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Arshile Gorky

Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia

c. 1931-32

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Arshile Gorky (c. 1902-1948)


Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia


c. 1931-32


Pen and brush and ink on board (recto); Pen and ink and graphite pencil on board (verso)


Overall: 26 1/16 × 34 1/8 in. (66.2 × 86.7 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; 50th Anniversary Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin A. Bergman

Accession number


Object Label

Between 1931 and 1934, Arshile Gorky made two paintings and more than eighty drawings titled Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia. In creating this large body of work, Gorky was inspired by Giorgio de Chirico’s painting, The Fatal Temple (1914), which he saw in the collection of the Gallery of Living Art, a museum founded by collector Albert Eugene Gallatin at New York University in Greenwich Village. De Chirico’s painting, which contained a portrait of the artist’s mother, Gemma de Chirico, and a self-portrait with a dissected brain, may have been especially resonant for Gorky, who was working on two important paintings on the subject of the artist and his mother at the time. While the early drawings in the Nighttime, Enigma and Nostalgia series are closely connected to the composition of The Fatal Temple, Gorky gradually moved away from his predecessor’s image, shifting towards the biomorphic forms and rhythmic lines that would become hallmarks of his later work.