Artist
Philip Guston
American artist

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Philip Guston
American artist
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Birth Date

June 27, 1913

Death Date

June 07, 1980

jtucker's picture

Contributor

While his paintings may look like cartoons, Guston’s life and work are a far cry from the jovial images you find in your Sunday paper.

Guston paintings can be a bit dismal from time to time, but his existential nature starts to make sense once you understand the type of upbringing this poor lad had. Guston was born in Montreal shortly after his Ukrainian Jewish parents escaped persecution in their homeland. Perhaps not fully adapted to the overly happy people of Canada, the Gustons decided to pack up and head for Los Angeles, probably figuring some sunshine would do them good.

Nope. See, KKK activities were still rampant across LA at the time and, being the Jewish foreigners they were, this was not the paradise they were hoping for. Shortly after the move, Guston’s father hung himself in their shed due to the pressures of persecution and difficulty finding work. And as we all know, when things can get worse, they often do. Poor little Philip Guston was the one who found his father's dead body hanging from the rafters. I would say the combo of dealing with the KKK and finding your dead dad in the shed earns you the right to make melancholy art the rest of your life.

Sadly, the bad family luck didn't end there though. Years later, Guston’s brother was run over by his parked car when the brake failed. He ended up having both his legs amputated and died shortly after. This may explain Guston's obsession with dismembered body parts.

Guston was also long time pals with our boy Jackson Pollock. They met in high school where they quickly bonded over their love of modern art and disdain of sports. These two actually published a paper bashing their high school for valuing sports over art and got themselves expelled over it! Our heroes! Later in life they were roomies together in the Big Apple.

Guston wasn't much for self-preservation, if you couldn’t have guessed. He relied heavily on a concoction of booze, cigarettes, and french fries to get him through the day -- the ultimate breakfast of champions. It probably doesn't come as a surprise, then, that he died of a heart attack at 66.

 

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Philip Guston

Philip Guston (pronounced like "rust"), born Phillip Goldstein (June 27, 1913 – June 7, 1980), was a painter and printmaker in the New York School, an art movement that included many abstract expressionists like Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. In the late 1960s Guston helped to lead a transition from abstract expressionism to neo-expressionism in painting, abandoning so-called "pure abstraction" in favor of more representational, simplified renderings of personal symbols and objects. His existential, lugubrious images after 1968 employed a limited palette.

Guston was a lecturer and teacher at a number of universities and so he is also regarded for his words and teachings, collected in the 2011 book Philip Guston: Collected Writings, Lectures, and Conversations (Documents of Twentieth-Century Art).

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Philip Guston.