. VII, ill. in color, as The Limit.
Rosenblum, Robert. "Arshile Gorky." Review of Arshile Gorky, by Ethel Schwabacher. Arts Magazine (New York) 32, no. 4 (January 1958), discussed p. 33, as The Limit.
Rudikoff, Sonya. "Gorky and Tomlin." Review of Arshile Gorky, by Ethel Schwabacher. Partisan Review (New York) 25, no. 1 (Winter 1958), discussed pp. 159–160, as The Limit.
Rosenberg, Harold. "Arshile Gorky: The Last Move." The Hudson Review (New York) 13 (Spring 1960), discussed p. 110, as The Limit.
Reiff, Robert F. "A Stylistic Analysis of Arshile Gorky's Art from 1943–1948." Ph.D. diss., Columbia University, New York, 1961, fig. 63, ill. in b/w, p. 341, as The Limit.
Boatto, Alberto. "L'itinerario di Gorky." Arte Oggi (Rome) 14 (June–December 1962), discussed p. 15, as "Il limite."
Rosenberg, Harold. Arshile Gorky: The Man, the Time, the Idea. New York: Horizon Press, 1962. Monograph, ill. in color, pp. 58–59, as The Limit.
Reiff, Robert. "The Late Works of Arshile Gorky: A Critical Estimate." Art Journal (New York) 22, no. 3 (Spring 1963), discussed p. 149, as The Limit.
Arshile Gorky: Schilderijen en Tekeningen. Rotterdam: Museum Boymans van Beuingen, 1965 (1965 AC–London), no. 116, ill. in b/w, as The Limit.
Roberts, Keith. "Major Retrospective at the Tate." The Burlington Magazine (London) 107, no. 746 (May 1965), discussed p. 271, as The Limit.
Levy, Julien. Arshile Gorky. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1966. Monograph, pl. 196, ill. in color, p. 220, as The Limit.
Passeron, René. Histoire de la peinture surréaliste. Paris: Librairie Le Livre de Poche, 1968, discussed p. 245, as "La Limite."
Geldzahler, Henry. New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940–1970. New York: E.P. Dutton, in association with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1969 (1969–70a New York), no. 96, ill. in b/w, p. 162; p. 46, as The Limit.
Reiff, Robert. "Arshile Gorky's Object Matter." Arts Magazine (New York) 50, no. 7 (March 1976), discussed p. 93, as The Limit.
Levin, Gail. "Arshile Gorky (1904–1948)." In Abstract Expressionism: The Formative Years. Ithaca, NY and London: Cornell University Press, 1978. Exhibition catalogue (1978 Ithaca), fig. 64, ill. in b/w, p. 73, as The Limit.
Rose, Barbara. "Gorky, Tragic Poet of Abstract Expressionism." Vogue (New York) 169 (October 1979), ill. in color, pp. 354–55, as The Limit.
FitzGerald, Michael. "Arshile Gorky's The Limit." Arts Magazine (New York) 54 (March 1980), fig. 1, ill. in b/w, p. 110, as The Limit.
Rand, Harry. Arshile Gorky: The Implication of Symbols. London and Montclair, N.J.: George Prior and Allanheld & Schram, 1980, 1981. Monograph, fig. 11–3, ill. in b/w, p. 171, as The Limit.
Monte, James. "The Life and Work of Arshile Gorky." Museum Magazine (Arlington, VA) 2 (June–August 1981), ill. in color, p. 47, as The Limit.
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. 58, as The Limit.
Wolff, Theodore F. "The Many Masks of Modern Art." Christian Science Monitor (Boston) (May 26, 1981), ill. in b/w (repr. upside down), p. 24, as The Limit.
Jordan Jim M. and Robert Goldwater. The Paintings of Arshile Gorky: A Critical Catalogue. New York and London: New York University Press, 1982, pl. 8, ill. in color, p. 112, as The Limit.
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. 318, ill. in b/w (repr. 90 degrees counterclockwise), pp. 487–89, as The Limit.
Nercessian, Nora N. "The Defeat of Arshile Gorky." Armenian Review (Watertown, MA) 36, no. 1 (Spring 1983), discussed p. 91, as The Limit.
Seitz, William C. Abstract Expressionist Painting in America. Cambridge, MA and London: Harvard University Press for the National Gallery of Art, 1983, fig. 80, ill. in b/w, as The Limit.
Lader, Melvin P. Arshile Gorky. New York: Abbeville Press, 1985. Monograph, fig. 101, ill. in b/w, p. 100, as The Limit.
Rand, Harry. Arshile Gorky: The Implication of Symbols. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991. Monograph, fig. 11–3, ill. in b/w, p. 194, as The Limit.
Spender, Matthew. From a High Place: A Life of Arshile Gorky. New York: A.A. Knopf, 1999, discussed pp. 323, 350, as The Limit.
Herrera, Hayden. Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003, fig. 173, ill. in color, as The Limit.
Beredjiklian, Alexandre. Arshile Gorky: sept thèmes majeurs. Suresnes, France: Alphamédian & Johanet; Lisbon: Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian, 2007. Monograph, discussed pp. 14, 55, 56, 59, 60, as "Il limite."
Matttison, Robert S. Arshile Gorky: Works and Writings. Barcelona: Ediciones Polígrafica, 2009. Monograph, ill in color, p. 127, as The Limit.
Cascone, Sarah. "During Routine Maintenance, Conservators Discovered an Unknown Arshile Gorky Painting Hidden Behind a Work on Paper." Artnet News, October 21, 2021, ill. in color, as The Limit.
Loos, Ted. "Art That Was Hiding in Plain Sight." New York Times, October 24, 2021, ill. in color, p. F14, as The Limit.
McGreevy, Nora. "This Arshile Gorky Painting Spent 70 Years Hidden in Plain Sight." Smithsonian Magazine, October 28, 2021, ill. in color, as The Limit.
Mack, Gerhard. "Meisterwerk Entdeckt." Neue Zürcher Zeitung, February 6, 2022, ill. in color, p. 59, as The Limit.
The paper was mounted on canvas by the artist. The verso of the original paper support is not inscribed. The reverse of the original canvas support, which has since been separated, is marked, "THE LIMIT" (see commentary). The verso and reverse inscription information are known from the records of the Arshile Gorky Foundation.
On loan: National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., September 20, 1988–May 29, 2001; Philadelphia Museum of Art, October 1, 2009–April 24, 2019.


