, Philip Guston appears to paint a sleeping self-portrait, showing the artist experiencing a disturbing dream, or perhaps a nightmare. Many of Guston’s repeated motifs feature, including cans, shoes and shoemaking equipment, along with bottles, the rear end of a horse, and a hand brandishing a truncheon. It has been suggested that the book that Guston paints on top of the covers of the bed is Red Cavalry
by Isaac Babel, telling stories from Babel’s time riding with the Cossacks, who led pogroms. The sleeper’s brow is deeply creased with worry, or upset.
FSC Certified paper and wood
Date of work
Original: Oil paint on canvas 175.2 x 199.3 cm, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Museum purchase funded by the Alice Pratt Brown Museum Fund ©The Estate of Philip Guston
Philip Guston (1913 – 1980) was a Canadian American artist, who worked in painting, drawing, printmaking and murals. Born in Canada to a Jewish immigrant family, he grew up in the US and was one of the most celebrated abstract painters of the 1950s and 1960s. His early work addressed racism in America and wars abroad. During the social and political upheavals of the late 1960s, Guston rejected abstraction, and instead developed a practice involving large-scale paintings and comic-like figures, some in white hoods representing evil and the everyday perpetrators of racism. These paintings and those that followed established Guston as one of the most influential painters of the late 20th century.