• Post-War & Contemporary Evenin auction at Christies

    Sale 2219

    Post-War & Contemporary Evening Sale

    10 November 2009, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 39

    Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)

    Two Women II

    Price Realised  


    Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)
    Two Women II
    signed 'de Kooning' (upper right)
    graphite and colored pencil on paper laid down on board
    14¾ x 16½ in. (37.4 x 42 cm.)
    Executed in 1952.

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    Infamous for his furious exertions in line and spirited draftsmanship, de Kooning achieved legendary status from the success de scandal of the exhibition Willem de Kooning: Painting on the Theme of Woman at the Sidney Janis Gallery in March 1953. Included as one of sixteen drawings in this groundbreaking exhibition, the present work embodies the maestro's unmistakable bravura that fed into his creation and destruction and held pride of place in the works on paper room at the exhibition.

    Like many artists of his generation de Kooning was engaged in his own oedipal drama with Pablo Picasso. The filial regard between generational icons is distinctly felt in the figure on the left; with arms raised overhead it distinctly recalls the upright odalisque of Les Demoiselles d'Avignon. Picasso's cubist breakdown of the figure - still germinal in his masterpiece from 1907 - achieves maturation in de Kooning's hands as the figures disintegrate into the background in an almost complete liquefaction off the shallow space of the Cubist grid. The sexual tension between the two figures is almost palpable in de Kooning's passionate attendance on the figures; there is as much lust as there is fear in their staring eyes and toothy leers. Indeed the artist's presence is viscerally felt - if not literally described - in the stoking, touching and probing of heavy breasts, voluptuous hips and crude genitalia, in a lovemaking that turns dangerously physical in the highly articulated line that seems to decapitate the head of the figure on the right.

    Of the double-figure compositions that de Kooning created for the Janis exhibition, Two Women II, is arguably the most expressionistic, gestural and organic in composition. Line assumes an unprecedented independence from its descriptive function with automatism entering the figural mêlée. Exemplifying the extraordinary range and virtuosity that de Kooning brought to this motif, Two Women, strikingly demonstrates his deliberate command of the subject, navigating in many directions from a single origin.

    Special Notice

    From time to time, Christie's may offer a lot which it owns in whole or in part. This is such a lot.


    Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
    Judy and Michael Steinhardt Collection, New York
    Jan Krugier Gallery, New York


    New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, Willem de Kooning: Paintings on the Theme of Woman, March-April 1953, no. 21.
    New York, C&M Arts, Willem de Kooning: A Summer Exhibition Selected Works 1950s-1980s, June-August 1994, no. 14.
    New York, C&M Arts, de Kooning: The Women Works on Paper 1947-1954, September-November 1995, pl. 15 (illustrated in color).
    Los Angeles, The Museum of Contemporary Art; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Washington, D.C., The National Gallery of Art, Willem de Kooning: Tracing the Figure, February 2002-January 2003, pl. 65 (illustrated in color).