Gorky, who was largely self-taught, learned to draw by copying works he saw in museums and art publications. In the early 1930s, he made a series of drawings based on the tradition of écorché ("flayed" or "skinned" in French). This practice, dating to the Renaissance and popular in nineteenth-century French academic drawing, consists of rendering a figure's muscles and bones as they would appear under the skin. Gorky's adoption of écorché points simultaneously to his academic foundations, his interest in Surrealism, and his burgeoning proclivity toward abstraction. The swollen musculature in this drawing chronicles anatomy but also suggests nonspecific organic forms or pure pattern.
Gallery label from Exquisite Corpses: Drawing and Disfiguration, March 14July 9, 2012.