Arshile Gorky is recognized as a pioneer of the new abstract painting that developed in New York after World War II. Born Vosdanik Adoian in the village of Khorkom, Armenia, Gorky's idyllic childhood was cut short by the Turkish invasion of Armenia and its ensuing ethnic persecution. Gorky's father and other relatives had fled to America earlier; the boy lived with his mother and sister as refugees in Russian-occupied territory. In 1919 his mother died of starvation. A year later, at sixteen, Gorky emigrated to the United States. His was a huge journey, geographically and culturally, which would leave the artist with a permanent longing for the gardens, orchards, and wheat fields of his rural homeland.
From 1920 to 1924 Gorky lived in New England and between 1922 and 1924 attended the New School of Design in Boston. By 1926 he had moved to New York City, where over the next decade he taught painting, met other avant-garde artists, joined the Federal Arts Project, and exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art.
Arshile Gorky's contributions to American and world art are difficult to overestimate. His work as lyrical abstraction was a "new language. He "lit the way for two generations of American artists". The painterly spontaneity of mature works like The Liver is the Cock's Comb (1944), One Year the Milkweed (1944), and The Betrothal II (1947) immediately prefigured Abstract expressionism, and leaders in the New York School have acknowledged Gorky's considerable influence.