Among a group of artist outcasts living in Woodstock, New York in the early 1970s, famed postwar Ab-Ex-turned-figurative painter Philip Guston found a new creative energy by critiquing the fraught presidency of Richard Nixon. Following the release of his close friend and Woodstock neighbor Philip Roth’s Nixon inspired novel, Our Gang, Guston produced a notorious series of seething political cartoons in 1971 titled Poor Richard. A drawing from the period—eviscerating Nixon’s then Vice President, Spiro T. Agnew—carrying an estimate of $25,000-35,000 will come to auction in Bonhams Modern and Contemporary Art sale slated run from May 13-27.
A conservative known for his hawkish policies in the era of the Vietnam War, Agnew served as a right hand to Nixon is espousing criticism of liberal protest movements. At the height of the Nixon administration’s unraveling scandal, he famously derided the left and attacked the media in a 1969 speech in Des Moines, Iowa, eventually resigning from office in October 1973 after pleading guilty to fraud.
The 1971 cartoon series of 180 drawings included satirical renderings of the 37th President’s trusted inner circle of Henry Kissinger, Spiro Agnew, and Attorney General John Mitchell. In the “Poor Richard” series, Guston established themes and motifs that would drive Guston’s late-period paintings featuring hooded Klansmen and severed limbs. The drawing series had a recent survey at Hauser & Wirth’s Los Angeles gallery titled ‘Resilience: Philip Guston in 1971’. The work on offer was a gift from the artist to friend, Dr. Barbara Sproul, professor and former partner of Phillip Roth.