Painting, 1950 is jewel-like work from a very rare group of "White paintings" that represent Guston's first completely organic abstractions, the most famous being White Painting, 1951 in the San Francesco Museum of Modern Art. Devoid of any figurative references, these new works were executed with a unique freedom of improvisation and spontaneity that reflected Guston's wish for direct expression through gesture. "The desire for direct expression finally became so strong that even the interval necessary to reach back to the palette beside me became too long; so one day I put up a canvas and placed the palette in front of me. Then I forced myself to paint the entire work without stepping back to look at it. I remember that I painted this in an hour." (Guston, cited in R. Storr, Guston, New York 1986, p. 25).
Painting is a legible record of all the decisions, whether tentative or assured, that went into its realization; it exemplifies in its loose, open organization the simultaneity of thinking and making. Guston explores the canvas through a network of short, discontinuous strokes, working with a rough Mondrian-inspired grid which he fleshes out with very physical impressionistic gestures and autumn colors. Inspired also by Cezanne, he seems to celebrate the bareness of the primed canvas, allowing the white ground to be as much a protagonist of the composition as his built-up brushstrokes. Guston creates an extraordinary sense of balance and a central gravity, bringing vitality to the normally static grid.