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Philip Guston Prints

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Philip Guston is a known Canadian painter; he is famous for the eclectic style of painting of figures and abstracts.

Guston was born in the year 1913 in Montreal, Canada. He was the youngest of seven siblings and his parents were Jewish. The family fled to USA to escape the pogroms in Russia. However, his father found it difficult to sustain in Montreal and later moved to Los Angeles in the year 1919 in the hope of finding a better living. Losing his father at an early age created a deep impression on little Philip and he slowly started immersing himself into the world of comics. His interest in drawing was noticed by his mother, who enrolled him at the Cleveland School of Cartooning for a correspondence course.

He also studied in the Manual Arts High School for a brief period of time. Guston became a friend of Jackson Pollock (who later became a famous artist) during this time. After he was expelled from this school, he pursued his interest independently. Guston bagged a scholarship in the year 1930 from the Otis Art Institute but discontinued after 3 months.

During this time, Guston travelled all throughout Mexico and studied the anti-war murals. From here he drew inspiration for drawing figurative murals using fresco techniques or oil paint with thin layers. He shifted to New York in 1935 and worked with the Works Progress Administration on a project named “Federal Art Project”. In the next year, he painted murals throughout the USA. His works during this time showed influence of social realism but also reflected his experimentation with abstract approaches in art. He also taught art at the State University of Iowa from 1941-1945.

In the year 1945, Guston held his first solo exhibition at The Middletown Galleries. He was also declared the winner at the Carnegie Institute of Pittsburgh. In 1947, he bought a “summer home” in Woodstock in New York. He got acquainted with Bradley Walker Tomlin (an abstract painter) during this time and started studying more about abstract art. He was taken to Europe by the Prix de Rome in 1948 to 1949. After coming back to New York, he became a part of a renowned circle of writers, artists and composers including John Cage, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning and Barnett Newman.

During 1950s Guston evolved with his unique style of painting which later became one of the defining styles of artists. His style mainly involved – thick strokes with lush hues which were woven into the complex surfaces and the bright colors were massed in the middle of the canvas. One of the famous paintings following this style was the “Red Painting”; it was a culmination of several influences – Chinese calligraphy, Buddhism and ‘plus-minus’ paintings of Mondrian style. These paintings of 1950s received appreciation from The Museum of Modern Art. The museum bought one of his paintings in the year 1956.

Guston was not comfortable with abstract painting encouraging meditative isolation in the 1960s. During the 1970s he continued with his earlier style of figurative painting of cartoons. These paintings were a reflection of his stand against hypocrisy, war and injustice of American politics. Guston died in the year 1980 at his summer home in Woodstock.

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