East Hampton XXI is a striking meditation by de Kooning on his beloved Long Island landscape. De Kooning moved to East Hampton from New York City full-time in 1963. The light and airy environment brought an invigorated freedom of expression to the artist's work, of which East Hampton XXI is a supurb example. Inspired by the expansive blue sky, white beaches and verdant marshes, de Kooning's composition transforms these elements into lush swaths of color. His dramatic brushstrokes heighten the painting's vertical orientation, merging the horizon of sea and sky into a temporal human scale. Indeed, the white passages comingle with flesh-pink passages as if de Kooning's two favorite subjects -landscape and the figure- have beome one.
"I try to free myself from the notion of top and bottom, left and right, from realism! Everything should float. When I go down to the water's edge on my daily bicycle ride I see the clam diggers bending over, up to their ankles in the surf, their shadows quite unreal, as if floating" (Willem de Kooning quoted in M. Prather, Willem de Kooning Paintings, exh. cat. Washington, D.C., 1994, p. 174).
Throughout de Kooning's life, he remained a devoted friend to many, and was often generous in his gifts to others. The present work was given to the daughter of a friend who delighted in playing in his studio as a child.