Born in Montreal, Guston attended high school in Los Angeles, where he befriended Jackson Pollock. At an age when the latter displayed little more than a talent for teenage rebellion, Guston was already a fine draughtsman. (He later taught a freshman drawing class at New York University.)
Following a sojourn in Italy, Guston adopted a mode of gestural abstract painting—dubbed Abstract Impressionism—in which blurry planes and shapes float in a field of crosshatched brushstrokes. At first glance Guston’s mid-career abstractions, such as this one, appear somewhat pastoral, but in retrospect they reveal an anxiety that emerges, full throttle, in his late, cartoon-like depictions of hooded Klansmen, bare light bulbs, cyclopean eyes, and dispossessed shoes.