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.