Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)
Property from the Estate of David Pincus
Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)

Seated Woman on a Bench

Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)
Seated Woman on a Bench
incised with signature and number 'de Koonign 6/7' (upper left)
37½ x 37 x 30 in. (95.3 x 94 x 76.2 cm.)
Executed in 1972. This work is number six from an edition of seven plus three artist's proofs.
Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1985
Art News, LXXI, September 1972, p. 58 (a cast with the figure on a different, completely regular bench).
H. Rosenberg, de Kooning, New York, 1973, pl.197 (another example illustrated in color).
P. Schjeldahl, "De Kooning's Sculptures: Amplified Touch," Art in America, LXII, March-April 1974, pp. 60 and 62 (illustrated in color).
Willem de Kooning: Paintings and Sculptures, exh. cat., Belgrade, Museum of Contemporary Art, 1977 (another example illustrated).
H. Gaugh, Willem de Kooning, New York, 1983, p. 99, no. 88 (another example illustrated in color).
Tate Gallery: Illustrated Biennial Report 1980-82, London, 1983, p. 52 (another example illustrated in color).
J. Joosten, 20 Jaar Verzmelem (20 Years of Collecting), Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, 1984, 9. 231, no. 438 (another example illustrated).
D. Waldman, Willem de Kooning, New York, 1988, p. 122, fig. 94 (another example illustrated in color).
P. Sollers, De Kooning, Vite II (Oeuvres), Paris, 1988, no. 77 (another example illustrated in color).
Modern Masters and the Figure: Picasso to de Kooning, exh. cat., Seattle, Henry Art Gallery, Washington University, 1993 (another example illustrated in color).
The Essential Gesture, exh. cat. Newport Beach, Newport Harbor Art Museum, 1994, pp. 28-29 (another example illustrated in color).
J.-L. Prat, La Sculpture des Peintures, Saint-Paul, 1997, pp. 240-2, no. 175 (another example illustrated in color).
B. Hess, Willem de Kooning, Cologne, 2004, p. 70 (another example illustrated in color).
Baltimore Museum of Art, Willem de Kooning: Paintings, Sculpture and Works on Paper, August-September 1972 (another example exhibited).
New York, Sidney Janis Gallery, de Kooning, October-November 1972, no. 44 (another example exhibited and illustrated in an incomplete state).
Detroit Institute of Arts, Art in Space: Some Turning Points, May-June 1973, no. 6 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Minneapolis, Walker Art Center; Ottawa, National Gallery of Canada; Washington, D.C., Phillips Collection; Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery and Houston, Museum of Fine Arts de Kooning: Drawings/Sculptures, March 1974-April 1975, p. 146, no. 62 (illustrated).
Toronto, Pollock Gallery, De Kooning: Major Paintings and Sculptures, October-November 1974 (another example exhibited).
West Palm Beach, Norton Museum of Art, de Kooning: Paintings, Drawings, Sculpture 1967-1975, December 1975-February 1976, no. 25 (illustrated in color and on announcement card).
Seattle Art Museum, De Kooning: New Paintings and Sculpture, February-March 1976 (another example exhibited).
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum; Duisburg, Wilhelm-Lehmbruck Museum; Geneva, Musée d'art et d'histoire and Grenoble, Musée de peinture et de sculpture, Willem de Kooning: Sculptures and Lithographs, March 1976-September 1977, no. 20 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Los Angeles, James Corcoran Gallery, Willem de Kooning: Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, May-June 1976 (another example exhibited).
Duisburg, Wilhelm-Lehmbruck-Museum, De Kooning, Plastik, Grafik, Austin, University Art Museum and Houston, University of Texas, Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, de Kooning: Lithographs, Sculpture, Painting, October 1976-February 1977.
Paris, Galerie Daniel Templon, de Kooning, September-October 1977.
Belgrade (and traveling), organized by the International communications Agency, Willem de Kooning: Painting and Sculpture, October 1977-September 1979.
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Willem de Kooning in East Hampton, 1963-1977, February-April 1978, p. 120, no. 89 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Berkeley, University Art Museum, University of California, Matrix 12: Willem de Kooning, September-November 1978 (another example exhibited).
Cedar Falls, University of Northern Iowa Gallery of Art; St. Louis Art Museum and Cincinnati, Contemporary Arts Museum, De Kooning 1969 - 78, October 1978-April 1979, p. 45, no. 34 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Düsseldorf, Städtische Kunsthalle; Eindhoven, Van Abbemuseum; Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts; Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, The Strange Nature of Money, November 1978-September 1979 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Pittsburgh, Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Willem de Kooning: Pittsburgh International Series,
