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Black Angel: A Life of Arshile Gorky Hardcover – 3 Dec 1998
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On 20 July 1948 the Armenian-American artist Arshile Gorky hanged himself in a shed in the grounds of his home in Connecticut. His last act, before he kicked away the crate that he was standing on, was to write: "Goodbye my loveds" with a broken piece of chalk. Gorky had been plagued in recent years by colonic cancer and severe injuries from a car accident. He had discovered his wife's infidelity. Despair had overtaken the creative ferocity of this man, whose Abstract Impressionist paintings influenced Rothko, Pollock, and de Kooning. Darkly brooding and passionate, with an assumed identity as the first cousin of Russian writer Maxim Gorky, the legends surrounding Arshile Gorky's life and suicide have threatened to obscure the man himself.
Black Angel: a Life of Arshile Gorky, Nouritza Matossian's impeccably researched, intensely romantic biography of the artist who was called "a Hollywood Rasputin", begins with his roots in Armenia as a survivor of the Turkish genocide of his people in 1915. Gorky's subsequent migration to the United States at the age of 17, and the profound effect his early years had on his brooding, often violent paintings (such as the 1945 work Diary of a Seducer) is examined closely, as is his turbulent life of liaisons, illness and involvement in the brilliant New York art scene of the 1930s and 1940s. Gorky's work embraced aspects of Social Realism and Surrealism but he could never fully be claimed by either movement.
Matossian, herself an Armenian by birth, captures the elusive, haunting spirit of Gorky in this vivid portrait, tirelessly searching for the human being behind the accepted image of the mysterious refugee artist.
"A profoundly moving, illuminating biography...with an almost novelistic intensity." -"Independent""From the Trade Paperback edition."See all Product description
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Armenian herself, Matossian has a deep emotional affinity with her subject. She is the first of his biographers who speaks and reads his language. She exposes deliberate misinformations and breaks new ground. This is a biography so richly researched that every chapter brings a cluster of stories.
Readers will be swept along by a compulsive narrative and charmed to find something so like a love affair between biographer and subject revealed. One is almost unsurprised, turning to the author's photograph, to find that Matossian bears a striking resemblance to the lost mother with whom Gorky felt such a profound connection.
Her visceral prose conveys the magical, otherworldly aura of the village of Van where he grew up. She provides an intricate historical framework for the circumstances of his early life and genocide.
Despite the darkness of Gorky's life Matossian's account is paradoxically enlivening as she tells his story with an almost novelistic intensity. Her book finally leaves us with the image of a man of monumental will and spirit, who embraced life with every fibre, and whose sufferings never undermined his integrity as a man or as an artist.
It was dense, exciting, each sentence thought out and wonderfully crafted, a pleasure to read. Gorky comes across as a warm, funny, and turbulent genius, an artist through and through.
I am a creative writing teacher and this book saved me from a nervous breakdown. It is inspirational
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