De Kooning's success in the late 1950s-early 1960s allowed him the opportunity to leave the confines of his small New York City studio for East Hampton, to which he moved permanently in 1963. The artist's work was dramatically affected by this transition, which afforded him a new concept of space and light and a new landscape from which to draw inspiration. The beaches, marshes and expansive skyscape increasingly informed de Kooning's representation of the female form, and as a result the two subjects merge. Diane Waldman wrote of this transition, "...de Kooning has wrested from his environment elements of coolness and warmth and sunlight and has made the tangible forms of figure and landscape submit to them, so that they appear almost as after-images. Atmosphere fuses with and transfigures form" (D. Waldman, Willem de Kooning in East Hampton, New York, 1978, p. 27).
The title of the present work, L'Orage, describes the powerful action within de Kooning's composition. The title's primary translation means thunderstorm, however the secondary meaning can be either tumult or disorder. This work, painted soon after the artist's move, represents not only a stormy beach scene, but the raucous conflation of the natural landscape and the female form. Sand dunes morph into breasts with the artist's broad swaths of fleshy pink paint. De Kooning's violent brushstrokes echo the groundbreaking shift in the artist's vernacular and his new reconciliation between figure and ground.
L'Orage was a gift from the artist to Dr. and Mrs. Willet F. Whitmore of Plandome, Long Island. Dr. Whitmore was the Chief of Urology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital, and de Kooning's doctor.