The Easel

Resilience: Philip Guston in 1971

Guston’s famous switch from abstraction to figuration in 1970, as told by his daughter. After 20 years, abstract expressionism was still commercially successful but he felt it was accompanied by “overwhelming apathy”. His 1970 exhibition greatly divided opinion, one critic describing the cartoonish figures as “Ku Klux Komix”. That critic later recanted, admitting that Guston had given memorable form to unhappy America’s “sense of alienation, post traumatic emptiness”.