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Philip Guston (1913-1980)
Property from the Collection of Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson
Philip Guston (1913-1980)

Window

Details
Philip Guston (1913-1980)
Window
signed and dated 'Philip Guston '70' (lower left); signed, titled and dated again 'PHILIP GUSTON “Window” 1969' (on the reverse)
graphite on paper
18 x 21 1/2 in. (45.7 x 54.6 cm.)
Drawn in 1969-1970.
Provenance
David McKee Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1978
Literature
Philip Guston: Paintings, 1969-80, exh. cat., London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, 1982, p. 61 (illustrated).
R. Smith, "Retrospective Covers Guston's Two Careers," The New York Times, 9 September 1988, p. C22 (illustrated).
K. Baker, "A Giant Emerges: Philip Guston's Riveting Drawings Surge with Power and Mystery," San Francisco Chronicle, 2 October 1988, p. 1 (illustrated).
P. Brach, "An Act of Salvation," Art in America, vol. 77, no. 1, January 1989, p. 134 (illustrated).
R. Kaal, "Twee Kanten Van Hetzelfde Gezicht: Portret van Philip Guston, de schilder van een steenklomp met een groot cyclopisch oog en een samenleving die gereduceerd is tot afval," HP, 21 January 1989, pp. 45-47.
E. Wingen, "Philip Guston en de greep op het beeld," Kunstbeeld, February 1989, pp. 36-37 (illustrated).
T. Hilton, "Ghosts of the Past," Guardian, 9 June 1989 (illustrated).
Philip Guston, Opere Su Carta 1933-1980, exh. cat., Milan, 1989, p. 96, no. 75 (illustrated).
D. A. Ross et al., Celebrating Modern Art: Highlights from the Anderson Collection, San Francisco, 2000, n.p. (illustrated in color).
K. A. Levine, "The Anderson Art Collection: A Family Affair," The Pulteney St. Survey, Fall 2000, p. 5 (illustrated).
K. Baker, "Borrowed Glory," San Francisco Chronicle, 5 October 2000, p. E3.
K. Baker, "ART," San Francisco Chronicle, 12 January 2001, Friday Datebook section, p. C1 (illustrated in color).
Exhibited
New York, Marlborough Gallery, Philip Guston, October 1970, pp. 10 and 40, no. 34 (illustrated).
Genoa, Palazzo dell'Accademia, Immagine per la Citta', April-June 1972, pp. 239 and 372 (illustrated).
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Philip Guston Drawings 1938-1972, July-September 1973.
New York, David McKee Gallery, Philip Guston: Drawings 1947-1977, October-November 1978, n.p., no. 41 (illustrated).
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Philip Guston, Retrospective 1930-1979, June-September 1981.
New York, Museum of Modern Art; Amsterdam, Museum Overholland; Barcelona, Fundacio Caixa de Pensions; Museum of Modern Art Oxford; Dublin, The Douglas Hyde Gallery; Rome, Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, The Drawings of Phillip Guston, September 1988-November 1989, pp. 120 and 174, no. 91 (New York; illustrated in color and illustrated in color on the front cover); pp. 96 and 130, no. 75 (Rome; illustrated).
San Francisco, John Berggruen Gallery, Philip Guston Works on Paper, 1968-1980, January-February 1998, pp. 14 and 32, no. 9 (illustrated).
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Celebrating Modern Art: The Anderson Collection, October 2000-January 2001, pp. 4, 56, 322 and 366-367, pl. 188, no. 109 (illustrated in color).
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art; London, Royal Academy of Arts, Philip Guston Retrospective, March 2003-April 2004, pp. 180 and 240, no. 83 (illustrated in color).
Santa Clara, de Saisset Museum, Santa Clara University, Eye on the Sixties: Vision, Body, and Soul: Selections from the Collection of Harry W. and Mary Margaret Anderson, February-June 2008, pp. 14 and 79, fig. 5 (illustrated).
Stanford, Anderson Collection at Stanford University, Salon Style: Collected Marks on Paper, March-August 2018.

Brought to you by

Ana Maria Celis
Ana Maria Celis

Lot Essay

The Guston Foundation confirms that this lot will be included in the future catalogue raisonné of the drawings of Philip Guston.

