The Syllabus

Philip Guston

Philip Guston

H. H. Arnason
Published in 1962
128 pages, fully illustrated

In 1962, the Guggenheim Museum staged a mid-career retrospective exhibition of Philip Guston’s largely abstract work. The exhibition included thirty-one drawings and ninety-eight paintings spanning from 1941 to 1962, before Guston returned to figurative painting in the early 1970s. The show’s curator, H. H. Arnason, wrote the accompanying essay for the catalogue, which traces Guston’s artistic career, creative processes, and observations on art. Arnason’s essay also outlines biographical details of Guston’s life that have influenced his artistic career such as his experiences working as a muralist for the Federal Arts Project of the Works Progress Administration in New York during the 1930s. The catalogue includes color and black-and-white reproductions of many drawings and paintings from the exhibition, extensive documentation of Guston’s career, a bibliography, and an exhibition history.


Although [Philip Guston] continued to avoid conscious construction, he painted over, shifted forms, scraped down, reworked areas, gradually narrowed down the alternatives until finally in a rush of intense work he arrived at a point where "the air of the arbitrary vanished and the paint fell into positions that seemed destined." Irving Sandler, drawing on the words of the artist, has given an excellent description of Guston's method of painting and his attitude towards painting. Guston himself has described how in the short time before a painting is finished, "suddenly in a state of excitement I can see the entire work. Everything falls into place and I realize that there is nothing more I can do. It is for the few hours when I sense that I am approaching this moment that I am a painter."

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