Philip Guston - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Tuesday, May 16, 2023 | Phillips

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  • Painted in 1943, Lemonade and Doughnuts presents a rare mise-en-scène, highlighting Philip Guston’s mastery of composition, color, and form—fundamental elements that define the language of his work in the decades following. Acquired by Illinois Wesleyan University just two years after its creation in 1945, this work is a testament to Guston’s influence on modern painting not only in the Midwest’s academic community, but in mid-century America at large. Upon its entrance into the collection of roughly 35 paintings, head of the university’s art department, Kenneth Loomis, declared that Lemonade and Doughnuts would serve as “the nucleus of a collection of art by the university,” chosen for its educational value.According to Loomis, the painting demonstrates “the effectiveness of space relations, subtlety of color, mastery of design, as well as suggesting the mood of a hot summer afternoon.”ii The work has remained in the collection of the Ames School of Art at IWU ever since.

    “I feel that my personal image as a painter did not come about until I began my easel painting with personal imagery which was about 1941.”
    — Philip Guston

    After receiving a job as a professor of art at the University of Iowa, Guston left New York for Iowa City in 1941. It was here in the Midwest where the artist embarked upon his first easel paintings, following the murals he painted for the WPA in the years prior. One of under 50 paintings made between the years 1941 and 1949, Lemonade and Doughnuts is the only major still life from this pivotal decade. Of these paintings, 18 are in museum collections and just 10, including the present work, are in private collections.iii The museum collections include the Museum of Modern Art, New York—where Guston’s prized painting Gladiators, 1940, is housed—the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and the Saint Louis Art Museum. The present work has been exhibited widely while in the collection of the Ames School of Art, including at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; the Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh; The Art Institute of Chicago; and the University Gallery at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.


    Giorgio de Chirico, Idillio antico (Antique Idyll), 1970. Image: © Paris Musées, musée d'Art moderne, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image ville de Paris/ Art Resource, NY, Artwork:  © 2023 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SIAE, Rome © Paris Musées, musée d'Art moderne, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / image ville de Paris/Art Resource, NY 


    De Chirico, Beckmann, della Francesca and Ucello


    In Lemonade and Doughnuts, Guston orders his composition with horizontal and vertical perspectives that recall the work of Italian Renaissance masters Paolo Ucello and Piero della Francesca. This allows the organic round and diagonal lines of the objects on the table to pull forward from the architectural grid in the background. The ever so slightly inverted angle of the table forces it to tilt toward the viewer, in the manner of Max Beckmann, who in turn found inspiration in the work of Georges Braque and Henri Matisse. In addition, the Classical columns and Romanesque arches used in this mid-Western vernacular architecture are deliberate references to Giorgio de Chirico, conveying a similar sense of lonely stillness that seems to exist slightly outside the realm of possibility. While the placement and juxtaposition of Guston’s objects bear resemblance to de Chirico’s metaphysical paintings, in Guston’s interpretation, we are faced with quintessentially American imagery—cut lemons and a pile of pastries.

    “After years of learning from others how to make a picture, Guston began to teach himself how to unmake one – yet have it remain a painting in all the ways that count. He taught himself to conjure painterly incident, find and lose the form, inscribe and erase outlines, heed the imperatives of his medium’s materiality, and simultaneously identify and defy the intrinsic parameters of the support without there being any narrative other than of the act of painting itself.”
    —Robert Storr 


    Max Beckmann, Studio, 1934, Private Collection. Image: akg-images


    Representations of Midwest America


    On Guston’s move to Iowa, Dore Ashton stated, “he was transplanted into the hermetic culture and strange landscape of the prosperous Midwest. The quaint frame buildings, with their variety of porches, columns, scrollwork, and large windows didn’t fail to make their impression on him, as many of his Iowa paintings attest.”iv In the present work, such varied architecture can be seen through two columns, including the spire of St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church on the right, which appears in a couple of paintings from the decade. And yet, despite its familiarity, there is a sense of mystery in Guston’s interpretation. In his own words written to Ashton, Guston acknowledges his feelings about this part of the country at the turn of the century: “…emptiness, the lonely quality of it. Not only Iowa City but towns like Decatur, Illinois, and Des Moines, etc., with lonely empty squares, ‘Gothic’ City Halls, Armories, big clocks illuminated at night. Railroad Stations. Trains. Soldiers moving around— The War Years...”v


