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Philip Guston

If This Be Not I

1945

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Philip Guston completed If This Be Not I in 1945, shortly before he became a professor of art at Washington University, where he taught until 1947. In the painting a backdrop strung from a coat hanger transforms a ramshackle porch into an informal stage, over which looms a dark cityscape. A group of solemn children dressed in masks, crowns, and paper hats are staged among furniture and discarded objects, enacting a mysterious and unresolved narrative. The painting's dense, orderly composition creates a sense of immobility, while muted, cool colors cast a shade of melancholy over the scene. Until the mid-1940s Guston worked on commissioned public murals, often with explicit political themes. In this work, Guston's most ambitious easel painting to date, the artist introduced enigmatic references to the current events of World War II, such as the shredded newspapers in the foreground and the boy in striped pajamas lying before a barbed wire fence, an allusion to Nazi concentration camps. [Permanent collection label, 2019]

Recently conserved with funds from the Guston Foundation. 

  • Artist Philip Guston (American, 1913–1980)
  • Title If This Be Not I
  • Date 1945
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions unframed | 42 1/4 x 55 1/4 in.
  • Credit line University purchase, Kende Sale Fund, 1945
  • Object number WU 3766

Philip Guston Now
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, Massachusetts), 05/01/2022 - 09/11/2022
Philip Guston, Tate Modern (London, England), 10/03/2023 - 02/25/2024
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Houston, Texas), 10/23/2022 - 01/15/2023
National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), 02/26/2023 - 08/27/2023

Picasso to Pollock: H.W. Janson and the Legacy of Modern Art at Washington University in St. Louis
Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum (San Antonio, Texas), 08/17/2004 - 10/24/2004

Philip Guston Retrospective
Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (Fort Worth, Texas), 03/30/2003 - 06/08/2003

Caught By Politics: Art of the 1930s and 1940s
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 01/19/2001 - 03/18/2001

Early Modern European and American Art
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 09/08/1998 - 10/12/1998

Philip Guston: Working Through the Forties
Greenville County Museum of Art (Greenville, South Carolina), , 04/09/1998 - 06/29/1998
University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art (Iowa City, Iowa), 01/18/1998 - 03/16/1998
Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Museum of Art (Utica, New York), 11/15/1997 - 01/04/1998

George Grosz: Berlin—New York
Neue Nationalgalerie (Berlin, Germany), 12/21/1994 - 04/17/1995

A Gallery of Modern Art
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 08/09/1994 - 10/16/1994

Philip Guston: 50 Years of Painting
Dallas Museum of Art (Dallas, Texas), 11/19/1989 - 01/14/1990
Saint Louis Art Museum (St. Louis, Missouri), 09/08/1989 - 10/22/1989

Philip Guston: Retrospectiva de pintura
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía (Madrid, Spain), 03/01/1989 - 05/08/1989
Palau de la Virreina (Barcelona, Spain), 05/25/1989 - 07/16/1989

Philip Guston and Max Beckmann: A Reminiscence
Saint Louis Art Museum (St. Louis, Missouri), 11/08/1988 - 12/13/1988

Cubists, Surrealists, and Expressionists
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 05/15/1983 - 09/04/1983

Philip Guston, Retrospective 1930–1979
Philip Guston, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (Chicago, Illinois), 11/12/1980 - 01/11/1981
Philip Guston, Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, New York), 06/30/1981 - 09/13/1981
Philip Guston, Denver Art Museum (Denver, Colorado), 02/25/1981 - 04/26/1981
Philip Guston, Corcoran Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), 07/20/1980 - 09/09/1980
Philip Guston, delete - San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (San Francisco, California), , 05/15/1980 - 06/29/1980

Centennial Faculty Show
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 11/11/1979 - 01/31/1980

Two Centuries of American Art
Grand Rapids Art Museum (Grand Rapids, Michigan), 10/01/1977 - 11/30/1977

The American Scene, 1900–1970
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University (Bloomington, Indiana), 04/06/1970 - 05/17/1970

Washington University Faculty Show
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 10/21/1968 - 12/09/1968

Washington University Collection of Modern Paintings and Sculpture from Daumier to Pollock
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Kansas City, Missouri), 04/06/1966 - 05/08/1966

Faculty Art Show
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 10/30/1965

American Painting 1910–1960: A Special Exhibition Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Association of College Unions
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana University (Bloomington, Indiana), 04/19/1964 - 05/10/1964

Philip Guston
Whitechapel Gallery (London, England), 01/16/1963 - 02/17/1963
Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam, Netherlands), 09/15/1962 - 10/15/1962
Palais des Beaux-Arts (Bozar) (Brussels, Belgium), 03/01/1963 - 03/24/1963
Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Los Angeles, California), 05/15/1963 - 06/23/1963
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (New York, New York), 05/02/1962 - 07/01/1962

Opening Exhibition of Mark C. Steinberg Memorial Hall
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 04/29/1960

An Exhibition of Contemporary Art
Fine Arts Center Gallery, University of Arkansas (Fayetteville, Arkansas), 04/15/1951 - 05/15/1951

60th Annual American Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture
Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, Illinois), 10/25/1951 - 12/16/1951

Philip Guston
Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum, University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, Minnesota), 04/10/1950 - 05/12/1950

Exhibition of Work by Newly Elected Members, Recipients of Academy and Institute Honors and Pictures Purchased from the Childe Hassam Fund
American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters (New York, New York), 05/22/1948 - 06/30/1948

Modern Art in the Washington University Collection
Saint Louis Art Museum (St. Louis, Missouri), 03/01/1947 - 03/31/1947

Philip Guston
Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Museum of Art (Utica, New York), 11/02/1947 - 12/01/1947

New Accessions, USA
Colorado Springs Fine Art Center (Colorado Springs, Colorado), 07/15/1946 - 09/02/1946

American Painting: 39th Annual Exhibition
Saint Louis Art Museum (St. Louis, Missouri), 02/16/1946 - 03/19/1946

Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting
Whitney Museum of American Art (New York, New York), 11/27/1945 - 01/10/1946

1st Summer Exhibition of Contemporary Art
University of Iowa Stanley Museum of Art (Iowa City, IA), 06/24/1945 - 07/31/1945

Critics' Choice of the Contemporary Arts & Antiques Show
17th Regiment Armory (New York, New York), 09/24/1945 - 10/01/1945

Midtown Galleries

Inscription [LR:] Philip Guston

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