HomePage Artists

(1913 – 1980), Canada

Philip Guston Biography

Philip Guston’s practice is noted for a determination not to settle in any one established structure, but instead to continually push out the boundaries of painting. Throughout distinct periods in his career, his style developed and shifted drastically: from figurative muralist, to abstract expressionist, to artist at war between abstraction and representation, and—lastly—to cartoon realist painter.

Read More

Guston was born in Canada in 1913, his parents having fled there to escape the pogroms of Eastern Europe. Shortly after he was born, the family moved to Los Angeles where they were exposed to the violence and racism of the Ku Klux Klan. Four years later—unable to find work in his trade and struggling to make ends meet—his father hanged himself in the family’s shed. Guston was the first to find the body. These traumatising experiences, and Guston’s subsequent retreat into himself and into the world of comic books, influenced both his initial passion for drawing and the themes he would later revisit in his work.

Guston attended the same high school as Jackson Pollock, and as an adult, Pollock convinced Guston to move to New York. This move brought Guston into the fold of the New York School of painters, with whom he would develop his abstract expressionist language and establish himself as one of the great painters and thinkers of his generation. 

Guston’s formal career as an artist began with social realist murals. He collaborated with others to create politically charged murals, the first of which he completed in Los Angeles with Reuben Kadish. Guston then went to New York in the mid-1930s to work as a mural painter employed by the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Arts Project. During his career as a muralist, Guston’s influences ranged from Renaissance painters to the American Regionalists and Mexican mural painters. 

Between the early- and mid-1940s, Guston began to turn away from murals towards easel painting, experimenting with abstraction. These works were hugely successful and from the 1950s until the 1970s, he became well-known as an abstract expressionist within the New York School—a movement that included artists such as Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning

Increasingly dissatisfied with the tenets of abstract expressionism, around 1957 Guston began to push back against his initial success in that genre. He began to believe that abstract art was built around a myth that painting was pure beyond any image. But, as he saw it, painting was in fact ‘image-ridden’. 

The ten-year middle period of Guston’s career, from approximately 1957 to 1967, was marked by an oscillation between abstraction and representation, where forms began to emerge but not fully take shape. As Guston’s later figurative works became increasingly well-regarded, this middle period became seen by most scholars as merely a stepping stone to his late style. However, in its struggle between creating and obliterating the image, the period holds its own distinct importance in Guston’s oeuvre independent of what came before or after.

In 1966 and 1967, after his survey at the Jewish Museum in 1966, Guston temporarily abandoned painting and focused on drawing, creating hundreds of works on paper with charcoal and ink. These are known as his ‘pure’ drawings and emphasise a distillation of thought surrounding structure and abstraction. 

Tiring of the New York City art scene, in 1967 Guston moved to Woodstock, New York, where he would begin working on fully figurative paintings of cartoon-like figures in a palette of blues and pinks. The first exhibition of these works took place at Marlborough Gallery, New York, in 1970, where it received scathing reviews from both critics and Guston’s former abstract expressionist peers. Motifs repeated throughout this body of work included clocks, light bulbs and Klansmen. In this new use of figuration, Guston had returned to his roots as a mural painter, reflecting on the sociopolitical unease at that point in the United States’ history. Despite the initial negative criticism, he persisted. Towards the end of his life, this comic-strip style began to attract acclaim, and is now his most well-known and influential period, and hugely admired. 

Casey Carsel | Ocula | 2017

Philip Guston Featured Artworks

View All (50)
Visitor by Philip Guston contemporary artwork
Philip GustonVisitor, 1977Oil on canvas
170.2 x 203.2 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
Studio Forms by Philip Guston contemporary artwork
Philip GustonStudio Forms, 1980One color lithograph on Arches Cover paper
32 x 42 1/2 inches
Krakow Witkin Gallery Contact Gallery
Gulf by Philip Guston contemporary artwork
Philip GustonGulf, 1980Lithograph on Arches Cover White paper with deckled edge
81.3 x 108 cm
Timothy Taylor Enquire
Easel by Philip Guston contemporary artwork
Philip GustonEasel, 1980Lithograph on J. Barcham Green paper
50.8 x 76.2 cm
Timothy Taylor Enquire
East Side by Philip Guston contemporary artwork
Philip GustonEast Side, 1980Lithograph
32.75 x 42.75 inches
Timothy Taylor Enquire
Untitled by Philip Guston contemporary artwork
Philip GustonUntitled, 1968Charcoal on paper
45.7 x 61 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
The Line by Philip Guston contemporary artwork
Philip GustonThe Line, 1978Oil on canvas
180.3 x 186.1 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery
The Studio by Philip Guston contemporary artwork
Philip GustonThe Studio, 1969Oil on canvas
121.9 x 106.7 cm
Hauser & Wirth Contact Gallery

Philip Guston Recent Exhibitions

View All (6)
Contemporary art exhibition, Philip Guston, Resilience: Philip Guston in 1971 at Hauser & Wirth, Los Angeles
Closed
14 September 2019–5 January 2020 Philip Guston Resilience: Philip Guston in 1971 Hauser & Wirth, Los AngelesLos Angeles
Contemporary art exhibition, Philip Guston, The Last Lithographs at Timothy Taylor, New York
Closed
14 September–3 November 2018 Philip Guston The Last Lithographs Timothy Taylor, New YorkNew York
Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, A New Way of Walking at Timothy Taylor, New York
Closed
29 June–27 July 2018 Group Exhibition A New Way of Walking Timothy Taylor, New YorkNew York

