Philip Guston's peripatetic career has encompassed a number of painting styles, from the socialist realist concerns of his 1930s pictures, to his classic Abstract Expressionist works from the 1940s-1960s and finally back to figuration, albeit a cartoonish brand of it, for the remainder of his career. Untitled is from the middle period of his career, when he was considered one of the preeminent abstract painters of his generation.
Marked by a cluster of delicately painted forms, Guston's work was sometimes referred to as "abstract impressionism" due to its sensitive treatment of light, color, and its delicate, nuanced brushstroke. Although known as an extraordinary colorist, Untitled and indeed most of the artist's drawings, is a powerful black and white work that bears the same unerring touch as his paintings. Guston's drawings are more introverted than his brasher Abstract Expressionist peers. Unlike Kline and de Kooning, who created works that were forced up against the constraints of the edge, Guston worked easily within its boundaries, drawing the viewer in instead of out.
Untitled has a strong sensation of landscape. A master of brush and ink, the artists varies the density of ink to create a beautifully nuanced surface, full of the light and painterly incident that one finds in his best paintings of the early 1950's. An accomplished draftsman, drawing played a major role in Guston's work. "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.).