Arshile Gorky Catalogue Raisonné
Print this page

Catalogue Entry

Photo: © The Art Institute of Chicago / Art Resource, NY
Portrait of My Mother
c. 1936
Charcoal on laid paper
24 13/16 x 19 1/8 in. (63 x 48.6 cm)
Recto, in charcoal, lower right: A. Gorky 1926 [or 1936]
Verso not inscribed
San Francisco Museum of Art, Arshile Gorky, August 9–24, 1941, as Portrait of My Mother, dated 1921.
Arts Club of Chicago, Drawings 1916/1966, February 28–March 11, 1966, no. 35, ill. in b/w, as "The Artist's Mother".
Peale Galleries, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Paintings and Drawings by Arshile Gorky, November 9–December 10, 1967, no. 9, as "The Artist's Mother".
J. Millard Tawes Fine Arts Center, University of Maryland Art Department and Art Gallery, College Park, The Drawings of Arshile Gorky, March 20–April 27, 1969 (Exhibition catalogue: Joyner 1969), no. 1 (Portrait and Figure Drawings), p. 55; fig. 5, ill. in b/w, p. 27, as "The Artist's Mother," dated 1926–36?
M. Knoedler & Co. Inc, New York, Gorky: Drawings, November 25–December 27, 1969 (Exhibition catalogue: Jordan 1969), no. 47, ill. in b/w, p. 30; p. 57, as "The Artist's Mother," dated 1929–36.
Society of the Four Arts, Palm Beach, Florida, Drawings from the Art Institute of Chicago, January 5–27, 1974, no. 24, ill. in b/w, as "The Artist's Mother".
University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, Arshile Gorky: Drawings and Paintings, April 29–May 10, 1974, as "The Artist's Mother".
Hayden Gallery, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Drawings by Five Abstract Expressionist Painters: Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Philip Guston, February 21–March 26, 1975, no. 1, ill. in b/w, p. 21, as "The Artist's Mother," dated 1926.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Twentieth Century American Drawing: Three Avant-Garde Generations, January 23–March 28, 1976, no. 78, ill. in b/w, p. 63, as "The Artist's Mother". Traveled to: Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden, Germany, May 27–July 11, 1976; Kunsthalle, Bremen, Germany, July 18–August 29, 1976.
Wildenstein & Co, New York, and Department of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University, New York (organizers), Wildenstein & Co, Modern Portraits: The Self & Others, October 20–November 28, 1976, no. 41, ill. in b/w, p. 58; discussed p. 184, as "The Artist's Mother".
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C, American Portrait Drawings, May 1–August 3, 1980, ill. in b/w, p. 131, as "The Artist's Mother".
Centre National d’Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou, Paris, Les Réalismes, 1919–1939, December 17, 1980–April 20, 1981, ill. in b/w, p. 263, as "La Mère de l'artiste". Traveled to: Staatliche Kunsthalle, Berlin, May 10–June 30, 1981.
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, Arshile Gorky 1904–1948: A Retrospective, April 24–July 19, 1981, no. 72, ill. in b/w, p. 119, as "The Artist's Mother," dated 1938. Traveled to: Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, September 12–November 6, 1981; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, December 3, 1981–February 28, 1982.
Art Institute of Chicago, Great Drawings from the Art Institute of Chicago: The Harold Joachim Years 1958–1983, July 24–September 30, 1985, no. 100, ill. in color, p. 213, as "The Artist's Mother". Traveled to: Saint Louis Art Museum, March 10–May 16, 1986.
Heckscher Museum of Art, Huntington, New York, The Artist's Mother: Portraits and Homages, November 14, 1987–January 3, 1988, no. 7, ill. in b/w, p. 35, as "The Artist's Mother" (shown in Washington, D.C. only). Traveled to: National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C, March 26–June 5, 1988.
Gagosian Gallery, New York, Arshile Gorky: Portraits, March 20–April 27, 2002, ill. in color, pp. 32–33, detail pp. 30–31, as "The Artist's Mother," dated c. 1926–36 (not exhibited).
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective of Drawings, November 20, 2003–February 15, 2004, no. 4, ill. in color, p. 23; p. 242, as "The Artist's Mother," dated 1926 or 1936. Traveled to: Menil Collection, Houston, March 5–May 9, 2004.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective, October 15, 2009–January 10, 2010 (Exhibition catalogue: Taylor 2009a), pl. 30, ill. in color, p. 188; p. 386, as "The Artist's Mother," dated c. 1926–36. Traveled to: Tate Modern, London, February 10–May 3, 2010; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, June 6–September 20, 2010.
Coke, Van Deren. The Painter and the Photograph. Albuequerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1964, fig. 161, ill. in b/w, p. 68, as "The Artist's Mother".
Levy, Julien. Arshile Gorky. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1966. Monograph, pl. 22, ill. in b/w, p. 46, as "The Artist's Mother".
Mooradian, Karlen. "Arshile Gorky: The Prompter." Harvard Art Review (Cambridge, MA) 2, no. 1 (Winter 1967), ill. in b/w, p. 36, as "The Artist's Mother".
