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Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)
Property from a Private American Collection 
Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)

Wading Man

Willem de Kooning (1904-1997)
Wading Man
signed 'de Kooning' (lower left)
oil on paper laid down on canvas
45¾ in. x 18 1/8 in. (116.2 x 46 cm.)
Painted in 1967
Knoedler and Co., New York.
James Corcoran Gallery, Santa Monica.
Anon. sale; Christie's, New York, 9 November 1988, lot 69.
Galerie Karsten Greve, Cologne.
Acquired from the above by the present owner, June 1990.
New York, Knoedler and Co., Willem de Kooning, November 1967, no. 6.
Paris, M. Knoedler and Cie., De Kooning Peintures Récentes, June 1968, no. 17.
New York, New School Art Center, The Humanist Tradition in Contemporary American Painting, October 1968, no. 17.
Paris, Karsten Greve Galerie, Willem de Kooning, February-March 1990, p. 52 (illustrated in color).

Lot Essay

In 1961, Willem de Kooning moved from New York City to East Hampton, a shift that would profoundly change the artist's style. Relocating from the cramped, gritty metropolis to the tranquil coastal town, de Kooning left behind the insecurity of man depicted in earlier works and began painting floating figures that reflected the artist's physical liberation experienced in the countryside.

Representing a dynamic synthesis between figure and background, Wading Man expresses a shift in the artist's perception of the place of man in nature. In the present painting, the artist's new perspective of people and their surroundings is emphasized by vigorous brushstrokes of blue and green, which delineate a sensual merging of the body with the eddying water. Through his use of diffuse patches of white-highlighted pinks, the work reflects the shimmering light on the ocean water that blurs the distinction between figure and environment. In the dissolved shape of a free-floating being commingling with aquatic swirls, Wading Man suggests de Kooning's reconciliation with nature.

Fig. 1 Pablo Picasso, La Pisseuse, 1965, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris


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