Arshile Gorky - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Wednesday, November 14, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Mr. and Mrs. Nathan I. Bijur, Asbury Park (acquired directly from the artist in 1928)
    Monmouth Museum (gifted from the above in 1965)

  • Exhibited

    Leonardo, Studio 57 Gallery, Gorky: A Tercentenary Exhibition, February 6-23, 1964, no. 10, n.p. (illustrated, titled Abstract Composition)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Phillips is delighted to offer the following selection of two outstanding works by Arshile Gorky from the Monmouth Museum in New Jersey. A largely self-taught Armenian émigré artist based in New York City, Gorky was a seminal figure in the American movement towards abstraction in the first half of 20th century. His groundbreaking oeuvre ultimately paved the way for Abstract Expressionism, and these two early works exemplify the artist’s insatiable desire to learn from the masters of modern art and to develop his own signature practice.

    Musical Abstraction and Untitled were both gifted to the Monmouth Museum in 1965 by Mr. and Mrs. Nathan I. Bijur of Asbury Park, who were close friends and devoted supporters of the artist. Gorky moved to New York in 1924 and was appointed to the staff of the Grand Central School of Art in 1926, where he would teach until 1931, and supplemented his income with lessons given to many private students. Nathan, in fact, took art lessons from Gorky from 1926 to 1929 with his daughter, Jean Bijur Weiss, and he purchased Untitled directly from the artist during this period to help him in a time of financial instability. Executed circa 1928, this emotive and haunting work is exemplary of Gorky’s portraiture, which incorporates stylistic influences of Fayum portraiture and masters Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, Paul Cézanne and Pablo Picasso. While the subject of current work is unknown - likely a member of Gorky's family, one of his students from the Grand Central School of Art, or even an imaginary woman - Gorky’s portraits are distinct from his other early works in that their inspiration was drawn primarily from deeply personal sources, as evidenced in this intimate depiction of a young woman.

    Musical Abstraction, 1928 is a striking example of Gorky’s interpretation and exploration of Synthetic Cubism, specifically the works of European visionaries Cézanne, Picasso and Braque, in his still lifes of the late 1920s. In the present work, the guitar, typical imagery from the Cubist repertory, is joined with other interlocking forms and colorful abstractions to form a lyrical and dynamic composition. In a letter dated October 8th, 1963, Jean Bijur Weiss described the conception of Musical Abstraction: “My father and I were studying painting with Arshile Gorky since 1926. My father paid him a large monthly sum to help him with his living expenses. Gorky became a good friend of our family … I watched while he painted this commission from my father.”
    Each deeply personal in both their subject matter and their history, Musical Abstraction and Untitled are exceptional early works by Gorky that showcase a unique dialogue with the artists whom he sought to emulate, and ultimately transcended in his inimitable and widely influential style.

Property from the Monmouth Museum, NJ


Musical Abstraction

graphite and gouache on paperboard
28 x 44 in. (71.1 x 111.8 cm.)
Executed in 1928.

$120,000 - 180,000 

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 14 November 2018