Arshile Gorky Catalogue Raisonné
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Catalogue Entry

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Photo: Jon Etter
P397
[Virginia Summer]
c. 1946–47
Oil on canvas
50 9/16 x 62 5/8 in. (128.5 x 159 cm)
Not inscribed
Private collection
Provenance
Private collection (2020)
Exhibitions
Hauser & Wirth, New York, Arshile Gorky: Beyond The Limit, November 16–December 23, 2021, ill. in color, p. 21; ill. in color (details), pp. 22–27, as "Untitled (Virginia Summer)." Traveled to: Hauser & Wirth, Zurich, February 4–March 19, 2022.
Literature
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 "Untitled (Virginia Summer)."
Loos, Ted. "Art That Was Hiding in Plain Sight." New York Times, October 24, 2021, ill. in color, p. F14, as "Untitled (Virginia Summer)."
McGreevy, Nora. "This Arshile Gorky Painting Spent 70 Years Hidden in Plain Sight." Smithsonian Magazine, October 28, 2021, ill. in color, as "Untitled (Virginia Summer)."
Mack, Gerhard. "Meisterwerk Entdeckt." Neue Zürcher Zeitung, February 6, 2022, ill. in color, p. 59, as "Ohne Titel (Virginia Summer)."
Notes
The reverse inscription information is known from the records of the Arshile Gorky Foundation.

Commentary

The Gorky family spent several summers in Lincoln, Virginia, at Crooked Run Farm, the home of Agnes "Mougouch" Magruder Gorky's (1921–2013) family, beginning in 1943. They returned the following year and again in 1946 after Gorky's studio at the house they rented in Sherman, Connecticut, had burned down several months earlier. Summers on the Virginia farm were eye-opening for the artist. As James Johnson Sweeney, curator at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, wrote in the spring of 1944, Gorky began to "look into the grass [resulting in] a series of monumentally drawn details of what one might see in the heavy August Grass."1 That summer of 1946, when Gorky was recovering from surgery for colon cancer, was particularly fruitful and he produced nearly 300 drawings.2

The title, Virginia—Summer, was first used by Gorky scholar, Jim M. Jordan, in his essay for the catalogue published by Knoedler, to accompany the exhibition, Gorky: Drawings. The esteemed New York gallery had recently begun representing the artist's estate and this show, which opened in late 1969, was its first dedicated to his work.

Even though six drawings share similar motifs, Jordan assigned the title to only one drawing: D1440, an undated work in pencil and crayon that is stylistically consistent with works that Gorky completed in 1946. Of the other drawings, one is titled Summer (D1434), and five are referred to simply as Drawing.3

The painting, Virginia Summer, comprises the elements found in these drawings. It was discovered in 2020 beneath the 1947 painting, The Limit (P318). Gorky had mounted both works onto the same stretcher, which they shared for over seventy years until their separation in 2020.

1. James Johnson Sweeney, "Five American Painters," Harper's Bazaar vol. 78 (April 1944): 76ff.

2. Gorky to Vartoosh Mooradian, November 17, 1946, Arshile Gorky Research Collection, Frances Mulhall Achilles Library and Archives, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York in Matthew Spender, ed., Arshile Gorky: The Plow and the Song: A Life in Letters and Documents (Zurich: Hauser & Wirth Publishers, 2018), 406.

3. See D1435,  D1436, D1437, D1441, and D1446.

Related Work
1947
Oil on paper mounted on canvas
P318
Oil on paper mounted on canvas
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