Philip Guston

Alternative Name(s): -
Date of Birth: June 27, 1913
Place of Birth: Montreal, Canada
Date of Death: June 7, 1980
Focus: Painter
Art movement: Abstract Expressionism
Nationality: American, Canadian

Famous Philip Guston Artwork

Philip Guston Biography

Born in Canada to a family of immigrants escaping Russian persecution, Guston’s early life began in Canada and then Los Angeles. His father committed suicide when he was a young boy, an event which influenced his whole painting career, since he was the one who discovered the body. As a painter haunted by this experience, Guston was also heavily influenced by the Italian painter, Giorgio de Chirico.

Being a self-taught artist, his painting career began at the age of 14 in Los Angeles. He became friends with Jackson Pollack there, while in high school at Manual Arts High School in 1929. Both were expelled for ridiculing the faculty; Pollack later returned. Sometimes friends, sometimes rivals, they drifted apart, when Pollack began his drip paintings. That year, 1948, Guston won the Prix de Rome and spent a year overseas at the American Acadamey. His Red Painting, done in 1950, began his movement away from traditional painting towards abstraction.

Painting murals in Los Angeles and in Mexico in the 1930s, his work became political and social. While in Mexico, he became friends with Frieda Kalo and Diego Rivera. His mural at the City of Hope in Los Angeles can still be seen today.

Guston’s Abstract Expressionist work made use of a very limited color palette. By the 1950s, his work was included in an exhibition at The Museum of Modern Art, entitled The New American Painting.

In the 1960s, Guston moved to Woodstock, New York and began representational painting again. His work eventually reached a wider audience before his death.

One of Guston’s quotes is, “To paint is a possessing rather than a picturing.”