Untitled, circa 1960s was acquired by the current owner at the Chick Pea Conspiracy auction to benefit Max's Kansas City on June 15th, 1971. At that time, the gritty Max's Kansas City was an essential part of the creative world in New York City following directly on the heels of the famous Cedar House Tavern. Artists, writers and musicians craved such establishments where their social interactions and exchange of ideas were an essential part of life and their creative efforts. From the time Mickey Ruskin opened the bar in 1965, it was a haven for artists.
"The decor immediately announced that Max's was a place for art and artists. On view were a John Chamberlain a Donald Judd box, an Andy Warhol soup can... The bar in the front was dominated by artists during a period when the art world was evolving at a frenetic pace" (E. Kasher, ed., Max's Kansas City: Art, Glamour, Rock and Roll, New York, 2010, p. 8).
In 1971, the owner of Max's encountered financial troubles and the future of the bar became uncertain. The artists to whom he had provided so much, rose to the occasion and donated works for a benefit auction. On that day in 1971, Mrs. Caplan not only acquired a painting by one of the foremost artists of the time, but also became part of an effort to support an establishment crucial to the creative energy of the New York art scene.
Around the time that Untitled was painted, Willem de Kooning often ventured out of New York City to the pastoral environs of East Hampton, New York; this dramatic change in scenery proved to be a catalyst for a shift in the artist's work. In East Hampton, de Kooning found himself deeply moved by nature and began to incorporate elements into his work by means of a series of paintings representing female figures in landscapes. In these works, de Kooning returned to the subject responsible for his initial fame: the woman. However, instead of the aggressive, maniacal-looking women of the 1950's, this new group of women were an altogether more jubilant group. As art historian Thomas Hess writes, "de Kooning's pictures of the 1960s are drained of the anguish and look of despair which had so profoundly marked his earlier work. In the new Woman, the mood is Joy" (de Kooning: Recent Paintings, pg. 43).
Painted in the 1960s Untitled is clearly representative of this shift in the artist's sensibility. Vigorous brushstrokes of bright red, green, and fleshy-pink toned oil paint fill the composition. Just as quickly as the figure emerges from the crossroads of de Kooning's signature bold brushstrokes, she merges into the contours of the underlying background capturing the co-existence of the abstract and figurative deeply present throughout his oeuvre.