Willem de Kooning - Contemporary Art Day Sale New York Thursday, May 16, 2013 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Collection of Elaine de Kooning, by descent from the artist
    Acquired from the above by the present owner

  • Exhibited

    Munich, Galerie Thomas, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner & Willem de Kooning Drawings: The Expressionist Line, September 14 - November 3, 2012
    Berlin, Akim Monet GmbH, Side by Side Gallery, The Aggressive Line: Seminal Drawings of Women - de Kooning, E. L. Kirchner, January 18 - March 9, 2013

  • Literature

    Ernst Ludwig Kirchner & Willem de Kooning Drawings: The Expressionist Line, exh. cat., Galerie Thomas, Munich, 2012, plate 7 (illustrated)
    The Aggressive Line: Seminal Drawings of Women - de Kooning, E. L. Kirchner, exh. cat., Akim Monet GmbH, Side by Side Gallery, Berlin, 2013, pp.32-33 (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Willem de Kooning’s rapid progression from representational to non-representational painting occurred during the late 1950s into the early 1960s. His legendary Women series over, he began to find inspiration from sources other than the human form, namely that of landscape. In addition, the sharp lines and geometric patterns that had categorized his earlier work began to smooth out into curvatures and fields of space and color. This gave de Kooning’s new work a more reflective element, as it no longer contained the anger and rigor of his earlier paintings and drawings. De Kooning also began to venture into the realm of sculpture, bringing his newly found fluidity and softness into the third dimension. In his works on paper, de Kooning followed the same trajectory: definite figure began to morph into indefinite shape, smoother yet more mysterious than before.

    This is precisely the moment in which de Kooning created Untitled, conceived in the early 1960s. While the general outline of his human figure is clear, we strain to see the shapes of the torso and head that so characterized his earlier paintings. The figure’s left foot even disappears entirely, as if dissolving into abstraction. Though the figure’s left hand bears a resembles to the claws of his past subjects, the gentle waves and soft shapes that make up the figure’s right arm prefigure de Kooning’s period of absolute abstraction that was to come. Through the shadings and smudges of his charcoal, de Kooning gives us a perfect demonstration of an artistic mind mid-evolution, experimenting with approaches to his work. De Kooning was a believer in the intimacy that exists between an observer and a picture, and, through creating a private and quiet moment of charcoal on paper, de Kooning is able to give us a glimpse of his ever-evolving mind.

  • Artist Biography

    Willem de Kooning

    American • 1904 - 1997

    Born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, Willem de Kooning moved to the United States in his early 20s, arriving in Manhattan by 1927. A founding member of the Abstract Expressionist movement in New York, de Kooning was a contemporary of Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, and of course his wife, Elaine de Kooning. Having claimed that “flesh is the reason why oil painting was invented,” de Kooning is best known for his rapid, forceful brushwork and thickly impastoed paint in evoking the human body, even as some of his contemporaries moved towards pure abstraction. Like the other New York School painters, de Kooning was a proponent of “Action Painting,” which emphasized the physical aspect of the work, eschewing the idea that painting was necessarily a careful, precise art form.

    By the 1960s, the artist was living and working in East Hampton, where he managed to breathe new life into his work after decades in an urban environment and remained there until his death in 1997 at the age of 92. De Kooning’s works reside in leading institutions worldwide, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Museum of Modern Art, New York, Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C., Tate, London, and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

    View More Works




circa 1960s
charcoal on paper
8 7/8 x 11 3/4 in. (22.5 x 29.8 cm.)
Signed "de Kooning" lower right.

$60,000 - 80,000 

Contact Specialist
Amanda Stoffel
Head of Sale
[email protected]
+1 212 940 1261

Contemporary Art Day Sale

New York 17 May 2013 10am