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Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)
Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)

Portrait of Renée

Details
Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)
Portrait of Renée
oil, charcoal, and conte crayon on canvas
22¼ x 18¼ in. (56.5 x 46.3 cm.)
Executed in 1924.
Provenance
Acquired from the artist by the present owner
Literature
J. Elderfield, et. al., de Kooning: A Retrospective, exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2011, p. 51.

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Elizabeth Maybank
Elizabeth Maybank

Lot Essay

In 1924, the young Willem de Kooning traveled from Rotterdam to Brussels with his friends from the art academy, where he stayed for half a year, working for a fine art decoration and restoration company. De Kooning answered an advertisement in the newspaper Le Soir for a painter position at the van Genechten company, where he painted landscapes for sale. In addition to employment, de Kooning was able to secure room and board for himself and his friend at the van Genechten house during his brief stay in Brussels. As gratitude for their hospitality, de Kooning painted and gave a portrait of the toddler daughter of one of the owners.

"While staying in the van Genechten household, however, de Kooning undertook one special painting, a portrait of Renee, the toddler daughter of Marguerite Lemmens, sister of Georges and Florent. In the portrait, the little girl was dressed in red and held a doll with a ruffled collar and a green stick body. The portrait reflected de Kooning's lack of academic training in oil painting. It was more of a drawing than a painting; drawing would remain the foundation of de Kooning's later paintings as well. According to the art historian Judith Wolfe, who studied de Kooning's work in detail, the painting was done on top of an underdrawing that defined the face and hand and remained visible to the eye; later de Kooning would often leave traces of his process visible in the finished work. The generous use of oil paint in rendering the child's skin was also characteristic of de Kooning's later depiction of the body. " (M. Stevens and A. Swan, de Kooning: An American Master, New York, 2005, p. 50).

Rembrandt van Rijn, Girl at a Window. (c) By permission of the Trustees of Dulwich Picture Gallery Dist. RMN-Grand Palais Art Resource

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