Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object
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Performers

Artist:
Philip Guston (American, Montreal 1913–1980 Woodstock, New York)
Date:
1947
Medium:
Oil on canvas
Dimensions:
48 1/8 × 32 1/4 in. (122.2 × 81.9 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
Arthur Hoppock Hearn Fund, 1950
Accession Number:
50.32
Not on view
Among the most versatile twentieth-century painters, Guston devoted much of his career as an artist to exploring the relationship between abstraction and the human form. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, the artist often painted groups of moody figures, mostly children, engaged in activities—tense street skirmishes, mysterious public performances—that he saw as parallel to experiences and events in the contemporary adult world. Showing an evocative group of young musicians, The Performers recalls medieval European art, with the figures pressed to the front of the composition, filling it completely. Soon after painting The Performers, Guston adopted an even more abstract style.
Inscription: Signed (lower left): Philip Guston; signed, dated, and inscribed (verso): "PERFORMERS"/ Philip Guston/ 1947
the artist, Woodstock, N. Y. (1947–50; sold through Midtown Galleries, New York, to MMA)

New York. National Academy of Design. "Pepsi–Cola Company's Fifth Annual Exhibition: Paintings of the Year," September 29–October 31, 1948, no. 60 (as for sale, for $2,000).

Milwaukee Art Institute. "Pepsi–Cola Company's Fifth Annual Exhibition: Paintings of the Year," November 19–December 26, 1948, no. 60.

Des Moines Art Center. "Pepsi–Cola Company's Fifth Annual Exhibition: Paintings of the Year," January 15–February 15, 1949, no. 60.

Youngstown, Ohio. The Butler Institute of American Art. "Pepsi–Cola Company's Fifth Annual Exhibition: Paintings of the Year," March 15–April 17, 1949, no. 60.

Minneapolis. University Gallery, University of Minnesota. "Philip Guston," April 10–May 12, 1950, no. 15.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "20th Century Painters: A Special Exhibition of Oils, Water Colors and Drawings Selected from the Collections of American Art in the Metropolitan Museum," June 16–October 29, 1950, unnum. brochure (p. 6).

Southampton, N. Y. Parrish Art Museum. "Twentieth Century American Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 25–December 31, 1977, no. 22.

Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. "La Peinture Américaine au 20e Siècle de la Collection du Metropolitan Museum of Art," June 28–August 23, 1978, no. 21 (as "Les Musiciens").

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Tribute to a Curator: Robert Beverly Hale," November 16, 1978–March 4, 1979, unnum. checklist.

New Brunswick, N. J. University Art Gallery, Rutgers. "Realism and Realities: The Other Side of American Painting, 1940–1960," January 17–March 26, 1982, no. 67.

Jacksonville, Fla. Jacksonville Art Museum. "The Figure in 20th Century American Art: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," February 9–April 21, 1985, unnumbered cat. (p. 155, as "The Performers").

Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Museum of Art. "The Figure in 20th Century American Art: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," May 5–June 30, 1985, unnumbered cat.

New York. National Academy of Design. "The Figure in 20th Century American Art: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," July 16–September 1, 1985, unnumbered cat.

Evanston, Ill. Terra Museum of American Art. "The Figure in 20th Century American Art: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 15–November 10, 1985, unnumbered cat.

Little Rock. Arkansas Arts Center. "The Figure in 20th Century American Art: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," November 12, 1985–January 19, 1986, unnumbered cat.

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center. "The Figure in 20th Century American Art: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," February 9–March 30, 1986, unnumbered cat.

St. Paul. Minnesota Museum of Art. "The Figure in 20th Century American Art: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," April 20–June 8, 1986, unnumbered cat.

Geneva. Musée Rath. "Les Figures de la liberté: [Mille Neuf Cent Quarante–Cinq]," October 27, 1995–January 7, 1996, unnumbered cat. (as "The Performers").

Robert Beverly Hale. 100 American Painters of the 20th Century: Works Selected from the Collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1950, p. xv, ill. p. 95.

Henry Geldzahler in "Twentieth Century Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1965–1975. New York, 1975, p. 220.

Helen A. Harrison. Twentieth Century American Paintings from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Parrish Art Museum. Southampton, N. Y., 1977, p. 28, no. 22, ill., discusses the compressed space of the figures.

Helen A. Harrison in La Peinture Américaine au 20e Siècle de la Collection du Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels. Brussels, 1978, unpaginated, no. 21, ill., reprints Ref. Harrison 1977.

Ross Feld in Philip Guston. Exh. cat., San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. New York, 1980, pp. 17, 19, fig. 6.

Greta Berman and Jeffrey Wechsler. Realism and Realities: The Other Side of American Painting, 1940–1960. Exh. cat., Rutgers University Art Gallery. New Brunswick, N. J., 1981, pp. 73, 189, no. 67, fig. 83.

Lowery Stokes Sims. The Figure in 20th Century American Art: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Jacksonville Art Museum. New York, 1984, pp. 10, 143, 154–56, ill., comments that this painting communicates an element of pathos.

Eugene Victor Thaw. "The Abstract Expressionists." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 44 (Winter 1986–87), p. 9, fig. 4 (not reproduced), notes that this was one of the first contemporary works to enter the MMA's collection.

Robert Zaller. "Philip Guston and the Crisis of the Image." Critical Inquiry 14 (Autumn 1987), pp. 71, 73, states that in paintings such as this one "the image of Nazi death camp orchestras merged disquietingly with the memory of the blues bands Guston had encountered during his two–year stay in St. Louis (1945–47)".

Dore Ashton. A Critical Study of Philip Guston. 2nd. ed. [1st ed. 1976]. Berkeley, 1990, ill. p. 75.

David Anfam. Abstract Expressionism. New York, 1990, p. 139.



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