    St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church, Iowa

    Just a few years after this painting’s acquisition by IWU, Guston began to receive true, international acclaim. In 1947, he received a fellowship from the Guggenheim, which allowed him to take a leave of absence from his teaching post at the University of Iowa, and a year later in 1948, he received a Prix de Rome. This marked the end of his Midwestern tenure, and the beginning of the next chapter in Guston’s decades-long challenging of conventional painting. The artist’s journey from realism to abstraction and back to figuration was controversial and can best be understood in the context that in painting these categories, often wrongly defined in terms of oppositions, are created by those who need boundaries. Philip Guston was an artist who was liberated from these conventions, and explored, more generally, what it means to be an artist in post-war America.



    Kenneth Loomis, quoted in “New IWU Purchase: ‘Lemonade and Doughnuts,’” The Pantagraph, March 8, 1945.

    ii Ibid.

    iii Philip Guston Catalogue Raisonné, Online.

    iiv Dore Ashton, A Critical Study of Philip Guston, Berkeley, 1990, p. 51.

    Ibid, pp. 63-64.

    • Provenance

      Acquired directly from the artist by the present owner in 1945

    • Exhibited

      Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, The One Hundred and Thirty-Ninth Annual Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, January 23–February 27, 1944, no. 233, n.p. (titled Still Life)
      Iowa City, Iowa Memorial Union, Paintings and Drawings by Philip Guston, March 5–March 19, 1944, no. 20
      Pittsburgh, Carnegie Institute, Painting in the United States, 1944, October 12–December 10, 1944, no. 193, pl. 86 (illustrated)
      New York, Midtown Galleries, Philip Guston, January 15–February 10, 1945, no. 5
      Bloomington, Ames School of Art, Illinois Wesleyan University, American Painting Today, February 25–March 15, 1945, no. 1
      The Art Institute of Chicago, The Fifty-Sixth Annual American Exhibition of Paintings, October 25, 1945–January 1, 1946, no. 60, n.p.
      Minneapolis, University Gallery, University of Minnesota, Philip Guston, April 10–May 12, 1950, no. 5, n.p.

    • Literature

      “Prof. Philip Guston’s Paintings of Army, Navy on Display,” The Daily Iowan, vol. XLIV, no. 136, March 5, 1944, p. 3
      Emily Genauer, “Excellent Examples of American Art,” New York World-Telegram, August 12, 1944
      Margaret Breuning, “Philip Guston Impresses in New York Debut,” Arts Digest, vol. 19, no. 8, January 15, 1945, p. 12 (illustrated)
      “New IWU Purchase: ‘Lemonade and Doughnuts:’ Painting Can Be Loaned to Schools,” The Pantagraph, March 8, 1945, p. 3 (illustrated)
      “Guston Visits Campus Friday: ‘Lemonade and Doughnuts’ Artist to Judge Show,” The Argus, vol. 51, no. 24, April 11, 1945 (illustrated)
      Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh Art Room Books of Interest, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 1945
      “Philip Guston: Carnegie Winner’s Art is Abstract and Symbolic,” Life Magazine, May 27, 1946, pp. 90-92 (illustrated, p. 92)
      "Bloomington Annual," The Art Digest, vol. 23, no. 3, November 1, 1948, p. 16

Property from the Collection of the Ames School of Art, Illinois Wesleyan University


Lemonade and Doughnuts

signed and dated "Philip Guston 43" lower left
oil on canvas
26 x 36 in. (66 x 91.4 cm)
Painted in 1943.

Full Cataloguing

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $457,200

Contact Specialist

Annie Dolan

Specialist, Head of Sale, Morning Session
+1 212 940 1288

20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 16 May 2023