Mooradian, Karlen. "The Gardener from Eden." Ararat (New York) 9 (Winter 1968), ill. in b/w, p. 2, as "The Artist's Mother".
Kramer, Hilton. "Arshile Gorky: Between Two Worlds." New York Times, December 7, 1969, ill. in b/w, p. D29, as "The Artist's Mother".
Maxon, John. The Art Institute of Chicago. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1970, ill. in b/w, p. 171.
Mooradian, Karlen. "A Special Issue on Arshile Gorky." David Kherdian, ed. Ararat (New York) 12 (Fall 1971), ill. in b/w (detail), back cover, as "The Artist's Mother".
Auer, James. "A Gorky Sampler." The Milwaukee Journal, May 5, 1974, discussed p. 6, as "a haunting 1926 charcoal drawing of the artist's mother".
Mooradian, Karlen. The Many Worlds of Arshile Gorky. Chicago: Gilgamesh Press, 1980. Monograph, fig. 1, ill. in b/w, p. xvi, as "Lady Shushanik, The Artist's Mother".
Rand, Harry. Arshile Gorky: The Implication of Symbols. London and Montclair, N.J.: George Prior and Allanheld & Schram, 1980, 1981. Monograph, fig. 2–14, p. 27, as "The Artist's Mother".
Shone, Richard. "Paris. Les Réalismes and Other Exhibitions." The Burlington Magazine (London) 123 (April 1981), fig. 106, ill. in b/w, p. 252, as "The Artist's Mother".
Karp, Diane. "Arshile Gorky: The Language of Art." Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, 1982, fig. 21, ill. in b/w, p. 189, as "The Artist's Mother".
Mooradian, Karlen. "The Wars of Arshile Gorky." Ararat (New York) 24 (Autumn 1983), discussed p. 12, as "The Artist's 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. 5, ill. in b/w, p. 98, as "The Artist's Mother".
Lader, Melvin P. Arshile Gorky. New York: Abbeville Press, 1985. Monograph, fig. 51, ill. in b/w, p. 56, as "The Artist's Mother".
Tedeschi, Martha. Great Drawings from the Art Institute of Chicago: the Harold Joachim Years, 1958–1983. Chicago and New York: Art Institute of Chicago and Hudson Hills Press, 1985, no. 100, ill. in color, p. 213, as "The Artist's Mother".
Rand, Harry. "Gorky In Virginia." Arts in Virginia 26, no. 1 (1986), fig. 11, ill. in b/w, p. 10, as "The Artist's Mother".
Spender, Matthew. "Origines et développement de l'oeuvre dessiné de Arshile Gorky / Quellen und Entwicklung von Arshile Gorkys zeichnerischem Werk." In Arshile Gorky: Œuvres sur Papier, 1929–1947 / Arbeiten auf Papier, 1929–1947, Erika Billeter, ed. Lausanne: Musée cantonal des Beaux-Arts, 1990. Exhibition catalogue, fig. 11, ill. in b/w, p. 27, as "The Artist's Mother," dated 1938.
Rand, Harry. Arshile Gorky: The Implication of Symbols. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991. Monograph, fig. 2–14, ill. in b/w, p. 30, as "The Artist's Mother".
Matossian, Nouritza. Black Angel: The Life of Arshile Gorky. London: Chatto & Windus, 1998, pl. 1, ill. in b/w, as "The Artist's Mother".
Herrera, Hayden. Arshile Gorky: His Life and Work. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2003, fig. 49, ill. in b/w, as "The Artist's Mother".
Kimmelman, Michael. "Arshile Gorky, Poet of Line and Color." New York Times, November 28, 2003, ill. in b/w, p. 47, as "The Artist's Mother".
Anfam, David. "Arshile Gorky: New York and Houston." The Burlington Magazine (London) 146 (March 2004), fig. 81, ill. in b/w, p. 206, as "The Artist's Mother".
Rushing, W. Jackson. "Arshile Gorky's Inner Infinity." Art on Paper (New York) 8, no. 4 (March–April 2004), ill. in b/w, p. 66, as "The Artist's Mother".
Cooksey, Chelsea L. "Arshile Gorky: The Abstraction of Symbol, Figure, and Form." M.A. Thesis, Purchase College, State University of New York, 2009, fig. 52, ill. in color, p. 81; fig. 56, ill. in color, p. 83, as "The Artist's Mother".
Thurman, Judith. The Artist's Mother: The Greatest Painters Pay Tribute to the Women Who Rocked Their Cradles. New York and London: Overlook Duckworth and Peter Mayer Publishers, Inc., 2009, ill. in color, p. 106, as "The Artist's Mother".
Theriault, Kim S. Rethinking Arshile Gorky. University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2009. Monograph, fig. 8, ill. in b/w, p. 41, as "The Artist's Mother".
Rich, Sarah. "Arshile Gorky: Philadelphia Museum of Art." Artforum (New York) 48, no. 6 (February 2010), ill. in color, p. 192, as "The Artist's Mother".
Agee, William C. "Graham, Gorky, de Kooning: A New Classicism, an Alternate Modernism." In American Vanguards: Graham, Davis, Gorky, de Kooning, and Their Circle, 1927–1942. New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2012. Exhibition catalogue, fig. 47, ill. in b/w, p. 141, as "The Artist's Mother".
Spender, Matthew, ed. Arshile Gorky: The Plow and the Song: A Life in Letters and Documents. Zurich: Hauser & Wirth Publishers, 2018, ill. in color, p. 161, as "The Artist's Mother".
Watermark / Stamp: Michallet
Michallet paper with watermark, lower right [sideways]: MICHALLET / FRANCE
Verso, in pencil, upper right [not in artist's hand]: Levy 9094 [sideways]
The verso inscription information and marking are known from a photograph provided by the Art Institute of Chicago.


