Artwork Detail

Golden Brown Painting
American, b. Armenia, 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 one of the early progenitors of the American Abstract Expressionist movement. Golden Brown Painting combines references to Gorky’s childhood with oblique allusions to the landscape surrounding an abandoned silica mill on the Housatonic River in Connecticut. In this work Gorky experimented with thin washes of oil paint to create transparent veils of autumnal color, evoking an otherworldly landscape. Highly abstracted figures are scattered throughout the composition. Gorky’s use of diluted paint with a loose, unpredictable flow was influenced by the European exiled Surrealists’ processes of chance composition and automatic drawing, thought to liberate the artist’s unconscious. Their practices stimulated dialogue with a young generation of American artists, including Gorky, and eventually resulted in the free brushwork and improvised gesture of Abstract Expressionism. [Permanent collection label, 2016]