Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)
Property from the Collection of Lee V. Eastman
Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)

Untitled

Details
Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)
Untitled
signed 'de Kooning' (lower left)
oil on newsprint laid down on canvas
29½ x 23 in. (74.9 x 58.4 cm.)
Painted in 1972.
Provenance
Acquired from the artist
Exhibited
Edinburgh, Fruit Market Gallery and London, Serpentine Gallery, The Sculptures of de Kooning, with Related Paintings, Drawings and Lithographs, October 1977-January 1978, no. 33.

Lot Essay

Untitled is a remarkable example of Willem de Kooning's diverse oeuvre. The painting possesses characteristics of vulgarity and ambiguity emphasizing de Kooning's interest in uneasy subject matter. He does not wish to ease spectatorship with melodic brushstrokes and obvious narration; rather, he challenges the perceptions of art historical tradition by incorporating abstraction and representation in an aggressive and irritated manner. His large brushstrokes do not blend, but stand side-by-side allowing the viewer to glance into his practice and in a way, his own artistic temperament.

Traces of a woman's face are apparent with a slight reference to a landscape looming in the background as represented by the dark reds and greens to the right. The woman herself is made up of cosmetic pink flesh tones painted on the surface of a newspaper. These characteristics seem to relate to de Kooning's earlier Door Paintings from the late 1960s where traces of the same elements can be noted. Instead of this work being transferred onto a hard surface, like in the Door Paintings, de Kooning allows the painting to exist on the newspaper surface. Due to his choice of support, many similarities can be made with Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque's Synthetic Cubist phase where newspaper became an integral element to the composition and its inherent meaning.

The paint is applied in a loose and frazzled manner, but that does not negate the sensuous elements of the work that have ties to the classical tradition. This element is what causes de Kooning's work to stand apart from that of his contemporaries. He at once subverts and embraces art historical tradition and Untitled is an extraordinary example.
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