Arshile Gorky a retrospective exhibition banner

Waterfall

Capitalising upon the experience of drawing in Connecticut and Virginia, Gorky completely transformed his technique in 1942–3. While he had previously worked with a slow accumulation of many layers of paint, he suddenly felt able to include free line and thin veils of dilute paint. The experience of nature is evident in such works as Waterfall that combine the immediate with buried memories of childhood. This moment of enrichment seems to reflect Gorky’s closer engagement with Surrealist ideas and practices. His response to the landscape could be viewed through the renewed interest among Surrealists, especially Roberto Matta, for automatism – the liberation of the gesture from the restraint of conscious control. Early in 1944, Gorky met the Surrealists’ leader André Breton for the first time, and a friendship quickly developed, drawing him closer to the group. Breton helped to select titles for some of the extraordinary paintings of this period, using phrases picked out from the artist’s conversation