The drawing is a detail 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 date in the lower right corner of the drawing, which the artist most likely inscribed in charcoal pencil, is indistinct and has been interpreted as "1926" or "1936." Given that Gorky is known to have worked on the related painting The Artist and His Mother (P115) between c. 1926 and 1936, either date is plausible for the drawing. In a letter to his younger sister Vartoosh Mooradian (née Adoian; 1906–1991) dated April 18, 1938, however, Gorky writes, "I've made a very wonderful drawing of mother in charcoal, putting a great deal of time into it. It came out very well."1 As the only drawing of the artist's mother rendered in charcoal, this is undoubtedly the drawing to which he is referring; therefore, the latter date of 1936 seems more probable. It should also be noted that Gorky often backdated his works. When he loaned the drawing to the San Francisco Museum of Art in 1941 for his first solo museum exhibition, he gave it the erroneous date of 1921.2

According to Gorky scholar Melvin P. Lader, of the two painted versions of The Artist and His Mother (P114 and P115), Gorky's rendering of his mother's eyes, lips, and mouth in the drawing are closest to her likeness in P115.3 Since this painting is presumed to have been finished by c. 1934, and definitely by 1937 (see commentary for P115), Lader argues that the "drawing was not a study for the painting, as generally assumed, but was itself fashioned upon the already completed canvas which was still in Gorky's studio."4

1. Letter from Arshile Gorky to Vartoosh Mooradian, April 18, 1938, Arshile Gorky/Mooradian Archive, Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, New York. Arshile Gorky to Vartoosh Mooradian, April 18, 1938, in Matthew Spender, ed., Arshile Gorky: The Plow and the Song: A Life in Letters and Documents, trans. Father Krikor Maksoudian (Zurich: Hauser & Wirth Publishers, 2018), 159–60, 162.

2. Typed shipping manifest, August 5, 1941, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art Archives.

3. 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.

4. Ibid.

Gorky and his mother, Shushan Der Marderosian Adoian, Van, c. 1912. Unknown photographer (likely Hovhannes Avedaghayan). Courtesy of Dr. Bruce Berberian.

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

Related Work