The painting's overall composition is prefigured in a drawing dating to 1946 (see related work).

Gorky titled the painting The Limit for its showing at the Julien Levy Gallery in New York, which took place several months before his death in July of that year.1 Julien Levy (1906–1981) later recalled Gorky having remarked that his title arose from feeling “. . . so lonely, exasperated, and how to paint such empty space—so empty it’s the limit . . .”2 By the time the painting was created in 1947, in part due to André Breton's (1896–1966) departure from New York in May 1946, Gorky's process for arriving at titles had evolved from its earlier basis in collaborative plays of free association (see commentary for P287), to an increasingly succinct "vocabulary" that was "more manifest and less a process of discovery."3

Gorky mounted the oil on paper painting on to an auxiliary canvas support using four strips of a gummed Kraft paper tape. In 2007, when The Limit was undergoing maintenance conservation, small spots of paint were discovered seeping through the reverse of the canvas support. In 2020, during conservation, a second painting, executed on the auxiliary canvas and attached to the original stretcher, was discovered beneath the paper support of The Limit. Both paintings had shared the same stretcher for over seventy years until they were separated in 2020. The Limit was subsequently mounted on a second sheet of paper and a new canvas support. The newly discovered work is catalogued as P397.

1. Julien Levy GalleryNew York, Arshile GorkyFebruary 29–March 20, 1948No catalogue. The works that appeared in the exhibition are known from a price list on file in the Julien Levy papers at the Philadelphia Museum of Art Archives.

2. Julien Levy, Arshile Gorky (New York: Harry N. Abrams Inc., 1966), 35.

3. Ibid, 36.

Related Work
c. 1946–47
Oil on canvas
Oil on canvas