Lot 135
  • 135

Philip Guston

Estimate
400,000 - 600,000 USD
Sold
1,090,000 USD
bidding is closed

Description

  • Philip Guston
  • Window
  • oil on board
  • 30 by 39 1/4 in. 76.2 by 99.7 cm.
  • Executed in 1969.

Provenance

David McKee Gallery, Inc., New York
Private Collection (acquired from the above circa 1990)
Sotheby’s, New York, 14 May 2003, Lot 162 (consigned by the above)
Acquired from the above sale by the present owner

Literature

Donald Kupit, "Philip Guston's Self-Doubt," Artnet Magazine, 4 December 2003, illustrated in color online

Catalogue Note

“I live out of town, and driving down to New York City I go down the West Side Highway. There are all these buildings that look as if they are marching. You know, by painting things they start to look strange and dopey. Also there was a desire, a powerful desire though an impossibility, to paint things as if one had never seen them before, as if one had come from another planet. How would you paint them: how would you realize them? It was really a tremendous period for me.”
Philip Guston 

In 1968, after a two year hiatus from painting, Philip Guston, the “high priest of the Abstract Expressionist painting cult” (Exh. Cat., Kunstmuseum Bonn, Philip Guston, 1999, p. 9) radically changed direction. Gone were the flourishes of abstracted color and form on which his reputation had been built, replaced now by naïvely styled, bold and symbolically charged figurative paintings. The immediate reaction was visceral, as artists and critics lined up to scorn Guston’s newest creations. Now, nearly half a century since the present work was painted, Guston’s late paintings, of which Window is an exceptionally early example, are thought to be among his most important and revolutionary works.

Indeed, windows themselves would become a recurring motif in Guston’s work, secondary canvases within his paintings providing escape from the claustrophobia of his nightmarish interiors. In Window, this serenity is maintained. The viewer is presented with a childlike skyline stripped of its brutality; sharp, abrupt corners are replaced by organic, curved lines, and stark formal lines of windows by out-of-kilter dashes. Further, the painterly eggshell blue sky provides a welcome oasis from the insistent pinkness of the wall.

However, true to his signature style, the buildings seem out of place and distorted. In Guston's own words: “there was a desire, a powerful desire…to paint things as if one had never seen them before, as if one had come from another planet” (Exh. Cat., London, The Whitechapel Art Gallery, Philip Guston: Paintings 1969-1980, 1982, p. 52).  In Window, we are presented with a vision that is at once alien and temporary, with the pull for the vibrant green blind hanging down in the center of the painting providing a constant reminder of the impermanence of this placid vision. Indeed, the dominant color and presence of the blind means that the work is as much about the impending elimination of serenity as it is about serenity itself. At any moment the blind could come down and the childish skyscape be eliminated. Window thus provides a glimpse of this instant of calm, a visual echo of Guston’s own transition from the prestige and prettiness of his Abstract Expressionist period to the brutality and weight of his figurative one. 

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