Arshile Gorky Catalogue Raisonné
Print this page

Catalogue Entry

enlarge
Photo: Courtesy the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
D0659
(Study for The Artist and His Mother)
c. 1934–36
Graphite pencil on paper
24 x 19 in. (61 x 48.3 cm)
Recto, in pencil, lower center: 9 18 34; 15; upper right: 2 2/[illegible] / 2 4; lower right: 2 5/4 / 5 1/ / 6[?] / 3 1/2 / [line] / 14 3/4[?] [sideways]
Verso not inscribed
Exhibitions
Museum of Modern Art, New York, Arshile Gorky, 1904–1948, December 19, 1962–February 12, 1963, no. 16, ill. in b/w, p. 17, as "The Artist and His Mother." 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. 17, ill. in b/w, as "The Artist and His Mother," [London: no. 17, ill. in b/w; Rotterdam: no. 17, ill. in b/w as "De kunstenaar en zijn moeder / The artist and his mother"]. 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 & Co. Inc, New York, Gorky: Drawings, November 25–December 27, 1969, no. 45, ill. in b/w, p. 30, as "The Artist and His Mother."
Kunsthaus Zurich, Malerei und Photographie im Dialog von 1840 bis Heute, May 13–July 24, 1977, no. 53, ill. in b/w, p. 31, as "Zeichnung zum Gemälde "Arshile Gorky mit seiner Mutter"."
Xavier Fourcade Inc, New York, Arshile Gorky: Important Paintings and Drawings, April 3–28, 1979, ill. in b/w, as "The Artist and His Mother."
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Arshile Gorky 1904–1948: A Retrospective, April 24–July 19, 1981, no. 74, ill. in b/w, p. 121, as "Portrait of the Artist and His Mother." Traveled to: Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, September 11–November 8, 1981; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, December 3, 1981–February 28, 1982.
Sala de Exposiciones de la Fundación Caja de Pensiones, Madrid, Arshile Gorky, 1904–1948, October 17–December 23, 1989, no. 62, ill. in color, p. 140, as "Portrait of the Artist and His Mother." Traveled to: Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, January 19–March 25, 1990.
Gagosian Gallery, New York, Arshile Gorky: Portraits, March 20–April 27, 2002, ill. in color, p. 23, as "Portrait of the Artist and His Mother."
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective of Drawings, November 20, 2003–February 15, 2004, no. 57, ill. in color, p. 117, as "Portrait of the Artist and His Mother." Traveled to: Menil Collection, Houston, March 5–May 9, 2004.
Fresno Art Museum and the Armenian Museum, California, Vosdanik Manouk Adoian a.k.a. Arshile Gorky, April 7–June 4, 2006, no. 11, ill. in color, p. 29, as "Portrait of the Artist and His Mother."
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective, October 15, 2009–January 10, 2010, no. 29, ill. in color, p. 187, as "Study for The Artist and His Mother." Traveled to: Tate Modern, London, February 10–May 3, 2010. (Gale 2010).; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, June 6–September 20, 2010.
Literature
Coke, Van Deren. The Painter and the Photograph. Albuequerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1964, fig. 160, ill. in b/w, p. 68, as "The Artist and His Mother."
Levy, Julien. Arshile Gorky. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1966. Monograph, pl. 24, ill. in b/w, p. 48, as "The Artist and His Mother," dated c. 1936.
Rathbone, Eliza E. "Arshile Gorky: The Plow and the Song." In American Art at Mid-Century: The Subjects of the Artist. Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1978. Exhibition catalogue, fig. 11, ill. in b/w, p. 68, as "The Artist and His Mother."
Richard, Paul. "Artful Melodies of Pain." The Washington Post, June 2, 1979, ill. in b/w, p. C1.
Rand, Harry. Arshile Gorky: The Implication of Symbols. London and Montclair, N.J.: George Prior and Allanheld & Schram, 1980, 1981. Monograph, fig. 2–11, ill. in b/w, p. 24, as "The Artist and His Mother."
Lader, Melvin P. "Arshile Gorky's The Artist and His Mother: Further Study of Its Evolution, Sources, and Meaning." Arts Magazine (New York) 58 (January 1984), fig. 4, ill. in b/w, p. 98, as "Portrait of the Artist and His Mother."
Lader, Melvin P. Arshile Gorky. New York: Abbeville Press, 1985. Monograph, fig. 29, ill. in b/w, p. 34, as "The Artist and His Mother."
Rand, Harry. Arshile Gorky: The Implication of Symbols. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991. Monograph, fig. 2–11, ill. in b/w, p. 26, as "The Artist and His Mother."
Cotter, Holland. "Suspended Between Modernism and an Armenian Past." New York Times, April 12, 2002, ill. in b/w, p. E35, as "The Artist and His Mother."
Herrera, Hayden. "Gorky's Distant Likenesses." Art in America (New York) 90 (November 2002), ill. in color, p. 150, as "Portrait of the Artist and His Mother."
Herrera, Hayden. Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003, fig. 7, ill. in b/w, as "Portrait of the Artist and His Mother."
Princenthal, Nancy. "Line Readings: Arshile Gorky's Line Drawings." Art in America (New York) 92 (May 2004), ill. in color, p. 134, as "Portrait of the Artist and His Mother."
Beredjiklian, Alexandre. Arshile Gorky: sept thèmes majeurs. Suresnes, France: Alphamédian & Johanet; Lisbon: Fondation Calouste Gulbenkian, 2007. Monograph, discussed p. 27, as "Portrait de l'artiste et de sa mère."
Cooksey, Chelsea L. "Arshile Gorky: The Abstraction of Symbol, Figure, and Form." M.A. Thesis, Purchase College, State University of New York, 2009, fig. 55, ill. in color, p. 82, as "The Artist and His Mother."
Matttison, Robert S. Arshile Gorky: Works and Writings. Barcelona: Ediciones Polígrafica, 2009. Monograph, ill. in color, p. 21, as "Study for The Artist and His Mother."
Meyer, James. "The Double: Identity and Difference in Art since 1900." In The Double: Identity and Difference in Art since 1900. Washington, D.C, Princeton, and Oxford: National Gallery of Art in association with Princeton University Press, 2022. Exhibition catalogue, fig. 9, ill. in color, p. 23; discussed pp. 23–24, as "Portrait of the Artist and His Mother."
Notes
Verso, in blue ink, upper left [by Ethel Schwabacher]: Portrait of the Artist / with his mother [sideways]; 1926 [sideways]; 2 [sideways and circled]; / in ink: Agnes Phillips Collection [sideways]; in pencil, lower left [not in artist's hand]: I.21; lower right: 62.1256
The verso inscription information and marking are known from a photograph provided by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

