One of Guston’s most famous paintings, Sleeping
shows the artist asleep in bed, the final work in his series of paintings of this subject. The covers are drawn all the way up to his closed eyelid, and as in Couple in Bed
, 1977, his feet and legs poke out at the bottom, still clad in shoes, the soles pointing towards the viewer. 1977 was a difficult time for Philip Guston and his family. He worked without rest, and his wife, the poet Musa McKim, had a series of strokes that left her unable to write new poetry. The sleeper images from this time have a deep sense of poignancy.
FSC Certified paper and wood
Date of work
Original: Oil on canvas 213.4 x 175.3 cm Promised gift of Musa Guston Mayer to The Metropolitan Museum of Art © The Estate of Philip Guston Photograph by Genevieve Hanson, courtesy Hauser & Wirth
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.