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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

To B.W.T.

Photo: Spike Mafford / Zocalo Studios. Courtesy of the Friday Foundation

To B.W.T.


Philip Guston

American, 1913-1980

One of Philip Guston’s earliest abstract compositions, To B.W.T. is dedicated to the painter Bradley Walker Tomlin (1899-1953), with whom Guston became friends in 1947. Following a year at the American Academy in Rome—where Guston was awarded the prestigious Prix de Rome in 1948—he relocated from Woodstock to New York City, and briefly shared a studio with Tomlin. As Guston’s work transitioned from the figurative imagery of the 1940s towards abstraction, To B.W.T. represents a classic early composition—an accumulation of vertical and horizontal brushstrokes weave together rich accents of orange, red, ochre, and green. Guston would cite Piet Mondrian’s artistic developments, moving from figuration to abstraction in the 1910s, as an analogy for his own artistic leap.
Oil on canvas
48 × 51 in. (122 × 129.2 cm)
Gift of the Friday Foundation in honor of Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis
Provenance: Leonard M. Brown, Springfield, Massachusetts; [Acquavella Gallery, New York]; purchased from gallery by Jane and Richard Lang, Seattle, Washington, 1979
Photo: Spike Mafford / Zocalo Studios. Courtesy of the Friday Foundation
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistoryNew York, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Twelve Americans, May 30 - Sept. 8, 1956. No cat. no., reproduced p. 37.

New York, New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Philip Guston, May 3 - July 1, 1962. Text by H.H. Arnason. Cat. no. 18, pp. 23, 41, reproduced p. 56.

New York, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940–1970, Oct. 18, 1969 - Feb. 1, 1970.

San Francisco, California, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Philip Guston, May 15 - June 29, 1980 (Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art, July 20 - Sept. 9, 1980; Chicago, Illinois, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Nov. 12, 1980 - Jan. 11, 1981; Denver, Colorado, Denver Art Museum, Feb. 25 - Apr. 26, 1981; New York, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, June 24 - Sept. 13, 1981).

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, The Richard and Jane Lang Collection, Feb. 2 - Apr, 1, 1984. Text by Bruce Guenther and Barbara Johns. Cat. no. 14, pp. 28-29.

New York, New York, McKee Gallery, Philip Guston: The Fifties, Apr. 22 - June 3, 1995.

Fort Worth, Texas, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Philip Guston March 30, 2002 - June 8, 2003 (San Francisco, California, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, June 28 - Sept. 28, 2003; New York, New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oct. 27, 2003 - Jan. 4, 2004; London, England, Royal Academy of Arts, Jan. 24 - Apr. 12, 2004. Cat. no. 32.
Published ReferencesDore, Ashon. Yes, but. . . A Critical Study of Philip Guston. New York: Viking Press, 1976. Reproduced p. 103.

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