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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Philip Guston

Philip Guston (1913-1980) was born Philip Goldstein in Montreal, Canada. When he was six years old, his family moved to Los Angeles, California. He began to draw and paint when he was 14 years old and attended the Otis Art Institute for a brief time.

In the 1930s Guston became involved with murals and worked with a group of artists including James Brooks and Burgoyne Diller on Works Progress Administration's Federal Arts Projevt (WPA/FAP). His projects as a social realist painter included the WPA building at the 1939 World's Fair, the Queensbridge Housing Project, and the Social Security Building.

He left the project in 1940 and was artist-in-residence at the State University of Iowa from 1941-1945 and at Washington University. In 1947 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. He taught at New York University and the Pratt Institute. He was awarded a grant from the Ford Foundation in 1959.

He was influenced by the work of Diego Rivera and Pablo Picasso in his early years. In the 1950s he employed an abstract style using bright colors floating on a misty background, which by the end of the decade became darker.  His most radical change in style came in the 1960s when he began to paint blunt cartoon shapes, which contained recurring images, such as the soles of shoes and people's heads.

During the 1950s, his work was referred to as American Impressionism. These paintings launched his career, but he will be best known for the his figurative paintings from the 1970s.

From and

Gladiators, 1940

Zone, 1953-54

Beggar's Joys, 1955

Dial, 1956

Prague, 1956

Painter's City, 1957

Cellar, 1970


  1. Interesting how his earliest and latest paintings share similarities with Picasso, while the mid-century works are more amorphous.

    1. I prefer his work during the 50s, and his most popular work of the 70s really does nothing for me.