oil on canvas
United States
Overall: 72 1/2 × 115 in. (184.15 × 292.1 cm)

There is nothing to do now but paint my life . . . My dreams, surroundings, predicament, desperation, [my wife] Musa—love, need . . . If someone bursts out laughing in front of my paintings, that is exactly what I want and expect. —Philip Guston

In the last decade of his career, Guston returned to figurative subjects—recalling his early work as a social realist painter in the 1930s and 1940s—while maintaining the loose brushwork and rich palette of his midcareer Abstract Expressionism. The bare lightbulb, the heap of shoes, and the cigarette-puffing head with its bulging, bloodshot eye, which the artist considered a self-portrait, are recurrent motifs in his late paintings.

Guston employed such cartoonlike images to address momentous and difficult themes, including the creative capacity of a Jewish artist after the Holocaust. This depiction of self-flagellation expresses Guston’s struggle to persevere as an artist in the face of self-doubt and self-criticism.

Gift of Sydney and Frances Lewis
The Common Wealth, Museum of Fine Arts, Roanoke, VA, December 1, 1990 – February 3, 1991

Phillip Guston, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, VA, October 8, 1994 – February 5, 1995

Phillip Guston: The Late Works, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, August 17 – September 16, 1984; The Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, September 26 – October 28, 1984; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, November 7 – December 30, 1984

Phillip Guston: Paintings 1969 - 1980, The Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, October 13 – December 12, 1982; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, January 13 – February 27, 1983; Kunsthalle, Basel, May 8 – June 19, 1983.

Painting: A New Spirit, Royal Academy of Arts, London, January 15 – March 18, 1981

Alexander Brook, Phillip Guston, Clyfford Still Memorial Exhibition, American Academy of Arts and Letters, New York, NY, November 17 – December 21, 1980

Phillip Guston, David McKee Gallery, New York, NY, November 15 – December 18, 1980
(David McKee Gallery, New York), by 1980; Purchased by Mr. and Mrs. Sydney and Frances Lewis, Virginia, in December 1980; Gift to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), Richmond, Virginia in December of 1985.
©artist or artist’s estate

Some object records are not complete and do not reflect VMFA's full and current knowledge. VMFA makes routine updates as records are reviewed and enhanced.