The first appearance of the artist Arshile Gorky dates from 1924, when – working as a teaching assistant at the New School of Design in Boston – he began to sign paintings using a version of this name. The associations with the Russian proletarian writer Maxim Gorky suggested a revolutionary and internationalist flavour that would emerge in his art. Later that year he moved to New York City, where he continued to teach and study.
Gorky’s work was underpinned by an intensive study of paintings in the museums of Boston and New York. He was passionate about the art of his time, asserting that ‘The old masters were bound by convention and rule to paint certain things – saints, the Madonna, the crucifixion. Modern art has gone ahead widely and developed as it never had a chance to do in the hands of the old masters’. While his early paintings were clearly guided by the influence of artists such as Cézanne, Matisse and Picasso, they nevertheless show the gradual emergence of his own personality.