Guston, Philip

Guston, Philip,

1913–80, American painter, b. Montreal. Guston immigrated to the United States in 1916. His earliest role models as an artist were such Mexican muralists as José OrozcoOrozco, José Clemente
, 1883–1949, Mexican muralist, genre painter, and lithographer, grad. Mexican National Agricultural School. He became an architectural draftsman and in 1908 turned to painting. With Diego Rivera he led the renaissance of modern Mexican art.
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 and David SiqueirosSiqueiros, David Alfaro
, 1896–1974, Mexican painter, b. Chihuahua. Siqueiros was among Mexico's most original and eminent painters. His career as an artist was always related to his vigorous socialist revolutionary activities.
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; he later made nonobjective murals with Jackson PollockPollock, Jackson,
1912–56, American painter, b. Cody, Wyo. He studied (1929–31) in New York City, mainly under Thomas Hart Benton, but he was more strongly influenced by A. P. Ryder and the Mexican muralists, especially Siqueiros.
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 and Willem de Kooningde Kooning, Willem
, 1904–97, American painter, b. Netherlands; studied Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques. De Kooning immigrated to the United States, arriving as a stowaway in 1926 and settling in New York City, where he worked on the Federal Arts Project
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. His sensitivity to the relationships of masses of color on canvas caused some critics to call him an "abstract impressionist." He was, however, intimately associated with abstract expressionismabstract expressionism,
movement of abstract painting that emerged in New York City during the mid-1940s and attained singular prominence in American art in the following decade; also called action painting and the New York school.
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, and during the 1950s and 60s painted some of the most lyrical works connected with that movement. The Painter's City (1956) is a well-known work. During the latter part of his life, from the late 1960s on, Guston's work changed startlingly. His new paintings, which shockingly departed from his previous refinement, were figurative but strange—nightmarishly cartoonish in image, blunt in approach, and charged with social consciousness; his hooded figures explicitly evoke the Ku Klux Klan.


See studies by D. Ashton (1976) and M. Auping, ed. (2003).

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Guston, Philip

(1912–80) painter; born in Montreal, Canada. He came to California with his family (1916), and his early paintings combined realism and surrealism, as seen in Martial Memory (1941). Later in his career he lived in Woodstock, Vt., and his work had a cartoon-like quality, as in The Studio (1969).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.