At Guston’s October 1970 exhibition at Marlborough Gallery, New York, many who admired his elegant abstractions were shocked to discover a return to the representational imagery he had abandoned two decades before. Bare light bulbs, trash cans, old shoes, and other detritus of a seemingly apocalyptic world—painted in a cartoonlike style on a grand scale—now populated his canvases. As Guston put it, "I got sick and tired of all that Purity! I wanted to tell stories." For the rest of the decade his works incorporated elusive narratives of a country embroiled in a devastating war abroad and painful struggles at home alternated with solitary figures like this one—an anxious smoker, often interpreted as a self-portrait, lying awake in a desolate room while the clock ticks away the small hours of the night.
Inscription: Signed, dated, and inscribed (lower center): Philip Guston; (verso): Philip Guston/"STATIONARY FIGURE"(underlined) 1973/OIL - 77-1/4 x 128-1/4
the artist, Woodstock, N. Y. (1973–d. 1980); his widow, Musa Guston, Woodstock, N. Y. (1980–d. 1992; her bequest to MMA)
Boston University, School of Fine & Applied Arts Gallery. "Philip Guston: New Paintings," March 15–April 14, 1974, no. 13.
Dore Ashton. Philip Guston: New Paintings. Exh. cat., Boston University, School of Applied & Fine Arts Gallery. Boston, 1974, unpaginated, no. 13, ill.