Arshile Gorky

Arshile Gorky

Arshile Gorky (1904 - 1948), an Armenian immigrant born Vosdanig Monoog Adoian, is an internationally acclaimed 20th century artist.  He is referred to as the Father of American Abstract Expressionism.  As a child, he survived the genocide of the Armenian people by the Otoman Turks (1915 - 1923).  In 1920, at the age of sixteen, Gorky fled Russian Armenia and arrived at Ellis Island. He spent his early years in Providence, Rhode Island, Watertown and Boston.  In late 1924 he settled in New York City.

Gorky's body of work is a unique combination of Cubism, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism.  He was heavily influenced by Cezanne, Picasso and Miro, the masters of Modern European Art. By the 1940s he was knowns as a surrealist painter and is considered to be the important bridge and direct link between Eurpoean Surrealists and U.S. Abstract Surrealists. 

A seminal figure in the movement toward abstraction, Gorky transformed American Modern art as we know it today.  He influenced many of the new generation of modern artists including Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Willem de Kooning.

His impressive body of work can be found in most major museums throughout the world, including the Tate Modern in England, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art. 

Arshile GorkyThe Whistler House Museum of Art is fortunate and honored to have in its permanent collection "The Park Street Church Boston," (1924), the earliest known painting executed by the artist, while he was a student at the New School of Design in Boston and one that employs the first use of his pseudonym, "Gorky, Arshele." Gorky began his painting in the impressionistic style emulating the techniques of the great French masters.  The rosy brick and lavender hues of the church, the pale lilac sky, the odd greens and deep yellow of the foreground foretell Gorky's future color preferences.  "The Park Street Church Boston" was donated to the WHMA in 1976 by Katherine O'Donnell Murphy.

Drawings & Paintings by Arshile Gorky
The Mina Boehm Metzger Collection

Arshile Gorky

The Mina Boehm Metzger Collection, named after a student, friend and patron of Arshile Gorky, includes early works by the artist that were painted from the mid 1920s and throughout the 1930s.

The Whistler House Museum of Art is now home to this collection.

The Mina Boehm Metzger Exhibition presents varying styles of which Gorky mastered with equal ease. As Gorky emulated Cezanne in his many early works, he turned to Picasso for the succeeding stage in his evolution toward maturity, simulating the style known as Synthetic Cubism, some of which was experimentation with collage. Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque helped develop this style in the early 1910’s. Many of Gorky’s portraits and line drawings of the mid-thirties are reminiscent of the drawing style of Henri Matisse, resembling Matisse’s felicitous and flowing lines. In addition, the collection includes crayon drawings in the Surrealist style of Joan Miró, the style that influenced his many later works.

Mina Boehm Metzger (1877-1975), for whom the collection is named, was born in Vienna, Austria “under the American Flag.” Her father was an inventor and architect who in his youth explored the American West with Buffalo Bill. She later lived in New York City where in 1898 she married David Metzger, a young successful New York businessman. She accompanied him on his various business trips to Europe. While there, she would visit many museums and galleries. This was during the stimulating age of Impressionism and these experiences left a lasting impression on her artistic spirit.

In New York, Metzger attended the Grand Central Art School where she first met Arshile Gorky. She was not only his student and a very close friend, but one of the first to recognize his artistic genius. An artist in her own right, Metzger was an avid collector of art and a passionate patron of Gorky.

The Mina Boehm Metzger Collection contains many of Gorky’s earlier works and shows his mastery of all different artistic styles. Other works in her impressive and diverse collection hang in such museums as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

Sign Up

To stay up-to-date on all our exhibits and events, join the WHMA mailing list.

Become a Member

Your membership helps to support our many programs & events. Become a member.