Philip Guston Represented By

Hauser & Wirth contemporary art gallery in Hong Kong Hauser & Wirth Hong Kong, Zurich, London, New York, Los Angeles, Somerset, Gstaad, St. Moritz
Timothy Taylor contemporary art gallery in London, United Kingdom Timothy Taylor London, New York

Philip Guston In Ocula Magazine

Dana Schutz Quietly Joins David Zwirner Amid BLM Reckoning Ocula News Dana Schutz Quietly Joins David Zwirner Amid BLM Reckoning New York, 9 October 2020

Critic Aruna D'Souza called out Schutz by name in her defence of the decision to postpone a major Philip Guston show.

Fade out copy.
Read More
Frieze Viewing Room: Ten Advisory Selections Ocula Insight Frieze Viewing Room: Ten Advisory Selections By Rory Mitchell, London

Frieze Viewing Room launches to VIPs on Thursday 8 October from 12pm BST, and is open to the public from 9 October. Ocula Art Advisory has been delving into the previews in advance of the official opening, and in this selection you will find ten artworks highlighted by the team.

Fade out copy.
Read More
Matthew Armstrong on Collector Donald B. Marron Ocula Conversation Matthew Armstrong on Collector Donald B. Marron By Anna Dickie, New York

Private curator to Donald B. Marron for over two decades, Matthew Armstrong discusses working with the collector, reminiscing on the boyish enthusiasm Marron exuded when it came to art.​

Fade out copy.
Read More

Philip Guston In Related Press

View All (7)
Figuration to Abstraction and Back Again: How Philip Guston Shaped 20th-Century Painting Related Press Figuration to Abstraction and Back Again: How Philip Guston Shaped 20th-Century Painting 22 July 2020, ARTnews

Philip Guston is best known for his incisive, cartoonish paintings and drawings ranging in subject matter from everyday scenes to narrative political satires, particularly those of Richard Nixon. Guston's work received varying degrees of critical praise throughout his lifetime, shifting as he changed course.

Fade out copy.
Read More
Paper work – the British Museum shows off its collection of contemporary drawings Related Press Paper work – the British Museum shows off its collection of contemporary drawings 4 November 2019, Apollo Magazine

Anish Kapoor, Louise Bourgeois, Rachel Whiteread, Gerhard Richter. These may not be names that spring to mind when you think of the British Museum, but they all have work filed away in its extensive archive of prints and drawings. 'Pushing Paper: Contemporary Drawing from 1970 to Now' lifts a lid on a lesser-known collection at a museum renowned...

Fade out copy.
Read More
In Praise of Painting’s Ambiguity Related Press In Praise of Painting’s Ambiguity 27 July 2019, Hyperallergic

Shortly after my review of Amy Bennett's exhibition at Miles McEnery Gallery appeared on the Hyperallergic Weekend, I got an email from Mollye Miller, who, I later learned, is a photographer and poet living in Baltimore. In fact, she and I were published in the same little magazine, Prelude, edited by Stu Watson, but not in the same issue. But all...

Fade out copy.
Read More
Philip Guston exhibition in Hong Kong, narrated by his daughter, looks at his abstract and figurative works Related Press Philip Guston exhibition in Hong Kong, narrated by his daughter, looks at his abstract and figurative works 19 June 2018, South China Morning Post

The show, Philip Guston: A Painter’s Forms, 1950–1979, introduces one of the main figures of American abstract expressionism through the use of an audio guide. Narrated by Guston’s daughter Musa Mayer, who is also the curator of the exhibition, the recording takes visitors through the artist’s creative periods and the rich symbolism of his...

Fade out copy.
Read More

Philip Guston In Video & Audio

Philip Guston exhibition at Hauser reviewed by Caroline Chiu Related Video & Audio Philip Guston exhibition at Hauser reviewed by Caroline Chiu 19 June 2018, Caroline Chiu Studio Art Reviews

Caroline Chiu is a Hong Kong based art critic and collector who has been presenting Caroline Chiu Studio Art Reviews with Hong Kong radio station RTHK4 since 2005. In this podcast episode, published in a collaboration between Chiu and Ocula, the Hong Kong based critic reviews the exhibition Philip Guston: A Painter's Forms, 1950–1979 at...

Fade out copy.
View Video
Philip Guston, Crescent, 1976 Related Video & Audio Philip Guston, Crescent, 1976 18 May 2018, Hauser & Wirth

The last five years of Philip Guston’s life gave rise to some of his most complex and compelling pictures. Crescent, painted in 1976, is a portrait of Musa McKim, Guston’s wife, whom he began to paint with increasing frequency from the mid-1970s onwards. Musa Mayer introduces the late work by her father, to be included in Hauser & Wirth’s...

Fade out copy.
View Video

Sign up to be notified when new artworks and exhibitions by Philip Guston are added to Ocula.

WeChat

Scan the QR Code via WeChat to follow Ocula's official account.

Scan to follow Ocula on WeChat.
;