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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: The artist; [Egan Gallery, New York]; [Sidney Janis Gallery, New York]; Mr. and Mrs. Leonard M. Brown, Springfield, Massachusetts; [Acquavella Contemporary Art, New York] acquired from the above by Jane and Richard E. Lang, Seattle, 1979; Friday Foundation, Seattle, 2018; Seattle Art Museum, 2020
Photo: Spike Mafford / Zocalo Studios. Courtesy of the Friday Foundation
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


Exhibition HistoryBaltimore, Maryland, Baltimore Museum of Art, Abstract Expressionists, Mar. 3 - 29, 1953. No cat. no., reproduced (as No. 3).

Iowa City, Iowa, Art Building and Iowa Memorial Union, State University of Iowa, Then and Now: American Painting in the 1930s and 1950s, June 13 - July 31, 1954. Cat. no. 40, reproduced (as Painting No. 3).

Utica, New York, Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute Museum of Art, Italy Rediscovered: An Exhibition of Work by American Painters in Italy since World War II, Mar. 6 - 27, 1955. Cat. no. 22, reproduced (as Painting No. 3).

New York, New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Philip Guston: Recent Paintings, Feb. 6 - Mar. 3, 1956.

New York, New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 12 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 (Amsterdam, the Netherlands, Stedelijk Museum, Sept. 20 - Oct.15, 1962; London, England, Whitechapel Gallery, Jan. 16 - Feb. 17, 1963; Brussels, Belgium, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Mar. 1 - 24, 1963; Los Angeles, California, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, May 22 - June 30, 1963. Cat. no. 18, pp. 23, 41, reproduced p. 56.

Waltham, Massachusetts, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Philip Guston, A Selective Retrospective Exhibition: 1945–1965, Feb. 27 - Mar. 27, 1966. Cat. no. 7.

New York, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Painting and Sculpture: 1940–1970, Oct. 18, 1969 - Feb. 1, 1970. Cat. no. 109, reproduced p. 170.

New York, New York, Acquavella Contemporary Art, [Group Show], Dec. 1978 - Jan. 1979

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). Cat. no. 20, p. 57, reproduced pl. 10.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, The Richard and Jane Lang Collection, Feb. 2 - Apr. 1, 1984. Cat. no. 14, pp. 28-29, reproduced.

Northampton, Massachusetts, Smith College Museum of Art, Dorothy C. Miller: With an Eye to American Art, Apr. 19 - June 16, 1985. Cat. no. 22.

New York, New York, McKee Gallery, Philip Guston: Paintings from the Fifties, Apr. 22 - June 3, 1995. Cat. no. 6, reproduced.

Bonn, Germany, Kunstmuseum Bonn, Philip Guston: Gemälde 1947–1979, Sept. 2 - Nov. 1, 1999 (Stuttgart, Germany, Kunstverein Stuttgart, and Ottawa, Ontario, National Gallery of Canada) [To B.W.T. shown in Bonn only]. No cat. no., reproduced p. 69.

Fort Worth, Texas, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, Philip Guston, Mar. 30, 2002 - June 8, 2003 (San Francisco, California, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, June 28 - Sept. 27, 2003; New York, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oct. 27, 2003 - Jan. 4, 2004; London, England, Royal Academy of Arts, Jan. 24 - Apr. 12, 2004. No cat. no., p. 238, reproduced pl. 32.
Published ReferencesDore, Ashon. Yes, but. . . A Critical Study of Philip Guston. New York: Viking Press, 1976. Reproduced p. 103.

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