Philip Guston

(Montreal, Canada, 1913 - 1980, Woodstock, New York)

North America, American

Born in Montreal, Canada to a Russian immigrant family from Odessa in the Ukraine, Guston grew up in Los Angeles where he began his studies at the Otis Art Institute in 1930. Although he never graduated, he taught in many Universities and art schools, such as Pratt Institute and Yale University, and received much recognition throughout his life, including international exhibitions and awards.

By 1950 Guston settled in New York and, eliminating representative or figurative references from his work, began to paint abstractly. Along with other New York artists Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Mark Rothko and Franz Kline, he chose to concentrate particularly on the essential and pictorial importance of gesture. His most characteristic paintings during this time feature luminous patches of overlapping colors delicately brushed in the central area of a white canvas; this style has often been described as Abstract Impressionism.

In the late 1960s Guston returned to figurative painting, developing a complex and highly personal iconography. His depictions of Cyclops-like heads, Ku Klux Klan members, and such everyday objects as shoes, bottles, and clocks are painted with deliberate crudity in harsh colors.

Although his style altered from year to year, Guston maintained his commitment to the personally expressive and subjective content of his paintings. By the time of his death in 1980, the initial shock of his late work had turned into widespread admiration, particularly among younger artists.

New York, United States

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