Museum Art Paper essay


Phillip Guston made a remarkable mark in a career full of struggle and evolution. He emerged in the 1930s as a social realist painter of murals. After he had done painting for a long time Guston evolved into a unique influential style of cartoon realism. Despite exploring the fields of mural painting and cartoon realism, Guston made a mark as an abstract realism. His works in painting avoided gestures with masculinity and instead chose abstractions which showed forms hovering like mists. This paper looks at Phillip Guston, his life and his bodies of work.


Phillip Guston was born in Montreal, in 1913. He became the youngest child out of seven born of a Jewish family. In 1927, Guston attended manual arts high school located in Los Angeles. He met Pollock and studied cubism and the mystical philosophies of Krishnamurti Andouspensky. He got a scholarship in 1930 to study at Otis art institute where he had his first exhibition, in 1931. He travelled through Mexico where he studied anti-war murals. He made strides in his art being able to paint murals through the United States of America. His major work involved painting in the exterior wall of WPA building in New York world fair. He had a major breakthrough in the 1950 when he completed his first work on abstracts. An example of this work involved the red painting that the sharp separation between figure and ground vanish forms came in and out of focus and brushstrokes leaving a palpable minus painting of 1910s.

The stationary figure of 1973 showed a man laying down smoking a cigarette. He implored a cartoonist look of the whole painting. Phillip Guston used the concept of cartoon realism to bring out his work of painting. Guston achieved a form of melancholy feeling of the painting. One can clearly see the smoke rising from the cigarette as a shadow. Here, one can see clearly that Guston used an abstract expressionist perspective in combination with carton realism. The smoke hovers from the cigarette. He chose not to dwell on the masculine features of the individual but on a lighter touch of things like the smoke coming out of the cigarette.

Philip Guston brought an image that reflected an egomania where he expresses his love for the krazy Kat of George Harriman. Guston manages to bring out his felicitous touch and rosy-fingered colour sense. The one-eyed figure lies in bed and smokes while looking at a light bulb on the roof. In the painting, the clock reads 2: 25 a.m.  In this painting, Guston provides a summing up of the night of the soul, when artists wonder if they will ever be able to produce something good or worthwhile.

Guston had established his work well, and people knew him in Boston because he taught at Boston University for five years in the 1970s. His painting, talking, 1979, shows a person gesturing and talking about painting.  The painting further displays his autobiographical symbolism. He uses this painting to show his love for the work of painting and what he has contributed to the field of painting. Guston used talking 1979, to show himself talking about painting. Basically, it brings out his thought about painting and what he believes. The painting helps to show the audience that Guston has painting at his heart as his profession. He used the painting to symbolize the importance of painting to him.

Guston limits himself in his late works of painting. He uses an economy of means that show sketchy and impoverished brevity of expression.  He uses brevity of expression in painting, smoking, eating 1973, to show his soul of wit. This work of painting shows Guston as an artist who has decided o take up painting as part of his social life. He uses the painting to show his defence against suffering. Guston identifies with the victim and makes a suggestion that the artist has become the victim of the society. In the painting, smoking, eating 1973, Guston explores painting in totality. He shows the aspect of painting in his mind even though the painting is no front of him. The work shows the painter obsessed with his work. This shows that Guston has a passion for painting and has taken it as a form of his life. He has become a prisoner and a victim to painting.  

The works of painting that Guston explored showed him moving away from purity towards narrative, from a rather social realist to an abstract expressionist. The works of painting that Guston explored reflected an influence ranging from an Italian Quattrocento to the early twentieth century works of Picasso and other painters.  Guston mediates between different traditions of painting with ease to create his own work of art.

Guston brought a combination of moral intensity and probing self reflection in his art. He emphasized on brushstroke. He considered brushstroke as a significant act and form of marking. For him, brushstroke forms a perfect cornerstone of painting that gives importance to the essence of the style of an artist.


Phillip Guston grew to become one of the renowned painting artists of all time. He developed his works that pursued abstract expressionism and cartoon realism. He contributed much to the field of painting creating significant works, such as stationary figure 1973, talking 1979 and painting, smoking, eating 1973. All of these showed a highlight into his social life and historical frameworks. 

Museum Art Paper essay

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