October 1979-January 1980, no. 123, p. 140 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
East Hampton, Guild Hall, Willem de Kooning: Works from 1951-1981, May-July 1981, p. 33, no. 71 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Houston, Museum of Fine Arts, Drawing into Sculpture, 1400-1980, July-September 1981.
New York, Xavier Fourcade, Inc., Willem de Kooning: New Paintings, 1981-82, March-May 1982 (another example exhibited).
Ridgefield, Aldrich Museum, Trustees Choice, January-May 1983 (another example exhibited).
New York, Xavier Fourcade, Inc., Willem de Kooning: the Complete Sculpture, 1969-1981, May-June 1983 (another example exhibited).
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum; Humlebaek, Luisiana Museum of Modern Art and Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Willem de Kooning, The North Atlantic Light 1960-1983, May-October 1983, p. 109, no. 68 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
Ridgefield, Aldrich Museum, Trustees Choice, 1983 (another example exhibited).
Cologne, Joseph-Haubrich Kunsthalle, Willem de Kooning: Skulpturen, September-October 1983, p. 67, no. 17 (another example exhibited and illustrated).
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Berlin, Akademie der Kunst; Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Willem de Kooning: Drawings, Paintings, Sculpture, December 1983-September 1984 (another example exhibited and illustrated); p. 259, no. 275 (New York); p. 263 (Berlin); p. 231, no. 438, p. 231 (Paris).
London, Anthony d'Offay Gallery, Willem de Kooning Paintings and Sculpture 1971-1983, November 1984-January 1985, no. 16 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
New York, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Transformations in Sculpture: Four Decades of American and European Art, November 1985-February 1986, pp. 25 and 103, no. 41 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London, In Tandem: the Painter, Sculptor in the Twentieth Century, MArch-May 1986, n.p. (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Washington, D.C., Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Selections from the Joseph A. Hirshhorn Bequest, August-November 1986, no. 31.
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia Collects Art Since 1940, September-November 1986, p. 61 (illustrated).
University Park, Pennsylvania State University, Palmer Museum of Art, Collecting with a Passion: The David and Gerry Pincus Collection, August 1993-January 1994.
Seattle, University of Washington, Henry Art Gallery, Modern Masters and the Figure: Picasso to de Kooning, September-November 1993 (another example exhibited).
London, Tate Gallery, Works on display in honor of de Kooning's birthday, April-May 1994 (another example exhibited).
Newport Beach, Newport Harbor Art Museum, The Essential Gesture, October-December 1994, pp. 28-29 and 60, no. 7 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
London, Anthony d'Offay, Sculpture, December 1994-January 1995, no. 18 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Seattle Art Museum, Willem de Kooning in Seattle: Selected Works from 1943 to 1985 in Public and Private Collections, 1995, no. 15 (another example illustrated).
New York, Matthew Marks Gallery, Willem de Kooning: Sculpture, May-June 1996, p. 52, no. 18 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Washington, D.C., The White House, Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, Twentieth Century American Sculpture at the White House, October 1996-September 1997, p. 74 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
New York, C & M Arts, Figurative Art from the 20th Century, October-December 1999, no. 10 (another example exhibited).
New York, Gagosian Gallery, What's Modern, November-December 2004, pp. 68-9 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
New York, C & M Arts, Willem de Kooning: Selected Paintings and Sculpture 1965/1973, October-December 2000, no. 10 (another example exhibited; illustrated in color and on the advertisement).
Baden-Baden, Museum Frieder Burda, Sculpture by Painters: Painting in Dialogue with Plastic Art, July-October 2008, pp. 190-191, no. 113 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).
Amsterdam, Temporary Stedelijk, Making Histories: Changing Views of the Collection, March-October 2011.
New York, Museum of Modern Art, de Kooning: A Retrospective, September 2011-January 2012, pp. 414 and 496, no. 161 (another example exhibited and illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

