Arshile Gorky’s ‘Charred Beloved I’: A Masterpiece’s Journey

Arshile Gorky’s masterpiece, “Charred Beloved I” (1946), takes centre stage at Christie’s New York this fall during the 20th Century Evening Sale.

This iconic artwork, created by one of the 20th century’s most influential and tragic artists, is estimated to exceed $20 million, potentially resetting the artist’s market value at auction.

The Phoenix’s Response to Adversity

Gorky’s “Charred Beloved I” emerged as a phoenix-like response to a devastating studio fire in January 1946. This tragic event consumed not only 20 of Gorky’s paintings but also his cherished books and drawings. Undeterred, Gorky embarked on what would become known as his “ballroom series” on the 17th floor at 1200 Fifth Avenue in New York City. Among the masterpieces born from this period were the four canvases, including the iconic “Charred Beloved I.” The painting offers a strikingly literal representation, seemingly amidst the flames, with a pair of “Charred Beloveds” emerging from the embers.

The 1946 fire was not the first time Gorky faced adversity. He survived the Armenian genocide of 1915, immigrating to the United States in 1920 at the age of 16. Despite his tragically brief life, which ended in suicide in 1948, Gorky’s artistic legacy was immediate and profound. He stands as a critical figure in 20th-century art, bridging the gap between Surrealism, as endorsed by André Breton, and the burgeoning Abstract Expressionist movement.

Arshile Gorky's 'Charred Beloved I': A Masterpiece's Journey

“Charred Beloved I” has a storied history of its own. It made its debut in 1953 at the Sidney Janis Gallery and has graced the walls of prestigious institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the Guggenheim. Notably, its counterpart, “Charred Beloved II,” resides in the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. In November, this exceptional artwork will find a new home as it goes under the hammer from the esteemed collection of David Geffen.


Arshile Gorky’s “Charred Beloved I” is not merely a masterpiece; it is a testament to resilience, creativity, and the enduring power of art. Its journey from the ashes of tragedy to the halls of prestigious museums is a story worth celebrating. As it takes its place on the auction block at Christie’s New York, it offers collectors and art enthusiasts a rare opportunity to own a piece of history that symbolizes the triumph of the human spirit through the medium of art.

Images: Christie’s

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