Arshile Gorky: The Shape Shifter

A magnificent retrospective in Philadelphia charts the triumphs and tragedy of Arshile Gorky

Estate of Arshile Gorky / ARS, N.Y.

The Liver is the Cock's Comb, 1944

Is there another life in American art to compare to Arshile Gorky's? His arc from struggle to breakthrough to tragedy is slow, then swift, then dazzling and finally devastating. In the seven or so years before he took his life in 1948, he produced some of the greatest, most explosive works of the 20th century, a synthesis of Surrealism and abstraction that unlocked voluptuous new possibilities for painting and opened the way to Abstract Expressionism. It wasn't a long life, but it was lit by fire.

Though it's been almost three decades since the last Gorky retrospective, the big new show...

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