Other casts from this edition are in the collection of the Tate Modern, London; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, New York; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam.

De Kooning's Seated Woman on a Bench is a remarkably tactile, enthroned Madonna of almost life-sized proportions. Seemingly composed of thickened surfaces of skin and sinew than volumes of flesh and bone, this mutable creature transforms de Kooning's deeply carnal paintings of women into palpable, three-dimensional form. She is an extraordinary figure that stands as a climax in de Kooning's brief but brilliant adventure with sculptural form between 1969 and 1974. The first of de Kooning's sculptures were created whilst on holiday in Rome in 1969. They were a series of thirteen small-scale clay pieces which were each cast in editions of six, and sent to his New York dealer after de Kooning's return to the United States. The English sculptor Henry Moore was among those who praised the early experimental sculptures and encouraged de Kooning to expand into monumental dimensions. De Kooning had selected one of these early works, Seated Woman, to be enlarged but after experimenting with a process of allowing others to magnify the small original cast he decided to work directly on a larger scale himself. Seated Woman on a Bench dates from this later project. It belongs to a group of eleven ambitiously scaled figures that de Kooning modeled between 1972-1974.
In order to amplify the effect of his thumb-prints in the larger sculptures, de Kooning took to wearing two layers of outsize gloves to help make each tug, push and caress of the clay bolder and stronger. A pair of these same work gloves were filled with wet clay and used to form the hands of Seated Woman on a Bench. One of these exaggerated appendages gestures to the side as if caught mid-wave. The other is attached to the disembodied arm draped over the woman's compressed head and shoulders. De Kooning has clearly managed to retain the feel and impression of his hands into the soft modeling clay throughout this sculpture. The knotty human figure seems to emerge and dissolve into the material in an almost primordial ecstasy of touch. The ravaged surface of Seated Woman on a Bench attests to the artist's vigorous and very physical interaction with his chosen media, which has been pulled and pressurized into shape, stretching the human form into a new and unfamiliar configuration. The figure was modeled on a rough wooden and metal wire framework and was initially conceived of as free-floating. But with only the left foot planted on the ground it became clear that a bench was needed to support its weight. De Kooning modeled a seat but soon discovered he preferred the form of the mold to the original, so it was this hollowed out form that was sent to the foundry.

De Kooning's sculptures reference the works of great modern sculptors, namely the expressionistically modeled surfaces by Alberto Giacometti and the electric sensuality of Auguste Rodin's women. Indeed, the splayed body of Seated Woman on a Bench calls to mind the latter artist's famous and fragmentary work, Iris, Messenger Of The Gods who hangs suspended mid-air as she arches her back with legs spread wide apart. Splayed figures with wildly gesticulating limbs were in fact a recurring motif in de Kooning's art at the time the present work was created. Throughout his drawings, paintings and sculptures, there is one image that persists as if it was an obsession. It is that of a squatting figure, with legs spread apart and often seated over a small wooden stool. It is there in the fleeting image of Woman on a Sign II, and The Visit of 1967 as well as in the sculpture Untitled No. 2 of 1969. The origins of this figure seem to derive from de Kooning's great 1950 masterpiece Woman I. As de Kooning told Harold Rosenberg, "Woman I reminded me very much of my childhood, being in Holland near all that water. Nobody saw it except Joop Sanders. He started singing a little Dutch song. I said, 'Why do you sing that song?' Then he said 'Well it looks like she is sitting there' The song had to do with a brook. It was a gag and he was laughing but he could see it. Then I said, 'That's very funny, because that's kind of what I am doing'. He said, 'That's what I thought'...it came maybe by association and I said, 'It's just like she is sitting on one of those canals there in the countryside" (H. Rosenberg, 'Interview with Willem de Kooning', ArtNews, September 1972).

In de Kooning's later works of the 1960s, his representation of the squatting pose is exaggerated more fully so that it becomes something elemental and essentially animal. These spread-eagled figures seem to echo the position of a woman with her legs held back to give birth or copulate. This base stance powerfully expresses the intrinsically raw and bestial nature of the human animal. De Kooning appears to have enhanced this raw and visceral quality in Seated Woman on a Bench by gouging out a deep crevice in the figure from groin to neck, thereby rendering the internal void of the body as external and visible. The clay's malleable and corporeal qualities also reinforces the overall sense of carnal pleasure running throughout this bold and powerful sculpture. There is a beautiful abstracted sensuality, a monstrous and grotesque quality as well as a humorous parody of the classical ideal of feminine beauty in the figure.

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