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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Property from the Martin Z. Margulies Foundation

Seated Woman

Seated Woman
incised with the artist's signature, number and date 'de Kooning © 1969⁄80 1⁄7' (on the reverse)
113 x 147 x 94 in. (287 x 373.4 x 238.8 cm.)
Conceived in 1969 and executed in 1980. This work is number one from an edition of seven plus two artist's proofs.
Xavier Fourcade Inc., New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1981
M. Brenson, "Sculpture of Summer is in Full Bloom," The New York Times, July 8, 1983, p. C1, C8.
E. R. Russotto, "New York," Craft International, July-September, 1983, p. 43 (another example illustrated).
J. Merkert, "Willem de Kooning: Le Plaisir de Realité, Art Press, June 1984, no. 82, p. 10
(another example illustrated).
Willem de Kooning: Skulpturen, exh. cat., Cologne, Stadt Koln and Josef-Haubrich-Kunsthalle, 1983, no. 27 (another example illustrated).
P. Sollers, "Les Naissances de De Kooning (The Birth of de Kooning)," Art Press, June 1984, no. 82, p. 10 (another example illustrated).
Willem de Kooning, exh. cat., Paris, Musée national d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, 1984, p. 250 (illustrated).
Willem de Kooning: Max Bechmann Preis 1984, exh. cat., Frankfurt, Stadelsches Kunstinstitut und Stadtlische Galerie, p. 29, no. B6 (another example illustrated).
Willem de Kooning: New Paintings, Sculpture & Drawings, exh. cat. New York, Xavier Fourcade, Inc., 1984 (another example illustrated).
S. A. Nash, et al., A Century of Modern Sculpture: The Patsy and Raymond Nasher Collection, Dallas, 1987, p. 19 (another example illustrated).
P. Sollers, De Kooning, Paris, 1988, no. 103 (illustrated).
M. Cooper, "Sculpture Collection Graces up Campus," Beacon Spotlight, Miami, May 2, 1994, p. 11, no. 3.
J. Lawrence, "de Kooning's Sculpture's Okay," The East Hampton Star, May 26, 1994 p. 5.
"Sculpture News: Sculpture Fills Grounds," Sculpture Review, 43, no. 2, Summer, p. 33 (another example illustrated).
R.R. Brettell, "What the Nasher Sculpture Garden will Mean to Dallas," D (Dallas), July, 1997, p. 96 (another example illustrated).
J. Clark, "And Away We Go," Southwest Airlines Spirit, November, 1997, p. 18 (another example illustrated).
E. Lieber, Willem de Kooning: Reflections in the Studio, New York, 2000, p. 7 (another example illustrated).
H. Baaij, Rotterdam Beeld Gids Centrum (Rotterdam City Sculpture Guide), Rotterdam, Centrum Beeldende Kunst, 2001, no. 11 (another example illustrated).
Van Adrichem, Jan, et al. Sculpture in Rotterdam, Rotterdam, 2002, p. 144 (another example illustrated).
R. Long, "Arne Glimcher: From Artists to Elephants," The East Hampton Star, June 13, 2002, part III (another example mentioned).
B. Hess, Willem de Kooning, Cologne, 2004, p. 66 (another example illustrated).
S. Douglas, "Micky Wolfson's South Florida," Art & Auction, November, 2006, p. 126 (another example illustrated).
C. McLean, "How a Woodhouse Led to a Guild Hall." Dan's Paper, August 11, 2006, p. 91 (another example illustrated).
S. Sansegundo, "The Art Scene," The East Hampton Star, June 15, 2006 (another example illustrated).
De Kooning: A Retrospective, exh. cat., New York, The Museum of Modern Art, 2011, p. 418, fig. 13 (another example illustrated).
J. Zilczer, A Way of Living: The Art of Willem de Kooning, London, 2014, p. 207, no. 237 (another example illustrated).
New York, Seagram Building Plaza, Presentation at the Seagram Building Plaza, April-July 1983 (another example exhibited).
New York, Xavier Fourcade Inc., Willem de Kooning: The Complete Sculpture, 1969-1981, May-June 1983 (another example exhibited).
Cologne, Josef Haubrich Kunsthalle, Willem de Kooning: Skulpturen, September-October 1983, p. 87, no. 27 (another example exhibited).
Berlin, Akademie der Kunste, Willem de Kooning Retrospektive: Zeichnungen, Gemalde, Skulpturen, March-May 1984, p. 265, no. 281 (another example exhibited).
Basel, Bruglinger Park, Skulpture im 20 Jarhundert, June-September 1984 (another example exhibited).
Venice Biennale, la Biennale di Venezia: Exposizione Internazionale dArte, June-November 1988. (another example exhibited).
New York, Matthew Marks Gallery, Willem de Kooning: Sculpture, May-June 1996, p. 62, no. 29 (another example exhibited).
Miami, The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse, Sculpture: Selections from the Martin Z. Margulies Collection, November 2007-April 2008.
Miami, The Margulies Collection at the Warehouse, Can It Really Be 20 Years Already? Art in Our Times, Contemporary Masters, and Philanthropy, October 2019-April 2020.
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.

