Maro Gorky | A Life Painting

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LONG & RYLE 4 John Islip Street London SW1P 4PX t: +44 (0) 20 7834 1434 • e: • tues – fri 10 – 5:30 sat 11– 2 20 April - 17 May 2023 MARO GORKY A LIFE PAINTING 80 th Birthday Retrospective
Olive Tree, 2013 gouache 50 × 35 cm

Cressida Connolly on Maro Gorky

There are several reasons to unfurl the banners in celebration of this show of Maro Gorky’s work. It couldn’t be more timely, coinciding as it does with a significant birthday, itself an opportunity to stand back and take in the glorious view of her lifetime in painting. Felicitous too, in that the tide of interest in women artists (the prefix ‘neglected’ hardly needs to be stated) is presently very high. Gorky does not consider herself a feminist, but simply as an artist. That said, she acknowledges: “There’s a feeling that women aren’t going to stay the course, so no-one pays them any attention until they’re old.”

Museum curators the world over are scurrying to unearth artist Miss Havishams in cobwebby studios or find lost works in small provincial museums. In 2023, shows at the Royal Academy, Tates Britain and Modern, the Whitechapel and Serpentine Galleries are all displaying exciting and important work by women artists of various vintage, nationality, background and culture. As an artist who has lived all her adult life in Europe, Maro Gorky

certainly deserves to take her place among them. Any room would sing, with one of her pictures on its walls.

Her paintings chime, also, with a renewed interest in and appreciation of beauty and the figurative. “Beauty is very important. You have to develop your own alphabet of beauty”, she says. Even the bright, vivid colours she uses are now very much in demand, as the long years of sludgy beige and subtle sage greens give way to an appetite for brilliance and zing. Amethyst and ruby, peridot and lapis lazuli, citrine and turquoise: it would come as no surprise to discover that Maro Gorky has been creating her own pigments for many years from some inexhaustible and fabulous collection of jewels.

Any artist must of course draw upon their treasure, and Maro Gorky’s storehouse is great. Her commitment and seriousness, as well as her considerable formal skill, are deftly employed in the service of paintings of tremendous immediacy, freshness and verve. “I believe very strongly

in composition, in the four edges of the canvas”, she says. “I remember talking about this with Craigie Aitchison, who had also studied at the Slade. He felt strongly about composition too.” Like all the best pictures, hers are not well served by reproduction: only by standing in front of these paintings does their force and startling vitality become evident.

It is usual to say that an artist is rather like other artists, so that a new viewer will know what to expect. The claim could be made that Maro Gorky’s work has echoes of the early landscapes of Joan Miro, or of the mediterranean terrain painted by Jean Hugo (like Gorky, the scion of an artistic dynasty: in his case, that begun by Les Miserables author Victor Hugo; in hers, being the elder daughter of the world-renowned artist Arshile Gorky. “He wanted me to be a painter. When I was three I had a real easel, real paint, everything”, she recalls of her father, who died when she was five years old). Gorky has a compendious knowledge of art and mentions Yves Tanguy and Kandinsky. Perhaps the greatest influence on her practice - if not her style - has been William Morris, whose way of making art in all his everyday activities has been paramount in the life she and her husband, the sculptor and writer Matthew Spender, have created in the Italian countryside. “It’s a simple life”, she shrugs. “We made most of the contents of the house ourselves. I could be painting or cooking or weeding the garden - it’s all one.”

But it would be reductive to compare her to anyone else, because Maro Gorky has developed a style which - like her palette

- is entirely her own. “A painting is the emotion the artist has while looking at the object”, she says and that emotion is, of course, uniquely the artist’s. She adds:“Pascal said that man must learn to live alone in an empty room”, which is as good a description as any of her own practice. Painting is: “A parallel world, a place where you can have all sorts of adventures, like Alice in Wonderland. For me, painting is a magical country you enter into.”

As a result, her landscapes are as beguiling and full of character as portraits; while her portraits have the formal grandeur of landscape. In each case, the work invites you in. It’s an effect she is aware of: “Looking at the coloured etchings of Hercules Seghers years ago made me realise there’s a path in every landscape that you can walk through and enter another dimension.”

In person Maro Gorky is disarmingly frank and slightly fierce, like one of the clever young people in the novels of Elizabeth Bowen. “I’m not really very good with other people”, she says; but I think that she is just someone who does not dissemble. This makes her as stimulating to be with as her pictures are to look at. Sigmund Freud said that our happiness in adult life depends upon the realisation of childhood desires. In which case, Maro Gorky is entirely justified when she says: “I have done exactly what I wanted to do when I was five years old. Live in the country, make art, be happy. I look back on myself as an infant in Connecticut and I think: I’ve done it.”

Cressida Connolly, January 2023 Saskia on a Rocking Horse, 1983 oil on canvas 152 × 127 × 3.5 cm
Promontory, 1983 Gouache 31 × 41 cm
Path to Vagliali, 1986
Gouache 45 × 61 cm Olives and Stone Walls, 1988 gouache 36 × 51 cm
Triumph of Spring, 1991 tempera 45 × 61 cm

Winter Woods, 1993 egg tempera 18 × 26 cm

Tuscan Landscape, 1993 egg tempera 18 × 26 cm

Arbia Riverbed, 1995 egg tempera 36 × 50 cm My Father’s Birthplace 2023 oil on canvas 160 × 120 × 3 cm Naxos Highland, 1988 gouache 45 × 61 cm
Abandoned Fields, 1986 gouache 45 × 61 cm
Dievole Autumn, 2007 oil on canvas 160 × 120 cm Ploughed Fields, 1987 gouache 31 × 41 cm Dovecot at Tripoli, 1986 gouache 36 × 51 cm

