Willem De Kooning
- Willem de Kooning
- Two Women
- pastel and pencil on vellum laid down on paper
- 14 by 14 in. 35.6 by 35.6 cm.
- Executed circa 1947.
Eugene Victor Thaw, New York
B.C. Holland Inc., Chicago
Acquired by the present owner from the above
New York, Barbara Mathes Gallery, De Kooning: Works on Paper, October - December 1993
Willem de Kooning's Two Women is a perfect synthesis of the style and content for which he is most famous: figure/ground ambiguity and women. Though it would be three years from the point of the present work's execution until de Kooning turned his attention exclusively to women, the work serves as a pristine example of a formal technique that would span his entire career. De Kooning's figures were composed of biomorphic elements-often inspired directly from forms and objects seen in his studio. As evinced in the present work, the women's bodies are fractured and dismantled, revealing the artist's cerebral process of working from the most elemental of geometries. As curator Klaus Kertess wrote in the catalogue that accompanied a 2001 show at the Corcoran Gallery, "So preoccupied with process was Willem de Kooning, that he signed his paintings only when they had to leave his studio and almost never dated them. No artist of his generation, nor perhaps of any other, engaged in and made so visible procedures of creating that were as rich, complex, playful and malleable."
Though one of the most important members of the Abstract Expressionist movement, de Kooning was also very much an action painter. And while Two Women is certainly a figurative still life, the gestural lines and overlapping, almost-Cubist, torsos and legs indicate motion—a physical rapport, or at least animated conversation. Foreground and background, as in so many of his other paintings and drawings, are blurred. Though the faces are left blank, free of the grotesque features he would later ascribe to his female subjects, the etched-in legs and perfectly spherical breasts are similar to the intimidating and often violent personas his most famous women would embody.