The Artist's Mother

Charcoal drawing of young woman wearing headscarf, staring out expressionless.
© 2018 The Arshile Gorky Foundation / The Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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  • Charcoal drawing of young woman wearing headscarf, staring out expressionless.

Date:

1926 or 1936

Artist:

Arshile Gorky
American, born Armenia, 1904-1948

About this artwork

“The eyes of the Armenian speak before the lips move and long after they cease to,” Arshile Gorky once wrote. These words aptly describe this heroic portrait of the artist’s mother, Shushan der Marderosian. Although of noble lineage, Shushan and her family were peasants who faced poverty and Turkish persecution and massacre; in 1919 she died from starvation. The following year, Gorky and one of his sisters immigrated to the United States. This tender, haunting image is based on a photograph of the artist with his mother taken in 1912. Clad in simple country clothes, Shushan is a gaunt, distant figure with remarkable and piercing eyes. Gorky depicted his mother with careful, classical simplicity, transforming her dark beauty into the perfect features of an Orthodox church icon. The same photograph served as the inspiration for two canvases entitled The Artist and His Mother (1926–c. 1936; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; c. 1926–c. 1942; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC), as well as numerous notebook sketches and other drawings, of which this is the most finished. From this early representational mode, Gorky’s art underwent a complex evolution that led, in the 1940s, to his dynamic, biomorphic abstractions. Tragically, the artist did not escape hardship. After a series of personal disasters in the 1940s, Gorky took his own life.

Currently Off View

Prints and Drawings

Artist

Arshile Gorky

Title

The Artist's Mother

Origin

United States

Date

1926

Medium

Charcoal on ivory laid paper

Inscriptions

Signed recto, lower right: "A Gorky / 1926 [or 1936]"

Dimensions

630 × 485 mm

Credit Line

Worcester Sketch Fund

Reference Number

1965.510

Copyright

© 2018 The Arshile Gorky Foundation / The Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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