Abandoned Olive Grove, 1987 watercolour 45 × 61 cm

Cycladic Burial Rings, 1988 gouache 46 × 61 cm
Landscape, 1986 100
200 cm
Night Landscape, 2002 watercolour 18
12 cm
Pruned Tree, 1997 watercolour 31 × 41 cm
Terraced Hill, 2006 oil on canvas 40 × 50 cm Persimmon Tree, 2010 oil on canvas 120 × 100 × 3 cm Liv Tyler, 1995 oil on canvas 119 × 89 cm
Arbia In Winter, 1986 egg tempera 26
36 cm
Roosting Peacocks II, 2009 oil on canvas 55 × 70 cm Dievole Late Spring, 2007 oil on canvas 120 × 160 cm
Hillside Naxos, 1987 watercolour 61 × 46 cm


Maro Gorky was born in New York in 1943, elder daughter of the distinguished American painter of Armenian origin, Arshile Gorky. Her first lessons in painting took place with her father as a child. After her father’s death, Maro Gorky’s family moved to Europe and she went to schools in France, America, Spain, Italy and England.

Gorky took her Baccalauréat at the French Lycée in London in 1960 and then studied at the Slade School of Art in London 1961-1966, where she graduated with a B.A. in Fine Art in 1965. In 1967 she married the artist Matthew Spender and the following year they moved to Italy. They have lived in the Tuscan countryside ever since. They have two daughters, born in the early seventies, and four grandchildren. Gorky began to exhibit her work in the early eighties and has held exhibitions in London, Milan, Venice, Florence, Volterra, Pietrasanta, Carrara and Los Angeles.


1982 London, The Wraxall Gallery

1986 Passau, Die Galerie am Steinweg

1988 London, The Albemarle Gallery

1989 London, Sarah Long, Art


1990 Long & Ryle, London

1991 Galleria Daverio, Milan

1992 Long & Ryle, London

1994 Long & Ryle, London

1997 Long & Ryle, London

1999 Carrara, ex Banca d’Italia,


Venezia, Galleria Percorsi d’Arte 90

London, Long & Ryle, Art International

Pietrasanta, Chiesa di Sant’Agostino

Firenze, Accademia delle Arti del Disegno

2001 Volterra, Logge del Palazzo Pretorio

Carrara, Centro Espositivo delle Erbe

2002 London, Long & Ryle, Art


2003 London, Long & Ryle, Art International

2004 Los Angeles, Silvia Bezdikian Fine Arts

2005 Massa, Castello Malaspina

2006 London, Long & Ryle, Art International

New York,  Salander-O’Reilly Galleries

2008 Museo Civico Archeologico, Fiesole

2009 London, Long & Ryle, Art International

2012 London, Long & Ryle, Art International

2013 Spineto, Castello a Monte

2015 London, Long & Ryle, Art International

2023 London, Long & Ryle, Art International


1989 Raffaele De Grada, in “Corriere della Sera”, Milano 30 aprile 1989.

1991 Giorgio Soavi, La banda dei nove Etruschi, in Nove artisti contemporanei appartati in Etruria, catalogo della  mostra, Galleria Daverio, Milano 1991.

1997 John Russell Taylor, in “The Times”, 28 Aprile, London 1997.

1999 Anna Vittoria Laghi, Presentazione in Impronte, catalogo della mostra, Carrara (ex Banca d’Italia), Carrara 1999.

2000 John Russell Taylor, in “The Times”, 10 maggio,  London 2000.

Ada Masoero in “Il Sole 24”, Milano 30 luglio 2000.

Giuseppe Cordoni, La poetica del colore, in Maro Gorky, catalogo della mostra, Venezia (Galleria Percorsi d’arte), Associazione Proposta, Pontedera 2000.

Nicola Micieli, Una terra, una casa, due artisti in Maro Gorky Matthew Spender artisti in Toscana, catalogo della mostra, Firenze (Accademia delle Arti e del Disegno), edizioni Caleidoscopio, Firenze 2000-2001.

2001 Patrizia Cavalli, Perché Maro dipinge? Forse teme la noia. Cos’altro la costringe? in catalogo  della mostra, Le forme della luce, Volterra (Logge del Palazzo Pretorio), edizioni Caleidoscopio, Firenze 2001.

Giandomenico Semeraro, Le forme della luce, catalogo della mostra, Volterra (Logge del Palazzo Pretorio), edizioni Caleidoscopio, Firenze 2001.

2004 Hunter Drohojowska-Philp, in “Los Angeles Times”, Los Angeles, 20 dicembre 2004.

Albert Boime,  Maro Gorky from another place, catalogo della mostra, Silva Bezdikian Fine Art, Los Angeles 2004.

Matthew Spender, Essere e accadere in Maro Gorky from another place, catalogo della mostra, Silva Bezdikian Fine Art, Los Angeles 2004.

2005 Claudio Giumelli,  Maro Gorky il fascino discreto del colore, catalogo della mostra, Massa (Castello Malaspina), edizioni Caleidoscopio, Firenze 2005 (2005), Mara Amorevole nella Repubblica di Firenze

2006 Bernardo Bertolucci, Per partecipare e onorare Maro Gorky... Nel catalogo della mostra al Salander-O’Reilly Galleries, New York. (2006).

Roberta Smith (2006), Maro Gorky Paintings, recensione alla mostra alla Salander-O’Reilly Galleries, in “New York Times”, 29 dicembre 2006.


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