Arshile Gorky

the last

The Last Painting
, 1948
Oil on canvas

A short time after his studio burned, Gorky underwent a painful operation for rectal cancer. In June 1948, he was badly injured in an automobile accident which temporarily paralyzed his painting arm. Alarmed at Gorky’s increasing melancholia, his wife took their two children to safety, leaving him in a suicidal spiral that ended with the tormented artist hanging himself on July 21, 1948.

As he prepared to take his own life, Gorky wrote in chalk on a wooden crate, “Goodbye My Beloveds.” The word “beloved” was well chosen. Gorky was a man and an artist who evoked love in his work and in his life. Willem de Kooning, his great friend, called him “Sweet Arshile.”

Starting in 1946, however, Gorky had a run of bad luck: a year’s worth of paintings and drawings were destroyed in a fire; an operation for cancer forced him to use a colostomy bag; his wife had an affair with his best friend; he even broke his neck in a car crash, temporarily paralysing his painting arm. Gorky became horribly depressed. In the summer of 1948, he hanged himself in a shed.

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