New York Becomes the Center
Partisan Review
"The main premises of Western painting have at last migrated to the United States, along with the center of gravity of industrial production and political power."
- Clement Greenberg in The Decline of Cubism, 1948











Surrealism = a European artistic and literary movement of the 1920s and 1930s that explored the direct expression of the unconscious unobscured by rational thought. Surrealism was influenced by Sigmund Freud's psychoanalytical theories, but the movement was also very much a reaction against the "reason" that had led Europe into the devastations of World War I.

Construction with Boiled Beans

Salvador Dali, Construction with Boiled Beans, 1936.












Joan Miro, Nocturne, 1935.
Yves Tanguy, Indefinite Divisiblitly, 1942.











"Born in Romania in 1910, Hedda Sterne moved to the U.S in 1941." "From 1924 to 1941 Hedda Sterne created multiple forms of art which could be seen as series in the flux of the preoccupation. There are surrealist compositions with fantasy and fairy tale atmosphere, with princesses and castles surrounded by huge scale flowers. Collages were part of her artistic research and the hazard is extremely present within the artworks. Hedda was using different cut-outs from magazines and papers, which she threw on another paper. She would glue them as they accidentally lie down and integrate them with drawings in surrealistic, strange compositions." - ArtDaily
Hedda Sterne, Feminine Character,
c. 1938. Collage on paper.












The Betrothel

Vassily Kandinsky, Improvisation No. 30 (Cannons), 1913.

Arshile Gorky, The Betrothel II, 1947.











Vostanik Manoog Adoyan
Arshile = refers to the hero Achilles
Gorky = Russian for bitter
"The bitter Achilles"
Standing L to R: Bernard Reis, Irene Francis, Esteve Francés, Elena Calas, Arshile Gorky Enrico Donati, Nicolas Calas.
Seated L to R: Steffi Kiesler, Andre Breton, Mougouch, Max Ernst Becky Reis, Elisa Breton, Patricia Matta, Frederick Kiesler, Nina Lebel, Roberto Matta, Marcel Duchamp.











The Artist and His Mother

The Art ist and HIs Mother

Arshile Gorky, The Artist and His Mother, 1926 - 1936.
Gorky and His Mother c. 1912













The Betrayed, BBC documentary on Armenian Genocide











Arshile Gorky, Composition: Horse and Figures, 1928.
Arshile Gorky, How My Mother's Embroidered Apron Unfolds in My Life, 1944.











The Liver in the Cock's Comb

Arshile Gorky, The Liver is the Cock's Comb, 1944.











Multiple layers of meaning for "liver" :
Cock's Comb
one who lives
the liver was the source of passion for the ancients
"I do not believe in anarachy in art. There must be some structure...For me, art must be a facet of the thinking mind...unrelenting spontaneity is chaos." - Arshile Gorky











Federal Art Project
1935 - 1943

FAP artists received famous salary of $23.86/ week
when a Woolworth's clerk earned $11/ week

Fostred a sense of community amongst artists
Spoke of the importance of art to the United States











Paul Julian, Orange Pickers, Fullerton, CA Post Office, 1941 - 1942. Oil on canvas.
WPA poster 1930s











The artistic community in New York begins to blossom.

Art Students League

Important art schools opened and groups formed:
  • Art Students League
  • Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts
  • The Club
  • Cedar Tavern
The Cedar Bar
The Art Students League, NY











New venues to see and exhibit art in:
  • Museum of Modern Art
  • Museum of Non-Objective Painting (will later become the Guggenheim Museum)
  • Betty Parsons Gallery
  • Sidney Janis Gallery
  • Art of This Century Gallery
Art of This Century Gallery











Historic Context
Weimar inflation after WWI
Mussolini claims power over Italy as fascist dictator
While in prison for attempted seizure of power, Hitler writes Mien Kampf, arguring for Germany's need for large military, economic self-sufficiancy, suppression of communism, and the extermination of Jews.
Great Depression begins
Hitler's Nazi Party seizes power
New Deal begins - program of government spending to end the Great Depression
1936 - 1939
Spanish Civil War
German scientists bombard nucleus with protons, releasing enormous energy & providing decisive proof of Einstein's theory related to E=mc2
Germany invades Poland, England & France declare war
1939 - 1945
WWII - the largest and deadliest war in history with over 73 million deaths (22 to 25 milion military casualties)
Japanese attack Pearl Harbor











An American B-29 bomber named Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, in one of the final chapters of World War II. It killed an estimated 140,000 by December that year.
Hiroshima after atomic bombing

Hiroshima Museum of Science and Industry, 1945











On August 9, the port city of Nagasaki was also bombed, killing an estimated 70,000 people. Japan surrendered six days later -- on August 15, 1945 -- [arguably] bringing the war to a close.


Nuclear bombing of Nagasaki,  August 9, 1945.
Nagasaki before and after nuclear bombing, 1945.












Lee Miller, Buchenwald, April 1945. 
Dresden after allied bombing, 1945.