Phillip Guston, The Porch, 1945. Oil on canvas. Festival of Arts Purchase Fund 1948-10-1
Phillip Guston, The Porch, 1945. Oil on canvas. Festival of Arts Purchase Fund 1948-10-1
Philip Guston

56 1/4 x 34 inches

​Philip Guston's formative years in Los Angeles provided the themes of his paintings for nearly fifty years: combat and struggle, political and social awareness, depression and melancholy.

When he was ten years old, his father hanged himself. Guston discovered the body and cut it down. The first images he began making as a teen were of hooded figures evoking the Ku Klux Klan, which was burning crosses and breaking labor strikes in Los Angeles during his youth. In the 1930s, the artist moved to New York, where he painted Works Progress Administration (WPA) murals sponsored by the federal government as part of the New Deal. At that time, he changed his name from Goldstein to Guston.

In addition to the work of the Mexican muralists (particularly José Orozco and David Siqueiros), Guston responded to Italian Renaissance painting (especially that of Piero della Francesca) and the work of European modernists such as Giorgio de Chirico, Pablo Picasso, and Max Beckmann. In 1945 Guston began teaching at Washington University in St. Louis, where he had the opportunity to study Beckmann's paintings firsthand. After World War II, he spent time in an artists' colony in Woodstock, New York, and traveled to Europe on a Prix de Rome fellowship. He returned to New York City in the 1950s and became a key member of the abstract expressionist group, which included his long-time friend Jackson Pollock.

All of Guston's early influences are woven into the composition and style of The Porch, which depicts a group of children dressed as street performers playing musical instruments. The figures occupy a compressed cubist space divided by two white lines forming a cross. Italianate architecture appears in the background at the upper left. Figures at the left play cymbals and a horn, while to the right a masked harlequin lifts the sole of his shoe to the viewer. In the foreground are two children, one with a paper hat and another playing a drum. The palette and the nature of the architectural forms recall both Piero della Francesca and de Chirico. The stylistic treatment of the theme of performers, musicians, and harlequins evokes the work of Picasso and Beckmann, both of whom often used performers as surrogates of the artist.

Text by Brenda Mitchell, from Krannert Art Museum: Selected Works, 2008


Childe Hassam, Lady in the Park, 1890. Oil on canvas. Gift of Katherine Trees Livezey 1973-3-1
Childe Hassam, Lady in the Park, 1890. Oil on canvas. Gift of Katherine Trees Livezey 1973-3-1
Childe Hassam

14 1/4 x 18 inches

Like Winslow Homer, Childe Hassam began as an illustrator for magazines, including Harpers and Scribners.

His early paintings reflect contemporary styles: the realism of Winslow Homer, the tonalism of George Inness, and the romanticism of the Hudson River School. In the spring of 1886, Hassam moved to Paris to study impressionism.

Hassam and other American artists sought to reconcile the realist tradition with impressionistic color and light, which made their work generally quite different from that of their French sources. Hassam's paintings after his stay in Paris are typical of American impressionism in the restraint of their color and brushwork. He was one of the American painters included in the celebrated and, by some accounts, notorious International Exhibition of Modern Art of 1913 (later referred to as the Armory Show).

Lady in the Park, painted after Hassam's return to New York in 1890, shows a woman approaching the viewer on a wide, tree-lined walk along an urban park, the pink of her slim skirt echoing the roses on her hat. In the sun-filled scene, the bright sidewalk and street recede to a hazy background of aqua-blue buildings and carriages. The composition is paced out by the diminishing verticals of streetlamps and the trunks of slender, leafless trees, and balanced by diagonal blue shadows.

Text by Robert B. Smith and Catharine Sprugel, from Krannert Art Museum: Selected Works, 2008