ARSHILE GORKY’s grief that his mother is beyond his touch and his reach


This self-portrait of Arshile Gorky, (1904-1948, Armenian-American) and his mother hangs in the Whitney Museum of North American Art, New York and is based on the photograph shown of the artist at 12 years.




The Artist and His Mother, oil on board, c. 1926-1932. 

 The photograph dates to the artist at 12 and is from the net. The painting is in the Whitney Museum of Art, NY as below.




The Artist and His Mother, oil on board, c. 1926-1932.  Whitney Museum of (North) American Art from its website



The artist paints his own hands mittened.  And his mother’s. 


This has been interpreted as a reference to their loss of each other. His mother starved to death in 1919 in Yerevan in the genocide of the Armenian people at the hands of the Turkish inheritors of the Ottoman Empire.


Another portrait hangs in the National Gallery, Washington, D.C





The Artist and His Mother, c. 1926-1942, oil on board.  National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC



He painted these images over years.


The artist looks at us in the photograph. 

But not in the paintings. 


The pattern of flowers in his mother’s apron have been overpainted by the artist.

His gift of flowers to her remains in his mittened grasp.