Oil on paper on composition board
Frame (Dark wood w/ Gold face): 52 1/4 x 41 1/2 x 2 1/8 in. (132.72 x 105.41 x 5.4 cm)
Image: 51 × 40 in. (129.54 × 101.6 cm)
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
The Rita and Taft Schreiber Collection
Given in loving memory of her husband, Taft Schreiber, by Rita Schreiber
The title of Arshile Gorky’s Betrothal I alludes to a marriage. Two figures are barely discernible: on the left, a whitish one sitting aside a horse (the left-facing horse has a blue nose and a black rear hoof; its rump curves around a splash of green), and on the right, a vertical form with a lilac head like a bird’s crest. They can hardly be made out among the painting’s delicate abstract lines and supple organic shapes. But this ambiguity suggests that specific subject matter is less important to the artist than the painting’s emotional or psychological ambience, a fact heightened by the artist’s technique of layering translucent colors, creating an atmospheric effect. Gorky was interested in European surrealist artists’ attempts to tap the unconscious mind, and the flow of forms within the luminous cloudy space of Betrothal I has the character of memory or dreams.