A Day’s Work (1970) by Philip Guston

A Day's Work - Philip Guston - 1970

Artwork Information

TitleA Day's Work
ArtistPhilip Guston
MediumOil on Canvas
Dimensions198 x 279 cm

About A Day's Work

In 1970, Philip Guston began creating paintings that were a departure from his earlier figurative and representational work. This change in style initially received critical rejection, but today his paintings from 1970 are considered iconic works. Guston’s distinct visual vocabulary included the use of allegories and symbols that conveyed a sense of playful irony and dark humor.

Guston enrolled in the Los Angeles Manual Arts High School at the age of 14 to begin painting. He worked in several artistic modes, including Renaissance-inspired figuration and formally accomplished abstraction. However, he made a radical return to figuration in 1968 but waited until 1970 to reveal this work publicly.

One such painting is “The Porch,” which Guston saw as all about himself. It features a thickly painted black boot sitting next to an empty chair on an exterior porch-like setting. The boot symbolizes Guston’s artistic presence, while the empty chair signifies his absenteeism from society or art history.

Philip Guston’s style is often classified as neo-expressionism, incorporating themes such as alienation, anxiety and struggle into his work. His provocative paintings have become some of the most influential pieces in contemporary American art history.

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