Michael Snow
Clothed Woman (In Memory of my Father) 1963
oil and lucite on canvas
152 x 386.2 cm
Purchased 1966
National Gallery of Canada

Philip Guston: Paintings of Four Decades opens at the National Gallery of Canada

Ottawa, Canada - April 27, 2000


 « Le Musée des beaux-arts du Canada inaugure Philip Guston. Quatre décennies de peinture »
"Freedom. That's the only possession an artist has - freedom to do whatever you can imagine."
Philip Guston 
The National Gallery of Canada is proud to present the exclusive North American showing of Philip Guston: Paintings of Four Decades, on view from 12 May to 30 July 2000. The exhibition, organized by Dr. Christoph Schreier, Deputy Director, Kunstmuseum, Bonn, features 45 paintings by Philip Guston produced from 1947 to 1979, including both abstract and figurative works.
Montreal-born American artist Philip Guston (1913 - 1980) is one of the great figurative painters of the twentieth century. During his early years in Los Angeles, he became involved in the artistic and political movements of the West Coast intellectuals. Guston is considered one of the most important Abstract Expressionists of his generation, alongside other important representatives of the movement including Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, and Willem de Kooning. Rare as it is for an artist to be equally accomplished in both styles, Guston had the added challenge of creating figurative work in the late sixties, a period in which abstraction had become the new orthodoxy. His subjects are both deeply personal and humanistic, his works socially-committed documents of a violent age. As Guston himself explained, "So when the 1960's came along I was feeling split, schizophrenic. The war, what was happening to America, the brutality of the world. What kind of man am I, sitting at home, reading magazines, going into a frustrated fury about everything - and then going into my studio to adjust a red to a blue."

"Celebrated for his lyrical and luminous Abstract Expressionist paintings, Philip Guston was one of the most important and respected members of the New York School in the forties and fifties," commented Pierre Théberge, Director of the National Gallery of Canada. "His subsequent artistic "re-invention", inherent in the development of an increasingly figurative style of expression during the 1960's and 1970's, demonstrates the variety and virtuosity of this significant modern painter. The National Gallery of Canada is extremely proud to present this landmark exhibition."

A media preview will take place on Wednesday 10 May, beginning at 1 pm in Contemporary Gallery B106. A tour of the exhibition with Diana Nemiroff, Curator of Modern Art, National Gallery of Canada, will be followed by light refreshments. Viewing continues until 4 pm.

The National Gallery of Canada will be the only North American venue for the show. In addition to the international loans from important private or public collections in Europe and North America, the exhibition will feature the painting Room, painted four years before the artist's death in 1976, and acquired last year by the National Gallery of Canada. A visceral and strong large-scale canvas, populated by unsettling figures and objects, Room exemplifies the fusion of iconographic complexity and painterliness that makes it a significant example of his mature work.

A fully illustrated catalogue in English and French has been produced for the exhibition by the Kunstmuseum, Bonn. A video on the artist entitled Philip Guston: A Life Lived (Michael Blackwood Productions, Inc., 1982), will play continuously in the exhibition space, beginning on the hour and half hour, in English and French. Late in life, the artist looks back over a career that originated in the social realism of the 1930's, moved to the centre of Abstract Expressionism, and culminated in his last work with figures and imagined objects. Seen working in his studio, Guston speaks about his philosophy of painting and the psychological motivation for his work. This 25 minute excerpt is shown with permission of Michael Blackwood Productions, Inc.

On Thursday 18 May at 6:30 pm in the Auditorium, Dr. Christoph Schreier, Deputy Director, Kunstmuseum, Bonn, and curator of the exhibition, will present a lecture entitled Philip Guston: Paths to an Impure Painting Style. Admission fees apply.
Ursula Thiboutot
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