CRVCCentre for Research in Visual Culture

CRVC Keynote Lecture: Philip Guston, … and painting continues

Clive Granger A48 and online, Hybrid
Wednesday 25th September 2024 (17:00-19:00)

Speaker: Professor Karen Lang

The internationally acclaimed American painter Philip Guston (1913-1980) is known as an artist of stylistic transformations, from figurative painting in the 1930s to abstract painting in the 1950s, to a ‘return to figuration’ in the late 1960s. Yet Guston was indifferent to style or stylistic categories. A resolutely modern artist, he was enamoured with historical art and he pondered the question why painting continues.

For Guston, we might say, there was no opposition between figuration and abstraction. Just as his own early figurative painting carries the mystery that arises when the everyday lifts off from the visible world, so his abstract painting secrets the sensations of an external reality supposedly left behind. Considering Guston’s painting on its own terms (rather than through lenses of style or stylistic transformation) raises the question of the persistence of painting – of Guston’s in particular, but also of historical painting and how the past inflects the present and vice versa. It also shines a light on how painting sets its own course – in time, throughout time and over and above time. To ask why Guston’s painting continues is therefore to ask why painting continues. Taking Guston as a point of departure, this paper aims to provide some provisional answers to this question.


Karen Lang is Professor of Art History and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Before taking early retirement, she taught in the US, Germany and the UK. She specialises in modern and contemporary art, with a particular expertise in German and American art. Her writing explores the spaces between art history and philosophy. In 2019-20, she was Slade Professor of Fine Art and Fellow of All Souls College at the University of Oxford. She is a founding editor of the open-access, peer review journal '21: Inquiries into Art, History and the Visual | Beiträge zur Kunstgeschichte und visuellen Kultur', which publishes on visual phenomena around the globe.

This talk is the part of the CRVC’s research theme for 2023 to 2024 '…and painting continues'.

Booking essential. Register for either in-person or online attendance here


Centre for Research in Visual Culture

University of Nottingham
Lakeside Arts Centre
Nottingham, NG7 2RD