Willem de Kooning - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, May 17, 2018 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York
    Private Collection
    Sotheby's, New York, May 9, 1990, lot 219
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    “I made those paintings one after the other, no trouble at all. I couldn’t miss…It’s like a man at a gambling table [who] feels that he can’t lose. But when he walks away with all the dough, he knows he can’t do that again. Because then it gets self-conscious. I wasn’t self-conscious. I just did it.”
    - Willem de Kooning

    Willem de Kooning’s, Untitled 13, 1977, draws the viewer into a lyrical abstract landscape that is drenched in a sensuous spectrum of yellow, coral, red, white and blue hues. Demonstrating de Kooning’s rich spectrum of painterly means, free-flowing brushstrokes race across the pictorial ground – splashing, spattering, and dripping in all directions to coalesce into a painterly ode to nature. In its baroque opulence, Untitled 13 is a quintessential example of de Kooning’s celebrated “pastoral” all-over abstractions from the 1975-1980 period. Executed in 1977, Untitled 13 was created in what David Sylvester lauded as the “annus mirabilis of de Kooning’s career”, a seminal year in which de Kooning created some of his greatest masterpieces that now reside in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, and The Menil Collection, Houston, among others (David Sylvester, “Art: When Body, Mind and Paint Dissolve”, The Independent, February 15, 1995, online).

    Untitled 13 triumphantly marks de Kooning’s return to abstract landscapes, a subject he had not interrogated since the late 1950s and early 1960s. Invigorated by the landscape of Springs, Long Island, where he lived and work, in 1965 de Kooning abandoned his over one decade long preoccupation with the human figure to distill the unique convergence of earth, sea, and sky of his environs. As de Kooning recalled of the genesis of works from this period, “They just poured out of me like water” (Willem de Kooning, quoted in de kooning. paintings 1960-1980, exh. cat., Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, 2005, p. 189).

    What was set into motion in 1975 with works such as ...Whose Name Was Writ in Water, 1975, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, erupted into a crest of creative ardor in 1977 – widely considered one of de Kooning’s most productive years. As David Sylvester explained, the year 1977, “came, with the artist in his mid-seventies, as the climax of a period in which the paintings…attain at their best a total painterliness in which marks and image coalesce completely and every inch of the canvas quivers with teeming energy. They belong with the paintings made at the same age by artists such as Monet and Renoir and Bonnard and, of course, Titian” (David Sylvester, “Art: When Body, Mind and Paint Dissolve”, The Independent, February 15, 1995, online).

    With Untitled 13, as with all works from this remarkable year, de Kooning pushes the genre of landscape painting to new sensory pastures. Shifting away from the tightly organized compositions and heavily worked, dense canvases of the 1960s, de Kooning at this time begins to handle paint more freely and loosely, playing with the very tactile range of the medium using a brush, knife or even his fingers.

    Continuously rotating the paper by 90 degrees, de Kooning builds up a dynamic space in which form, line and luminous color merge to convey the atmospheric light and textural variety of his environs. Freed from the fixed vertical-horizontal axis traditionally inherent to landscape painting, Untitled 13 evidences how de Kooning approaches the act of painting as an analogy to nature, “following an uncurbed energy principle without beginning and end, allowing things to emerge, to rise to the surface” (Bernhard Mendes Bürgi, de kooning. paintings 1960-1980, exh. cat., Kunstmuseum Basel, Basel, 2005, p. 24). Brimming with palpable energy and enthralling vigor, Untitled 13 perfectly illustrates how, as David Sylvester postulated, “De Kooning's paintings of the Seventies are an annihilation of distance…. These paintings are crystallisations of the experience and amazement of having body and mind dissolve into an other who is all delight (David Sylvester, “Art: When Body, Mind and Paint Dissolve”, The Independent, February 15, 1995, online).


Untitled 13

signed "de Kooning" on the reverse
oil on paper, laid on canvas
30 1/4 x 41 1/2 in. (76.8 x 105.4 cm.)
Painted in 1977.

$1,500,000 - 2,000,000 

Sold for $4,155,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 17 May 2018