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Philip Guston

Philip Guston (b. 1913, Montreal, Canada – d. 1980, Woodstock, NY) began as an Abstract Expressionist painter alongside Pollock and de Kooning but quickly abandoned this style by the late 1960s. He returned to his interest in representational painting of his student days, but this time developed a more cartoon-like figurative style that is loaded with personal symbols. Guston had always been inspired by the great Italian Renaissance painters whole explored allegories such as Piero della Francesca.

Guston turned to prints towards the end of his life, the majority of which were produced between 1980 and 1983. Employing the bold, figurative style he had adopted, which was substantially different from his abstract expressionism style, and focusing on images of his daily life, Guston produced a number of lithographs printed in black and gray on white paper. The stark contrast in color, the flat, cartoon-like style, and the familiar subject matter works to create a charged composition, which Guston considered representational of personal human experience and tumultuous historical events. Mary Ryan Gallery held an exhibition of the complete prints of Philip Guston in the 1990s.

Born in Montreal, Guston moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was a young child. He briefly attended the Otis Art Institute on a scholarship. In 1936, he settled in New York and created murals for the Works Progress Administration. His early work explored abstract approaches to the picture plane and realist social commentary. During the 1950s, Guston developed his style to include thick strokes in lush hues woven into complex surfaces. This lyrical abstract style later progressed into single dark images rooted in grey paint. In the late 1960s, he introduced a new figurative style that employed blunt cartoon shapes.

In 1945, Guston’s first solo exhibition opened at The Midtown Galleries. He received a first prize award at the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh that same year. He subsequently was awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in 1947. The Guggenheim Museum held a major retrospective of his work in 1962.

Guston moved to Woodstock in 1967, where he lived until his death.

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