Artist: Arshile Gorky
Title: The Artist and His Mother, 1926-32
Location: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Whitney Museum of American Art: "This portrait of Arshile Gorky and his mother is based on a photograph taken in Armenia in 1912, when the artist was just a child. Three years later, during the Ottoman Turk campaign of Genocide against the Armenians, Gorky, his mother, and his younger sister all survived a death march, but his mother never recovered her health. She died in 1919 from starvation. The following year, the fifteen-year-old Gorky immigrated to the United States with his sister. Gorky, however, did not simply copy the photograph, but painted a meditation on remembrance: the white apron worn by Gorky’s mother makes her appear statue-like, and other areas of the painting seem, like memory itself, unfinished and mutable. The figures’ searching gazes lend the composition psychological intensity, eliciting sympathy yet avoiding outright pathos or sentimentality."