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.
lower left: A. Gorky / 44
The estate of the artist; private collection, late 1960s; (Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York); purchased 28 February 1979 by NGA.
- Arshile Gorky, Julien Levy Gallery, New York, 1945, no. 2.
- 33 Paintings by Arshile Gorky, Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, 1957, no. 17, repro.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- Arshile Gorky, Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York, 1979, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- 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.
- 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.
- Reflections of Nature: Flowers in American Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1984, no. 66, repro.
- Abstract Expressionism: The Critical Developments, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, 1987, no. 8, repro.
- Arshile Gorky: 1904-1948, Fundación Caja de Pensiones, Madrid; Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, 1989-1990, no. 34, repro.
- 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).
- American Art in the 20th Century: Painting and Sculpture 1913-1993, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin; Royal Academy of Arts, London, 1993, no. 80, repro.
- 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.
- Surrealism USA, National Academy of Design, New York; Phoenix Art Museum, 2005, pl. 85.
- Arshile Gorky: A Retrospective, Philadelphia Museum of Art; Tate Modern, London; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 2009-2010, no. 120, repro.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 166, repro.
- 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.
- Strick, Jeremy. Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture: Selections for the Tenth Anniversary of the East Building. Washington, D.C., 1989: repro. 60, 61.
- American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 189, repro.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 263, repro.
- 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.
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 450, no. 377, color repro.
- Cooper, Harry. The Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection: Selected Works. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2009: 16, repro. 17.
- Gale, Matthew. Arshile Gorky: Enigma and Nostalgia. London, 2010: 71, fig. 34.