Born Philip Goldstein in Montreal, Canada, his family settled in Los Angeles, California when he was very young. He enrolled at the Los Angeles Manual Arts High School by the age of 14 and studied European art along with Jackson Pollack. Guston also formally studied art for one year at the Otis Art Institute in Los Angeles on a Scholarship, but he was considered self taught.
His early work was more figurative and realistic as opposed to his later work which evolved into Abstract Expressionism. Based on his political awareness, Philip Guston’s earlier art consisted of murals he created for the John Reed Club and City of Hope, both in California. In 1935, Philip Guston moved to New York and worked for the Works Progress Administration known as the WPA. It was by the 1940’s that Guston’s art began to swing towards Abstract Expressionism using blocks of strokes while painting.
By 1960, Philip Guston had reached the peak of his career as an abstract artist and was quoted as saying “There is something ridiculous and miserly in the myth we inherit from abstract art. That painting is autonomous, pure and for itself, therefore we habitually analyze its ingredients and define its limits. But painting is ‘impure’. It is the adjustment of ‘impurities’ which forces its continuity. We are image-makers and image-ridden.”
Following his rise to fame as an abstract expressionist in the early 1960’s, his paintings began to take on a cartoonish quality. His art now appears in museums worldwide such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; the Tate Museum in London, England and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Philip Guston passed away at the age of 66 in Woodstock New York shortly after being elected into the National Academy of Design as an academic scholar.