Arshile Gorky

Arshile Gorky

Style: Abstract Expressionism

Lived: April 15, 1904 - July 21, 1948 (20th century)

Nationality: USA


Vostanik Adoyan, better known as Arshile Gorky, was born in Khorkom near Van (Armenia) on April 15, 1904. During the Turkish invasion he left Van in 1915 and arrived in the USA in 1920.

When Gorky was four, his father emigrated to America to avoid the draft, leaving his son behind. The two were reunited when Gorky came to America at age 16, but they never grew close. At 15, Gorky's mother died of starvation in his arms during the Turkish siege. At age 31, Gorky married.


In letters to his sisters Gorky often described moods of melancholy, and expressed loneliness and emptiness, nostalgia for his country; and bitterly and vividly recalled the circumstances of his mother's death.

In 1925 Vostanik Adoyan moved to New York and changed his name to Arshile Gorky. Here he joined the Grand Central School of Art as a student but he soon managed to become an instructor.


Two years before Gorky's death he underwent a series of catastrophes. His studio barn burned down; he underwent a colostomy for cancer; his neck was broken and his painting arm temporarily paralyzed in a car accident; and his wife of seven years left him, taking their children with her. Gorky ended his life July 21, 1948, at age 44, when he hanged himself.

As a survivor of the Armenian Genocide he was used in an indirect role in Atom Egoyan's movie Ararat.

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