48
48

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE FOUNDATION

Willem de Kooning
UNTITLED XVI
Estimate
6,500,0008,500,000
LOT SOLD. 15,696,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT
48

PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE FOUNDATION

Willem de Kooning
UNTITLED XVI
Estimate
6,500,0008,500,000
LOT SOLD. 15,696,000 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

|
New York

Willem de Kooning
1904 - 1997
UNTITLED XVI
signed on the reverse
oil on canvas
70 x 80 in. 177.8 x 203.2 cm.
Painted in 1975.
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Provenance

Xavier Fourcade, Inc., New York
Anthony d’Offay Gallery, London
Private Collection, United States (acquired from the above in 1986)
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Exhibited

New York, Fourcade Droll Inc., De Kooning: New Works: Paintings and Sculpture, October - December 1975, cat. no. 16, illustrated
Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, Seventy-Second American Exhibition, March - May 1976
Huntington, NY, Heckscher Museum; Montclair, Montclair Art Museum, Heritage of Freedom: A Salute to America’s Foreign-Born Artists, July - October 1976, cat. no. 27, p. 22, illustrated
Houston, University of Houston, Sarah Campbell Blaffer Gallery, De Kooning: Recent Works, January - February 1977
Philadelphia, Philadelphia College Art Gallery, Seventies Painting, April - May 1978, cat. no. 5, p. 21, illustrated
Cedar Falls, University of Northern Iowa Gallery of Art; St. Louis Art Museum; Cincinnati, Contemporary Arts Center; Akron, OH, Akron Art Institute, De Kooning: 1969 – 78, October 1978 – June 1979, cat. no. 6
London, Anthony d’Offay Gallery, Willem de Kooning: Paintings and Sculpture 1971 – 1983, November 1984 – January 1985, cat. no. 4, n.p., illustrated in color

Literature

Carter Ratcliff, "Willem de Kooning", Art International, vol. XIX/10, December 1975, p. 15, illustrated
Michelangelo Castello, "Il Telaio Informale Willem de Kooning", Tema Celeste (Rivista D'Arte Contemporanea), no. 5, March 1985, pp. 14-15, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Willem de Kooning’s Untitled XVI dates from 1975, the year when the artist ended a long period of abstinence from painting and produced twenty large-scale canvases of explosive, vibrant color executed in lush, sensuous paint strokes, all in the space of only six months. Normally an artist who heavily scrutinized and reworked his canvases at great length, de Kooning marveled at his own burst of creativity, experiencing a great resurgence of confidence in his masterful manipulation of oil paint.  As de Kooning recalled in 1981, “I made those paintings one after the other, no trouble at all. I couldn’t miss. It’s a nice feeling. It’s strange. It’s like a man at a gambling table [who] feels that he can’t lose.  But when he walks away with all the dough, he knows he can’t do that again.  Because then it gets all self-conscious.  I wasn’t self-conscious.  I just did it.”  (Judith Wolfe, ``Glimpses of a Master’’ in Exh. Cat., East Hampton, Guild Hall Museum, Willem de Kooning: Works from 1951-1981, 1981, p. 15).  Beginning in 1975 and over the next few years, de Kooning surrounded himself with his canvases, each inspiring him to paint another and informing all with the same sense of water, light and sky.  The thick and juicy paint flowed from his brushes, layering color upon color, as forms emerge and submerge in the textural paint surface. By autumn of 1975, de Kooning had created enough paintings for a major exhibition with his dealer, Xavier Fourcade, in October and November. Untitled XVI was a highlight of this show which heralded a new, dramatically passionate period of the artist’s oeuvre.

Beginning in 1969, de Kooning worked primarily on sculpture, producing clay and bronze figures in his first foray into three-dimensional art. The tactile quality of sculpting was wholly sympathetic with de Kooning’s sensuous approach to oil paint which was eloquently acknowledged by de Kooning in his famous 1950 quote, ``Flesh was the reason oil painting was invented’’.  When sculpting, de Kooning often closed his eyes while working with clay, allowing touch and not sight to dictate the form. In similar fashion, the physical immediacy of Untitled XVI is striking. De Kooning emphasizes texture, allowing a variety of planes of paint to coalesce in and out of each other across the canvas. Bold, jubilant brushstrokes of white, pink, yellow and red swell and pucker like undulating flesh, juxtaposed with quieter passages of blue, green, salmon and maroon that are scraped and flattened across the surface with a large palette knife. The building up of paint and the impastoed surface is a signature characteristic of Abstract Expressionism of the 1950s in general and of de Kooning in particular; however one of the revelations of de Kooning’s later work, such as Untitled XVI, is the utter sophistication and variety of de Kooning’s paint handling. The quieter passages of paint, created by scraping and smearing across fields of varying color pigment, foreshadow the beauty of Gerhard Richter’s smeared Abstrakte Bild of the 1980s. In the present painting, de Kooning employed this subtle technique in passages of blue paint at the center of the composition, highlighted with threads of white and yellow, reminiscent of shimmering water.

Critics have long noted the strong affinity for water in de Kooning’s work, and the paintings of 1975-1977 seem to be the most direct references to liquidity and flow in the artist’s oeuvre. De Kooning’s newfound freedom of form, space and color in paintings of 1975 such as Untitled XVI was described by Bernhard Mendews Bürgi in the 2005-2006 exhibition of de Kooning’s later decades at the Kunstmuseum in Basel. ``Now, however, the accumulation of sensations between earth and light and water and sky, distilled and detached from anecdotal experience, exploded in a rush of painting. What already applied to the abstract landscapes of the late 1950s and early 1960s became even more conspicuous in the series created between 1975 and 1980, …. They are not abstractions of the experience of nature; they are abstract in following an uncurbed energy principle without beginning and end, allowing things to emerge, to rise to the surface in analogy to nature. ..Everything seems to be floating, flying, lying and falling in these paintings, their energy heightened by a pulsating rhythm.‘’  (Exh. Cat., Basel, Kunstmuseum Basel, De Kooning Paintings, 1960-1980, 2005, pp. 24-26).

De Kooning’s sense of line is key to his artistic talent and aesthetic sensibilities, and even during his fallow period away from painting from 1969 to 1975, he continued to draw prolifically. But with his return to the plastic form of paint, de Kooning’s line is subsumed, as his strokes broaden and flatten. In place of the line, color and light serve as the organizing principles in these abstract landscapes, reflecting the bright and open environment of his home in East Hampton. De Kooning was always a superb colorist, whether using a palette of black and white in the abstractions of the early 1940s or the pastel hues and acidic, jarring tones of his Women paintings and Urban Landscapes of the 1950s.  But with his move to Long Island, de Kooning responded intimately not only to his watery surroundings, but to the elements of light and air. In shimmering light, forms dissolve and reform in a manner deeply akin to de Kooning’s sense of abstraction. The overlapping layers of color create the sense of space in this composition, juxtaposing muscular maroons with yellows and salmon pinks in a sensuous celebration of color.  With this vibrancy of palette, coupled with the genius of paint handling and sure command of composition and form, Untitled XVI heralds the emergence of de Kooning as a wholly revitalized artist as he entered his seventh decade.

 

 

Contemporary Art Evening Sale

|
New York