Between the years 1957 and 1958, Willem de Kooning created a series of compact, rectangular compositions that seemed to challenge his style by nature of their limited format. As in the present work, the artist assembled his paintings by means of layering a multitude of brilliant, shimmering tones with bold, gestural brushstrokes. Though he considered these compositions as finished works within themselves, some of them he stowed away in his studio, bringing them out on occasion to influence later works.
Working on the series from a new studio in The Springs, on Long Island, de Kooning became invested with exploring new colors that he applied in broader, wider strokes with a renewed sense of boldness. In the studio, he mixed his colors in salad bowls, starting out with a few basic tones and then building them up to the complex, jewel-like hues of the present piece.
The works have been widely exhibited, the present painting included on the cover of the Stamford Museum's Abstract Expressionism catalog (Abstract Expressionism with Exclamation Points, Stamford Museum, 1982), following on the heels of the success du scandale that de Kooning's Women series had left upon the New York art scene. The artist would continue to work in a purely non-representational abstraction for the next six years.
The series also seemed connected to the artist's frequent trips from his studio in Greenwich Village out to The Springs. Driving eastward from the Village to his studio on Long Island, de Kooning became transfixed by the transition from city to country and the sweeping ocean landscape of The Springs. The artist's recent biographers have noted:
"The grand abstract paintings that de Kooning completed looked eastward, reflecting the light, ocean and color of Long Island. Their large and heavy brushstrokes were often compared to highways and aptly so but these paintings, while touched by the country, were in no sense retiring. They were instead bold and declamatory his beautiful highway strokes swept through the picture plane with the bravura of an emperor traveling through his dominions" (M. Stevens and A. Swan, De Kooning, An American Master, New York, 2005, p. 410).