Willem de Kooning - 20th C. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session New York Tuesday, November 12, 2019 | Phillips

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  • Provenance

    Private Collection, New York (acquired directly from the artist)
    Christie's, New York, May 2, 1985, lot 17
    Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

  • Catalogue Essay

    In Willem de Kooning’s Untitled, 1977, free-flowing brushstrokes writhe and dance with exhilarating energy across a sheet of newspaper, coalescing into an amorphous abstraction of chromatic brilliance. Demonstrating the opulence and openness of de Kooning's celebrated “pastoral” abstractions from the late 1970s, this work beautifully exemplifies the artist’s shift from the tightly organized compositions and heavily worked, dense canvases of the 1960s to a looser idiom and luminous color palette inspired by the landscape of Springs, Long Island. Executed in 1977, Untitled was notably created in a year that is widely celebrated as the most productive and seminal of de Kooning’s career, one which gave rise to some of his greatest masterpieces.

    Untitled powerfully evidences how de Kooning continued his pioneering imprint technique in parallel to painting his abstracted landscapes. Expanding upon the newsprint technique he had integrated into his practice since the 1940s, de Kooning began exploring the aesthetic possibilities of what he termed “countertypes” in the mid 1960s. To create works such as Untitled, de Kooning would press large sheets of The New York Times and The Village Voice directly onto his freshly-painted canvases – intentionally creating subtle rippling effects before carefully peeling them off. Beyond their status as unmediated, intermediary records of de Kooning’s painting in progress, these works generate complex and compelling meanings of their own as the immediacy of de Kooning’s painterly gestures collide with the black and white printed words of the newsprint. A true painter of modern life, de Kooning puts forth a time capsule that seems to capture all the idiosyncrasies of the era – reminiscing on abstract art’s love affair with the intensity of urban life and capturing the increasing infiltration of mass media and popular culture into high culture.

  • 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.

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Property from the Miles and Shirley Fiterman Collection



signed "de Kooning" lower right
oil on newsprint mounted on honeycomb panel
22 5/8 x 29 1/2 in. (57.4 x 75 cm.)
Executed in 1977.

$100,000 - 150,000 

Sold for $187,500

Contact Specialist
John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261

20th C. & Contemporary Art Day Sale, Morning Session

New York Auction 13 November 2019