Brought to you by

Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-Head of 20th Century Evening Sale

Lot Essay

Willem de Kooning, along with Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Edgar Degas, is one of the few artists who was able to successfully translate his painterly skills into three dimensions. Conceived in 1969, during a short sojourn in which he worked exclusively in the medium of sculpture, Seated Woman translates the visceral energy of his iconic paintings into what has become one the postwar period’s most important sculptural forms. Here, the visceral brushstrokes for which de Kooning has been rightly celebrated have been translated into physical form; elongated limbs emerge from a solid core, tracing out the lean curves of the female form in the same way that the artist’s gestural brushstrokes carved out the surfaces of his famed Woman series of canvases. De Kooning famously said that flesh was the reason oil painted was invented, then—in the early 1970s—after working on sculptural forms he declared, "In some ways, clay is even better than oil" (W. de Kooning, quoted in J. Elderfield, De Kooning: A Retrospective, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2011, p. 411). Seated Woman is one of three of the original small sculptures cast in Rome that were selected for enlargement to this large-scale. Other examples from this edition of six with two artist's proofs monumentally-sized works are in the collection of the City of Rotterdam and the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas.

Standing nearly 10 feet tall, in Seated Woman de Kooning seems to pull the female figure directly from the clay that he used to model the form itself. From here, stretched limbs extend outwards; short arms reach out the side, while long legs search out the ground below. Unlike conventional sculpture, which sought to replicate the physical appearance of the human body, de Kooning’s sculptural practice—like that of his painting—sought out a more fundamental relationship between the form of the body and the space it occupied. This technique allowed him to develop an unswerving, almost intuitive relationship with his work, as if he was working on an extension of his own body. As Claire Stoulling notes, “…de Kooning is absorbed by the experience of confronting his own body, as if he were face to face with another whom he tries to manipulate visually and tactilely, limb for limb, body for body, in order to guarantee the organic quality of the sculptures” (C. Stoulling, “The Sculptures of Willem de Kooning,” Willem de Kooning, exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1983, p. 241).

As such, the most celebrated quality of this sculpture becomes its highly tangible surface, something which the artist worked hard to achieve. He employed a wide variety of techniques to attain his desired effect, ranging from using his bare hands for modeling the delicately detailed areas of the face to putting on a pair of thick workman’s gloves when he needed to produce a more dramatic effect. Initially de Kooning had reservations about using such wet clay, but those soon evaporated when he saw what he was able to achieve. “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 not 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 by M. Stevens & A. Swan, de Kooning: An American Master, New York, 2003, p. 544).

De Kooning began making sculpture in the summer of 1969 during a holiday in Rome. There, he ran into an old friend, Herzl Emanuel, who owned a bronze casting foundry. At his friend's invitation, de Kooning began to work in clay, and liking the process so much and produced a small number of sculptures that he had cast. Then in 1980 he selected just three of these works to be cast on a monumental scale, Seated Woman being one of these works. On seeing de Kooning’s sculptures in New York, the British sculptor Henry Moore gave his enthusiastic approval, which paved the way for de Kooning's further investigation into this medium. Just as the strict formality of African masks enthralled Picasso and would influence his later painting career, the animated forms produced by de Kooning enabled him to enter into a dialogue with a historical traditions of figural sculpture that began in classical antiquity and continued into the nineteenth- and twentieth-centuries with the likes of Auguste Rodin and Alberto Giacometti. But, pursuing the figural motif via direct modeling in clay was highly unusual at the time when Minimalism had resulted in three-dimensional geometric objects whose industrial surfaces were pre-fabricated according to artists' specifications. In contrast, the expressive, alternately concave and convex surfaces, exaggerated modeling, and the mannered gestures manifest in this work show the direct contact that de Kooning had with his sculptural processes.

De Kooning, like Picasso, made figurative sculpture pertinent to contemporary times. He initially intended his sculpture to be a way of enhancing his painting practice, but also found that his painting helped him produce dramatically original figurative sculpture, as his sculpture assistant at the time, David Christian, recalls: "From the outset he approached the sculpture medium with a totally original outlook, and from the get-go he had little consideration for how either clay or even the sculptural medium has been approached historically: that is, either technically, or in terms of the final product. He was always totally focused on the work at hand and the completion of an individual work barely entered his thinking at all. Once he started sculpting, painting, or drawing, finishing was the last thing on his mind and everything was a string to the next bead" (D. Christian, quoted in J. Elderfield (ed.), de Kooning: A Retrospective, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2011, p. 411). For the short period in the 1970s when sculpture became a prime source of artistic output, de Kooning produced some of his most dramatic and striking works. While the power and force of his earlier painterly figures have been transformed into three dimensions, works such as those contained within this collection are not simply reproductions of earlier forms. The physicality of the medium allowed de Kooning to fully realize the expressive nature of his artistic prowess--with unparalleled results.

Acting as a direct extension of his paintings, Willem de Kooning’s Seated Woman is an extraordinary addition to canon of Abstract Expressionism. Being one of the few members of the New York School who produced important works of sculpture, Willem de Kooning created pieces that are considered revolutionary. Seated Woman is the ultimate paradigm of his pivotal, yet short-lived sculpture career.

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