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Details
Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)
Untitled
signed 'de Kooning' (on the reverse)
oil on paper laid down on canvas
30¼ x 41½ in. (76.8 x 105.4 cm.)
Painted in 1977.
Provenance
Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York
Julian Aberbach, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner
Exhibited
Philadelphia, Locks Gallery, Willem de Kooning: Paintings and Drawings, January-February 1995.

Lot Essay

"Now I go on my bicycle down to the beach and search for a new image of the landscape. And I love puddles. When I see a puddle, I stare into it. Later I don't paint a puddle, but the image it calls up within me. All the images inside me are from nature anyway"
(Willem de Kooning as quoted in Willem de Kooning: Paintings, exh. cat., Washington, D.C., 1994, p. 176).

Willem de Kooning first electrified the art world in the 1950s with his rough, almost violent depictions of women. These portrayals were not flattering in any sense, and they marked a drastic new form of representation that broke free from the constraining influence of Picasso and Matisse. De Kooning's works are tethered to process, development and discovery, which is mirrored in the development of his oeuvre as well. Untitled, a landscape from 1977 explores the intersection between light and space; the work demonstrates a clear progression from his figurative works that were so contingent on gesture and spontaneity and moves more towards introspection all the while retaining the artist's characteristic, bold brushstrokes.

In Untitled, de Kooning utilizes his signature techniques of spontaneous transcription, self-correction and over-painting. Unlike his early works, however, his marks are much more restrained but varied-he punctuates broad areas of thinly veiled surface with rough, jagged marks, creating greater contrast and therefore a deeper sense of space. Bursts of color that weave in and out of the surface recreate the sensations of landscape, specifically the oceanside of Southhampton- the fiery brilliance of light and the all-encompassing but invisible omnipresence of wind and sea.

Untitled is an example of de Kooning's mature work in which he applies techniques mastered throughout his career here utilized to create a lyrical and striking abstract landscape. De Kooning's vociferous, energetic marks, which helped establish him as one of the forerunners of Abstract Expressionism, create a dynamic yet intricate work that stimulate the senses.

"The work of the city-dweller de Kooning is pervaded by the sights and sounds of the country. And if nature has since become the sole subject of his art, this is because nature for him means life, and not some poetic backdrop for man; nature is physical presence and existentially a shaping force. It is this insatiable hunger for life that drives de Kooning to discover its shapes, to trace its endless metamorphoses through to the tiniest change and yet to see it whole" (J. Merkert, Willem de Kooning, New York, 1983, p. 130).

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