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Description - From a High Place by Matthew Spender

An immigrant from a small Armenian village in eastern Turkey, Arshile Gorky (c. 1900-1948) made his way to the U.S. to become a painter in 1920. Having grown up haunted by memories of his alternately idyllic and terrifying childhood - his family fled the Turks' genocide of Armenians in 1915 - he changed his name and created a new identity for himself in America. As an artist, Gorky bridged the generation of the surrealists and that of the abstract expressionists and was a very influential figure among the latter. His work was an inspiration to Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko, among others. Matthew Spender illuminates this world as he tells the story of Gorky's life and career.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780520225480
ISBN-10: 0520225481
Format: Paperback
(229mm x 152mm x 28mm)
Pages: 440
Imprint: University of California Press
Publisher: University of California Press
Publish Date: 6-Mar-2001
Country of Publication: United States

Other Editions - From a High Place by Matthew Spender

Book Reviews - From a High Place by Matthew Spender

US Kirkus Review » A thoughtful, emotionally engaged biography of one of the most talented - and secretive - abstract painters of the 1940s. To research this book (at the outset, anyway) Spender had only to turn his own extended family; he married Gorky's eldest daughter, Maro, in 1967. But the task was a challenge: Gorky (1904 - 48) excelled in spinning myths and was incredibly closemouthed about his past, even with his second wife, Mougouch, and their children. The facts suggest a credible reason: Born Vostanig Adoian to a poor Armenian farmer in eastern Turkey, the boy fled his homeland with his mother and siblings when the Turks began massacring Armenians in 1915. They eventually made it to the US, arriving in the Armenian enclave of Watertown, Mass., in 1920. Vostanig changed his name to Arshile Gorky (probably lifting the surname from novelist Maxim Gorky) and began a career as an artist. Wildly talented and able to copy the style of everyone from Cezanne to Picasso, he found his way to New York in 1925. His elusiveness and occasionally abrasive intensity kept other artists at arm's length, however; only a few, including Willem de Kooning, remained lifelong friends. As his career progressed, this intensity slowly began to take an ever greater toll on Gorky's mental stability. Spender does not gloss over his subject's difficulties; he writes most powerfully, in fact, of Gorky's terrifying psychological demise and eventual suicide. The rest of the book, however, suffers from the author's prosaic narrative style; as smoldering a character as Gorky surely merits a biography with more passion and fire than this. Approaching the enigma of the man, Spender (Within Tuscany: Reflections on Time and Place, 1992) looks for literal meaning beneath the artist's metaphors; although he does a thoroughly credible job, Gorky remains elusive and mystifying. (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Matthew Spender

Matthew Spender is a writer and sculptor. He married the eldest daughter of Arshile Gorky in 1968. His previous book, Within Tuscany, is a memoir about the Sienese countryside where they live.

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