Some observations by the painter.

1."I do not see why a loss of faith in the known image and symbol in our time should be celebrated as a freedom. It is a loss from which we suffer, and this pathos motivated modern painting and poetry at its heart." 1958 quoted San Francisco, 1980/1

2."The canvas is a court where the artist is prosecutor, defendant, juror and judge. Art without a trial disappears at a glance. It is too primitive or hopeful, or mere notions, or simply startling, or just another means to make life bearable." 1970, in Ashton, p.126

3.Of Piero's Flagellation, "The mystery when you deal with forms in front of forms is paradoxical because something is hidden like a deck of cards. Here, it's the unfolding of these planes on the picture plane so that there is a unified rhythm on the plane as well as coordinated depth in space. The whole question is - when does it pause ? The pause in time is a mysterious situation, because, it cant be final. It must promise future conditions." 1965, in Ashton pp.149/50. " Everything is fully exposed. The play has been set in motion. The architectural box is opened by the large block of discoursers to the right, as if a door were slid aside to reveal its contents., the flagellation of Christ, the only disturbance in the painting, but placed in the rear as if in memory. The picture is sliced almost in half, yet both parts act on one another, absorb and enlarge, one another. At times, there seems to be no structure at all. No direction. We can move spatially just like in life."May 1965, Art News , quoted in San Francisco catalogue p.41.

4."Around 1970, I became a movie director. I had impulses to do things and have motifs. - crazy things like brick fights and figures diving into a cellar hole `to thicken the plot'..."

5."I got sick and tired of that purity ! wanted to tell stories."

6."It is a real place to me this world I am painting. I feel as if I lived there, its forms defined. All I really need is time and more time to reveal...." Ashton p.176.

7."About these hooded men. The KKK has haunted me since I was a boy in L.A.. In those years they were there mostly to break strikes, and I drew and painted conspiracies and floggings, cruelty and evil .... In this new dream of violence, I felt like Isaac Babel with his Cossacks; as if I were living with the Klan. What do they do afterwards ? Or before ? Smoke, drink, sit around their rooms (lightbulbs, furniture wooden floors), patrol empty streets; dumb, melancholy, guilty, fearful, remorseful, reassuring one another ? Why couldn't some be artists and paint one another ?) " lecture notes 1977, in Musa Guston, pp. 149-50.

8."It is the bareness of drawing that I like. The act of drawing is what locates, suggests, discovers. At times it seems enough to draw, without the distractions of colour and mass. Yet it is an old ambition to make drawing and painting one. Usually I draw in relation to my painting, what I am working on at the time. On a lucky day a surprising balance of forms and spaces will appear and I feel the drawing making itself., the image taking hold. This in turn moves me towards painting - anxious to get to the same place, with the actuality of paint and light." c1973 quoted in Dabrowski, MOMA.

9."I like a form against a background - I mean simply, empty space - but the paradox is that the form must emerge from its background. It's not just executed there. You are trying to bring your forced so to speak, to converge all at once into some point." 1966, conversation with Harold Rosenberg, in Dabrowski, p.27.


1913; born Philip Goldstein, Montreal, Canada.His father commits suicide when he is 10. Joins Cleveland School of Cartooning as a 13th birthday present. Meets Jackson Pollock at High School aged 15.

1930; first appearance of the hooded figures. Influenced by the Mexican Mural Movement. Leaves formal education at the Otis Art Institute to study Piero, Uccello and Masaccio on his own.

1934; visits Mexico. and the next year joins the US Government's Public Works Administration and begins to use the name Philip Guston.

1939; wins the Publicly Judged Mural prize at the New York's World Fair and does a mural for the Queensbridge Housing Project.
1945; paintings of war training, abandons murals for easel painting, becomes art instructor at Washington University and is influenced by Max Beckmann paintings in local collections.

1947; begins abstract paintings. And the next year goes to Europe on a scholarship; a new interest in drawing. Gradually more and more associated with the Abstract Expressionist group. Eventually leaves his Gallery (Sidney Janis) after the latter shows an exhibition of Pop Art.

1965; gives up painting, begins drawing with thicker defining lines. Receives a second Guggenheim Scholarship and returns to figuration. This lasts until his death in 1980.

1970; generally bad response to his new figurative work at the Marlborough Gallery in New York.

1971, studies of individual objects transferred from individual drawings to small canvasses. Long stay in Italy, interested in topiary and classical monuments. The Rome series.
1974; explores the theme of the artist, the single eyeball.

1975, explores the theme of The Deluge. The piled objects series. Dies 1880.

1981; Royal Academy, London, The New Spirit in Painting exhibition signals a sea change in contemporary painting.

Musa Mayer, Night Studio, A Memoir of Philip Guston, Thames and Hudson London 1989

Dore Ashton, "Yes But.." A Critical Study of Philip Guston , Viking, New York 1976.

Norbert Lynton, intro, exhib.catal., PG , Whitechapel, London, 1983.

ex.catal., Philip Guston , Marlborough Gallery, New York, October 1970.

Feld and Hopkins, introductory essays, ex.catal., Philip Guston, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 1980.

Magdalena Dabrowski, The Drawings of Philip Guston , MOMA New York, 1988.


Arts Magazine , the complete issue, November 1988; articles by

Ross Feld ("Guston in Time"),
Marjorie Welsh ("The Drawings of Philip Guston"),
William Corbett ("What a Miracle Images Are!"),
Alison de Lima Greene ("The Artist as Performer"),
Archie Rand ("The Victory of the Futile"),
Dore Ashton ("That is not what I meant at all").