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Arshile Gorky

The Betrothal, II

1947

Artist

Arshile Gorky (c. 1902-1948)

Title

The Betrothal, II

Date

1947

Medium

Oil and ink on canvas

Dimensions

Overall: 50 3/4 × 38 in. (128.9 × 96.5 cm) Frame: 51 3/16 × 39 × 1 15/16 in. (130 × 99.1 × 4.9 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase

Accession number

50.3

Object Label

Indebted to Kandinsky and Surrealism, Arshile Gorky’s mature paintings also anticipate many of the formal concerns of the emerging Abstract Expressionism movement. Painted one year before the artist’s death, The Betrothal, II features a lyrical assortment of odd, organic shapes against an overall field of soft luminous color. Although the painting appears spontaneous, Gorky actually made a number of studies for it, exploring over and over again the same fluid, biomorphic forms that suggest, along with the title, narratives of sexuality and procreation. Indeed, the attenuated shapes that emerge from the ocher background appear on the verge of metamorphosis. Some art historians have suggested that the work refers to the artist’s increasingly troubled marriage to his second wife, but ultimately The Betrothal, II, along with Gorky’s other paintings and drawings in the same series, eludes simple explanation.

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