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Overview

In One Year the Milkweed, one of several so-called color veil paintings Gorky made in 1944, films of paint have been washed unevenly across the canvas, and evocative but indistinct forms have been brushed in. Overall green and brown hues suggest a landscape, but there are no identifiable landscape forms and no spatial recession. Instead, vertical drips and the alternation of light and deep tones create a shifting, shimmering effect across the entire picture surface.

Gorky spent most of 1944 at the country estate of his wife's parents in Hamilton, Virginia, drawing, painting, and observing the changes of the seasons. His mood in One Year the Milkweed is one of lyricism and ease, and the painting could be described as a kind of abstract pastoral. The loose, wash technique of One Year the Milkweed reflects Gorky's interest in the surrealist procedure of automatism, which exploited apparently accidental effects arrived at by painting and drawing without premeditation. In surrealist theory, those accidental effects were seen as revelatory of unconscious thought processes. The title of One Year the Milkweed was given to the painting by Gorky's friend, the great surrealist poet and theorist André Breton.

Inscription

lower left: A. Gorky / 44

Provenance

The estate of the artist; private collection, late 1960s; (Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York); purchased 28 February 1979 by NGA.

Exhibition History
1945
Arshile Gorky, Julien Levy Gallery, New York, 1945, no. 2.
1957
33 Paintings by Arshile Gorky, Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, 1957, no. 17, repro.
1965
Arshile Gorky: Paintings and Drawings, Tate Gallery, London; Palais des Beaux Arts, Brussels; Museum Boymans-Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, 1965, no. 56 (London) and no. 67 (Rotterdam), repro. (mistakenly illustrated by The Horns of the Landscape).
1968
Dada, Surrealism, and Their Heritage, Museum of Modern Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Art Institute of Chicago, 1968, no. 138, fig. 269.
1978
Abstract Expressionism: The Formative Years, Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca; Seibu Museum of Art, Tokyo; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1978, no. 63, repro.
1979
Arshile Gorky, Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York, 1979, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
1980
La Pintura de Los Estados Unidos de Museos de la Ciudad de Washington, Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, 1980-1981, no. 68, color repro.
1981
Arshile Gorky 1904-1948: A Retrospective, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Dallas Museum of Fine Arts; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1981-1982, no. 165, repro.
1984
Reflections of Nature: Flowers in American Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1984, no. 66, repro.
1987
Abstract Expressionism: The Critical Developments, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 1987, no. 8, repro.
1989
Arshile Gorky: 1904-1948, Fundación Caja de Pensiones, Madrid; Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 1989-1990, no. 34, repro.
1991
André Breton: La beauté convulsive, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Centro Arte Reina Sophia, Madrid, 1991, unnumbered catalogue, repro. (title of Spanish catalogue: André Breton y el surrealismo).
1993
American Art in the 20th Century: Painting and Sculpture 1913-1993, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin; Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1993, no. 80, repro.
1995
Arshile Gorky: The Breakthrough Years, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 1995-1996, no. 8, repro.
2005
Surrealism USA, National Academy of Design, New York; Phoenix Art Museum, 2005, pl. 85.
2009
Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Tate Modern, London; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2009-2010, no. 120, repro.
Bibliography
1980
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 166, repro.
1981
Williams, William James. A Heritage of American Paintings from the National Gallery of Art. New York, 1981: color repro. 222, 243, 244, repro. 244-45.
1989
Strick, Jeremy. Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture: Selections for the Tenth Anniversary of the East Building. Washington, D.C., 1989: repro. 60, 61.
1992
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 189, repro.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 263, repro.
1995
Arshile Gorky: The Breakthrough Years. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 1995-1996: no. 8.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 450, no. 377, color repro.
2009
Cooper, Harry. The Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection: Selected Works. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2009: 16, repro. 17.
2010
Gale, Matthew. Arshile Gorky: Enigma and Nostalgia. London, 2010: 71, fig. 34.