Asheville, North Carolina is among a group of extraordinary abstract paintings made in the late 1940s that propelled William de Kooning into the forefront of American painting. These groundbreaking works represent a dramatic leap forward into the realm of "pure" painting and are among his most significant achievements. Forming the essence of what would soon be termed Abstract Expressionism this group of paintings is hailed as some of the greatest feats of Post-War art.
Asheville, North Carolina was painted in the summer of 1948 while de Kooning was teaching at Black Mountain College, near Ashville, North Carolina. Invited to teach by Joseph Albers who was the head the art department at the time, de Kooning joined the distinguished faculty. Asheville, North Carolina, was one of the few works executed that summer and was probably conceived in relation to seven paintings entitled Asheville that were also made around the same time. These large-scale paintings were clearly built on the remarkable developments of the works shown at the Egan Gallery show, but importantly featured passages of iridescent color. In its reintroduction of color, it paved the way for a group of richly colored abstractions such as Sail Cloth, Gansevoort Street and Boudoir of 1949-50 and the predominantly white masterpieces Attic and Excavation of 1950.
Asheville, North Carolina is a unique work that captures the essential tendencies of de Kooning's work at this time. Purchased by Nelson A. Rockefeller in 1951 from the Egan Gallery, and held by the Rockefeller family for over fifty years, it is truly a remarkable work in content, style, process and exceptional provenance.