Artwork Detail

Golden Brown Painting
American, b. Ottoman Empire (Turkey), c. 1904–1948
Oil on canvas
43 13/16 x 55 9/16 "
University purchase, Bixby Fund, 1953
WU 3841
Artist Rights Society, Inc. (ARS)
As a young man Arshile Gorky fled the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey and settled in the United States in 1920, becoming a progenitor of the American Abstract Expressionist movement. During the 1940s the artist Roberto Matta, also an exile, encouraged Gorky to experiment with the Surrealist practice of tapping unconscious associations as part of the artistic process. Gorky painted and drew abstract shapes that resembled aspects of his memories, dreams, and experiences, as in this painting, in which fluid forms clustered along the horizon suggest plants, water, and rock formations. Gorky likely based this composition on the landscape around an abandoned silica mill on the Housatonic River in Connecticut, which he and his wife visited in the summer of 1942. With its thin washes of diluted oil paint used to create transparent veils of color, this work also references the mid-1920s paintings of the Spanish Surrealist artist Joan Miro. [Permanent collection label, 2019]