Arshile Gorky Catalogue Raisonné
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Catalogue Entry

Photo: © Yale University Art Gallery
The Betrothal
Oil on canvas
50 5/8 x 39 1/4 in. (128.6 x 99.7 cm)
Front, lower left: A. Gorky / 47
Reverse, stretcher bar: The Betrothal – A Gorky
International Rescue Committee, New York (organizer), Modern Art: Paintings, Sculpture, Drawings, and a Group of Contemporary Manuscripts Donated to International Rescue Inc., 1949, as The Betrothal. Traveled to: Laurel Gallery, New York, March 1–10, 1949; Kende Galleries at Gimbel Brothers, New York, March 12–18, 1949.
St. Paul Art Center, Minnesota, The Katharine Ordway Collection, May 1968, no. 22, ill. in b/w, as The Betrothal.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Arshile Gorky 1904–1948: A Retrospective, April 24–July 19, 1981, no. 200, ill. in color, p. 223, as The Betrothal. Traveled to: Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, September 12–November 6, 1981; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, December 3, 1981–February 28, 1982.
Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, Abstract Expressionism: The Critical Developments, September 19–November 29, 1987, no. 11, ill. in color, p. 177, as The Betrothal.
Sala de Exposiciones de la Fundación Caja de Pensiones, Madrid, Arshile Gorky, 1904–1948, October 17–December 23, 1989, no. 48, ill. in color, p. 129, as The Betrothal. Traveled to: Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, January 19–March 25, 1990.
Whitney Museum of Art, New York, Collection in Context: Gorky's Betrothals, October 6, 1993–January 9, 1994, ill. in color, as The Betrothal. Traveled to: Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, February 1–April 10, 1994; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, April 24–June 19, 1994.
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth and Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo (organizers), Arshile Gorky: The Breakthrough Years, 1995–96, no. 16, ill. in color, p. 121, as The Betrothal. 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. (Exhibition catalogue: Taylor 2009a), pl. 172, ill. in color, p. 335; p. 392, as The Betrothal. 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).
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 Betrothal.
Jordan, Jim M., and Robert Goldwater. The Paintings of Arshile Gorky: A Critical Catalogue. New York and London: New York University Press, 1982, pl. 9, ill. in color, p. 113, as The Betrothal.
Millard, Charles W. "Arshile Gorky." The Hudson Review (New York) 35, no. 1 (Spring 1982), discussed, p. 110, as "The Betrothal I".
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, p. 90, as "Betrothal".
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. 340, ill. in b/w, pp. 517–19, as The Betrothal.
Kuspit, Donald. "Arshile Gorky: Images in Support of the Invented Self." In Abstract Expressionism: The Critical Developments. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1987. Exhibition catalogue, discussed, p. 62, as The Betrothal.
Anfam, David. Abstract Expressionism. New York: Thames & Hudson, 1990, discussed, p. 118, as The Betrothal.
Kramer, Hilton. "Tragedy of Life and Art." Art & Antiques (New York) 18, no. 9 (October 1995), discussed, p. 116, as The Betrothal.
Sawin, Martica. Surrealism in Exile and the Beginning of the New York School. Cambridge, MA, and London: The MIT Press, 1995, ill. in b/w, p. 408, as "Betrothal".
Weil, Rex. "Arshile Gorky." Artnews (New York) 94 (September 1995), discussed, p. 147, as one of "three versions of The Betrothal".
Ades, Dawn. Surrealist Art: The Lindy and Edwin Bergman Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago. Margherita Andreotti, ed. Chicago and New York: Art Institute of Chicago and Thames and Hudson, 1997, discussed, p. 144, as The Betrothal.
Karmel, Pepe. "Arshile Gorky: Anatomical Blackboard." Master Drawings (New York) 40 (2002), fig. 5, ill. in color, p. 12, as The Betrothal.
Rosand, David. The Invention of Painting in America. New York: Columbia University Press, 2004, fig. 74, ill. in b/w, p. 144, as The Betrothal.
Beredjiklian, Alexandre. Arshile Gorky: sept thèmes majeurs. Suresnes, France: Alphamédian & Johanet; Lisbon: Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian, 2007. Monograph, discussed, p. 55, as "Les fiançailles".
Matttison, Robert S. Arshile Gorky: Works and Writings. Barcelona: Ediciones Polígrafica, 2009. Monograph, ill. in color, p. 135, as The Betrothal.
Alberro, Alexander. "The Apprenticeship of Arshile Gorky: On Arshile Gorky at the Philadelphia Museum of Art." Texte zur Kunst (Cologne) 77 (March 2010), ill. in b/w, p. 211, as The Betrothal.
Gale, Matthew. Arshile Gorky: Enigma and Nostalgia. London: Tate Publishing, 2010. Exhibition catalogue (2009–10 Philadelphia), no. 41, ill. in color, p. 80, as The Betrothal.
Sandler, Irving H. "Arshile Gorky, 'An Artist of the Earth.'" The Brooklyn Rail (NY) (July–August 2013), ill. in color, p. 35, as The Betrothal.
The reverse is covered by a backing board; the inscription on the stretcher bar is known from the records of Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut.


In 1934, two years after Gorky's younger sister Vartoosh Mooradian (née Adoian; 1906–1991) and her husband Moorad (1896–1963) had left their home in Massachusetts for Soviet Armenia in an unsuccessful attempt to find work, Vartoosh was eager to return to the United States. They could not afford the trip and Vartoosh was not yet an American citizen, so Gorky contacted Katharine Ordway (1899–1979), a philanthropist and art patron, who agreed to pay for their return. Gorky returned the favor in late January 1948 when he donated the painting to the International Relief & Rescue Committee (later shortened to the International Rescue Committee), an organization Ordway supported, as a way of contributing to their efforts.

On January 27, 1948, Gorky wrote to the Committee's Executive Secretary Sheba Strunsky (1903–1979) from Sherman, Connecticut: "My painting, The Betrothal [P340], 38" x 51" oil on canvas, price $900 is at my studio, 36 Union Sq. E. New York 3. Apt #7. I have arranged with my tenants to have it ready when & if you are able to collect it. . . . I'm very glad to be able to contribute something to your good work."1

The painting was never shown during the artist's lifetime and Gorky's identification of its title in his letter confirming its donation only came to light years later. Katharine Ordway acquired the painting from the Committee's March 1949 fundraiser auction and showed it just once during the three decades that she owned it. The small exhibition, which opened in May 1968, consisted of a selection of works from her collection and was held at the St. Paul Art Center in St. Paul, Minnesota, the city in which she was born.

The opportunity to consider the painting in relation to his larger body of work, therefore, did not take place until after Ordway's estate bequeathed her collection to the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1980. With the benefit of hindsight, it can be confirmed that Gorky gave a version of the title, The Betrothal, to four works, all of which share the same imagery and dimensions. The artist sent one such drawing (D1492), along with two paintings (P338 and P339), to Julien Levy Gallery in late 1947. Because the two paintings were exhibited together the following February, Gorky added roman numerals to the titles in order to distinguish between them; they became The Betrothal I and The Betrothal II, respectively. The drawing went to the Whitney Museum for its Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Sculpture, Watercolors, and Drawings which opened in late January 1948 and Gorky also titled it The Betrothal.

1. Letter from Arshile Gorky to Sheba Strunsky, Executive Secretary to the International Relief & Rescue Committee, January 27, 1948, AGF Archives; reprinted in 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), 517.

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