One of the most recognizable artists to turn from Abstract Expressionism in favor of a style uniquely his own, Philip Guston’s enigmatic figuration and achingly personal iconography have carved out a singular niche in the history of postwar and contemporary art. Window is a provocative but intimate example of the artist’s lifelong respect for drawing, not as a means of working out ideas for paintings but as a wholly expressive form in and of itself. Charged with the same subversive dynamism and wit as his larger works in oil, this graphite on paper composition continues to work with issues of personal trauma, racial tension, and social upheaval in the late 20th century that are emblematic of Guston’s late period.

Rendered in dark graphite on a stark white ground, Window is overtaken compositionally by a burly figure dressed in a rumpled costume. Seemingly made from a patchwork of smaller pieces of fabric, the individual’s clothing is distinct for its inclusion of a pointed hood with small slits for eyes. A signature of Guston’s later iconography, the hood creates a menacing subject for the work that is often seen as a stand-in for the artist himself. Two gloved hands, one holding a cigar, gesture toward an unseen counterpart while a view of high-rise buildings is visible outside. The window itself, its shade pulled all the way up, is partially blocked by the person. This occlusion adds to his dominance within the work. This oblique scene, like a frame pulled from a larger story with no other context, is typical of Guston’s working style and can be seen as a piece of his larger narrative.

Executed two short years after his return to figuration, Window is a rich sampler of Guston’s favored motifs. The hooded figure stands with its back to the titular window as if turning from staring at the city below to emphasize a point. Gesturing with his smoldering cigar between two thick fingers, this imposing character is at once mysterious, threatening, and cartoonish. A gloved hand, reminiscent of those most often seen on Mickey Mouse, points forcefully out of frame. This distinct visual language is indicative of Guston as both an artist and as a person with a storied past. Each drawing and painting that Guston produced from 1968 until his death in 1980 adds one more piece to the puzzle of his life.

One of the original founders of the Abstract Expressionist school, Guston and his classmate, Jackson Pollock, had been introduced to the work of Pablo Picasso and Giorgio di Chirico early on by a teacher. While employed by the Works Progress Administration, Guston worked with representation until abandoning it for the trademark gestural abstraction of the New York School. After years of success in this style, Guston made a sudden change in 1968 when he returned to representative painting. Eschewing the formal qualities and expressive compositions, the artist lamented, “I got sick and tired of all that purity. I wanted to tell stories” (P. Guston, quoted in A. Kingsley, “Philip Guston’s Endgame”, Horizon, June 1980, p. 39). Drawing upon the lyrical sketches of Picasso and the apprehensively-composed paintings of di Chirico, Guston employed a bevy of symbols and recurring components to create uncertain narratives and tensely-rendered tableaus.

Although it is arguable that Guston is known more for his paintings during his late period, the artist was vehement about the importance of drawing to his practice. Works like Window are concrete evidence of Guston’s mind at work as he invented new scenarios and arrangements for his motley cast of characters and objects. The artist espoused the virtues of his practice, saying, “The act of drawing is what locates, suggests, discovers. At times, it seems enough to draw, without the distraction of color and mass. Yet it is an old ambition to make drawing and painting one.... On a lucky day, a surprising balance of forms and spaces will appear and I feel the drawing making itself, the image taking hold. This, in turn, moves me towards painting—anxious to get to the same place, with the actuality of paint and light” (P. Guston, quoted in Philip Guston: Drawings 1947-1977, New York, 1978, n.p.). The fluid conversation between Guston’s drawing and painting practices is evident in the similarities between the two. His inky linework is echoed in the confident application of paint, and the subtle gradations of painted color find their monochromatic cohorts in the artist’s approach to shading.

Guston’s upbringing was marked with trauma, having discovered his father’s body at the age of ten after the Russian immigrant had hung himself. After this, the young Guston would frequently hole up in a closet to draw characters from his favorite comics like George Herriman’s Krazy Kat and Bud Fisher’s Mutt and Jeff lit only by the light of a bare bulb on a string. This interest in cartoon figures and their linear rendering shows itself in his later drawings like Window while also making reference to a very personal set of objects, among them nooses, bare bulbs, and suspended legs and shoes. Henry Hopkins noted the artist’s aboutface toward representation, saying, “Whatever psychological dam had been blocking Guston’s creative surge had burst. Self-revelatory, self-deprecatory, urgent, tormented, dumb, sad, humorous, anything and everything but pretty, the hand and the heart were moving with a will of their own I felt that I knew what had happened” (H. Hopkins, quoted in Philip Guston, exh. cat., San Francsico Museum of Modern Art, 1980, p. 47). By mining his past and filtering it through his expressive linework and knack for forebodingly comedic imagery, Guston was able to accurately express his true nature as a person and an artist.

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