Commentary

The drawing is after a black-and-white photograph of Gorky and his mother Shushan Der Marderosian Adoian (1880–1919) (see supplementary image). The photograph was taken c. 1912 and was intended as a memento for the artist's father Setrag Adoian (c. 1871–1948) who had immigrated to the United States in 1906 and to whom it was sent. 

The penciled grid superimposed over the drawing indicates that it served as a study for a painting. Gorky numbered the square units along the top edge of the sheet one through nineteen and the squares on the right edge one through twenty-four as an aid in transferring the composition to the canvas. There are two paintings (P114 and P115) for which this drawing may be a preliminary study, both titled The Artist and His Mother.

Of the known drawings relating to the The Artist and His Mother composition, this drawing is the only one in which Gorky's head appears tilted and his gaze directed downward—two details that differ from the source photograph. According to Gorky scholar Melvin P. Lader who first noticed these details, they suggest that the drawing is most similar to the version of The Artist and His Mother in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (P115).1

Gorky inscribed several numbers on the recto of the drawing. In the upper and lower right corners, the inscriptions appear to be calculations, possibly referring to the sizing-up of the composition onto the canvas. At the lower edge, in the bottom of the column inscribed "8," are the numbers "9 18 34." The significance of this inscription, as is the case with the other numerical inscriptions, is unclear. Some scholars, including Lader, understood this to be the drawing's date: September 18, 1934. Lader writes, "If we accept the date on the drawing, it not only documents a major transformation that led to the final resolution of the work, but it fits in well with the eyewitness accounts."2 The numerous eyewitness accounts by Gorky's contemporaries, cited by Lader, all suggest that P115 was finished c. 1934 (see commentary for P115). As such, a date of 1934 for the drawing is highly plausible. The drawing's date of c. 1934–36 in the catalogue raisonné accommodates Lader's interpretation of the inscription as well as the year that the drawing has been historically dated, namely c. 1936.

1. Melvin P. Lader, "Arshile Gorky's The Artist and His Mother: Further Study of Its Evolution, Sources, and Meaning,"ARTS Magazine 58 (January 1984): 99.

2. Ibid.

Gorky and his mother, Shushan Der Marderosian Adoian, Van, c. 1912. Photo: Hovhannes Avedaghayan. Courtesy of Dr. Bruce Berberian.

Portraits (sitter identified): Shushan der Marderosian (artist's mother)

Related Work
loading