Starting tomorrow, fans of Arshile Gorky should head straight to the Tate Modern (Bankside, SE1; 44-207-887-8888; www.tate.org.uk/modern/), which is hosting the first major retrospective of the enormously influential artist to be seen in Europe in about 20 years.
One of the most revered painters of the 20th century, the Armenian-born Gorky produced paintings of haunting grandeur. Synthesizing the work of artists like Breton, Cézanne and Picasso, he helped to create the Abstract Expressionist movement (he was a teacher to Mark Rothko and a friend to Willem de Kooning). But Gorky, who escaped the Armenian genocide in 1915, also led a difficult life — evident in the evolution of his work — and ultimately committed suicide.
The Gorky exhibition, which originated at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and runs at the Tate through May 3, features the particularly searing painting “The Artist and his Mother,” which exposes the rawness of Gorky’s pain at seeing his mother die of starvation. In contrast, after spending time in the countryside with his wife in the ’40s, he began painting radiant works, such as the luminous “Waterfall,” with its fluid, amorphous shapes and drips of liquid paint.
“Gorky is a great artist,” Matthew Gale, a curator at the Tate Modern, said, “and this is an opportunity for a new generation to reassess the power and delicate lyricism of his work in depth. Abstract Expressionism was vitally infused with his example. As is often the case, however, it was the influence of an attitude — in Gorky, passionate, exacting, inventive, ultimately tragic — that was more powerful than any stylistic influence.”
The Tate Modern is open Sunday to Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.