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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

To B.W.T.

Photo: Scott Leen

To B.W.T.


Philip Guston

American, 1913-1980

Born Philip Goldstein to Russian Jewish emigres, Guston moved with his family from Canada to California in 1919, where he attended the Los Angeles Manual Arts High School and became a friend of future Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock. Following a successful early career as a sought-after mural painter, he relocated to New York City in 1935 to join the WPA. Guston became part of the city’s artistic vanguard at a critical moment and made a leap into abstract painting in the late 1940s. To B.W.T. is dedicated to fellow painter Bradley Walker Tomlin, with whom he briefly shared a studio in 1949. Guston insightfully described his compositions from this period as “an electrified field where every mark is magnetized.”
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]; purchased from gallery by Jane and Richard E. Lang, Seattle, Washington, 1979; Friday Foundation, Seattle, Washington, 2018; to Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, 2020
Photo: Scott Leen
Not currently on view


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, lent by Egan Gallery).

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, lent by Egan Gallery).

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.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Frisson: The Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis Collection, Oct. 15, 2021 - Nov. 27, 2022. Text by Robert Storr. No cat. no., pp. 38, 41, 96-99, 187, reproduced pp. 97 (pl. 7), 182.
Published ReferencesDore, Ashon. Yes, but. . . A Critical Study of Philip Guston. New York: Viking Press, 1976; p. 103, reproduced.

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