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    Sale 1997

    Post War And Contemporary Art Evening Sale

    13 May 2008, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 9

    Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)

    Standing Figure

    Price Realised  


    Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)
    Standing Figure
    signed, inscribed, numbered and dated 'de Kooning SC 1/9 c 1969/83' (lower left)
    bronze with brown patina
    32½ x 54¾ x 11 in. (82.6 x 139.1 x 27.9 cm.)
    Executed in 1969-1983. This work is number one from an edition of nine plus three artist's proofs.

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    Several New York School painters ventured into sculpture, but only Barnett Newman and Willem de Kooning seriously committed themselves to the medium. In 1969, already one of the most influential artists of his day, de Kooning spent the summer in Rome and met an old friend, Herzl Emanuel. After visiting Emanuel's bronze casting foundry, de Kooning began a group of small, hand-sized sculptures. Back in New York, the British sculptor Henry Moore convinced him to work on a larger scale.

    Between 1969 and 1975, de Kooning worked intensely in sculpture. He explained its appeal: "In some ways, clay is even better than oil. You can work and work on a painting but you can't start over again with the canvas like it was before you put that first stroke down. And sometimes, in the end, it's no good, no matter what you do. But with clay, I cover it with a wet cloth and come back to it the next morning and if I don't like what I did, or I changed my mind, I can break it down and start over. It's always fresh" (W. de Kooning, quoted in Willem de Kooning Sculpture, p. 34).

    De Kooning's sculptures, including Standing Figure, center on the human body. Their physicality and energy directly recall his famous painted Woman series. The sculptures are full of thumbprints and fingerprints, revealing the traces of their creation and giving them a strong tactile sense. Grace Glueck reviewed one of the first exhibitions of the sculptures in 1972, writing, "Seldom has 3-D work so faithfully mirrored that on canvas -- his two nearly life-size bronzes of a man and a woman, with their gnarled, turbulent surfaces full of movement, could have been plucked from the artist's paintings and dipped in metal" (G. Glueck, quoted in "Previews: Exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery," Art in America, vol. 60, September-October 1972, p. 121).

    Standing Figure, with its open form and twisted reaching limbs, recalls the work of past masters such as Edgar Degas, Alberto Giacometti, Henri Matisse and Auguste Rodin. At a time when most artists used steel instead of clay, De Kooning returned to a more traditional method of sculpture. In doing so, he was able to remain true to his own aesthetic while also joining a long line of painter-sculptors. As William Tucker wrote, "De Kooning is the latest and I suppose the last of the series of great painters whose occasional work in three dimensions has enriched and even transformed the sculpture of the modern period. As with Daumier, Degas, and Picasso, de Kooning's talent is essentially linear: the figure imaged in painting calls out for its embodiment in sculpture" (W. Tucker, quoted in Willem de Kooning Sculpture, p. 45).


    Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York
    Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1984


    P. Soller, De Kooning, Vite, Paris, 1988, no. 117 (another cast illustrated).
    "1993 Review of Public Art," Art in America 1994-1995 Guide, August 1994, p. 33 (another cast illustrated).
    P. Schjeldahl, "Rough Sex," Village Voice, 11 June 1996, p. 81 (another cast illustrated).
    M. Palumbo, "Go Figure," Boston Herald, 7 August 1996.
    M. Palumbo, "MFA Bronze Sculpture: Figure as a Landmark," Boston Herald, 8 August 1996 (another cast illustrated).
    G. Glueck, "Early de Kooning Nudes: Lesson in Overscale," New York Times, 14 June 1996, p. C28 (another cast illustrated).
    A. Forge, D. Sylvester and W. Tucker, Willem de Kooning: Sculpture, exh. cat., Matthew Marks Gallery, New York, May-June 1996, p. 64, no. 32 (another cast illustrated)
    R. D. Friedman, "The Making of Matthew Marks," Manhattan File, vol. 2, no. 22, 1996, p. 42 (another cast illustrated in color).


    New York, Xavier Fourcade, Inc., In Honor of de Kooning, 1983-84, p. 21 (another cast illustrated in color).
    New York, Xavier Fourcade, Inc., Willem de Kooning: New Paintings, Sculpture and Drawings, 1984 (another cast illustrated in color).
    Lincoln, University of Nebraska, Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery; Kansas City Art Institute and Des Moines Art Center, Contemporary Bronze: Six in the Figurative Tradition, 1985-86 (another cast illustrated).
    New York, Matthew Marks Gallery, Willem de Kooning Sculpture, May-June 1996, pp. 7-15 and 64, no. 32 (another cast illustrated).
    Zurich, Thomas Ammann Fine Art, Willem de Kooning, June-September 1999, no. 24 (another cast illustrated in color).
    Hamilton, Colgate University, The Picker Art Gallery, 1997 (on extended loan).
    Portland Museum of Art, December 2005-December 2006 (on extended loan).