Lot 18
  • 18

Willem de Kooning

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 USD
1,332,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • Willem de Kooning
  • Untitled #9
  • signed
  • oil, charcoal and pencil on paper mounted on canvas
  • 20  1/2  x 15  1/2  inches


Xavier Fourcade Inc., New York
Private Collection, California (acquired from the above in June 1985)
Sotheby's, New York, May 17, 2000, Lot 34
Acquired by the present owner from the above


Los Angeles, James Corcoran Gallery, Willem de Kooning: Paintings, Drawings, Sculptures, May 1976, no. 6 (checklist)
New York, Xavier Fourcade Inc., New Work, Works on Paper, Small Format, Objects: Duchamp to Heizer, February 1977 (checklist)
East Hampton, New York, Guild Hall Museum, Willem de Kooning: Works from 1951-1981, May - July 1981, no. 10 (checklist)
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art; Berlin, Akademie der Künste; and Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Willem de Kooning: Drawings, Paintings, Sculpture, December 1983 - October 1984, p. 192, no. 206, illustrated in color (New York) and p. 108, illustrated in color (Paris) 
New York, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, Garden in Delft: Willem de Kooning Landscapes 1928-88, May - June 2004, p. 39, pl. 8, illustrated in color


Harry F. Gaugh, "de Kooning in Retrospect," ArtNews, March 1984, p. 94, illustrated in color
"Willem de Kooning: Vorausschau auf die Retrospektiv in der Berliner Akademie der Künste," Berliner Kunstblatt, 41, 1984, p. 13, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Executed during 1957-1958, a pivotal year in Willem de Kooning's career, Untitled #9 emerges from a radical period of transition for the artist during which he produced the most gesturally expressive paintings he had made to date. In 1957, de Kooning began to frequently shuttle between New York City and Long Island, deriving inspiration from the motorways; his paintings of the late 1950s reflect the landscape as seen from a moving car, evoking the subjective vision of blurred horizons, fields, and intersecting roads. During this breakthrough moment, de Kooning began to spend more time away from the city in Long Island, where he would move permanently in 1963, changing the color palette of his brushwork to blues, ochres, browns, and whites in a loosely painted manner that evoked his change in environment. Untitled #9 emerges from this significant series of paintings entitled Abstract Parkway Landscapes. The Abstract Parkway Landscapes were first exhibited at Sidney Janis Gallery in 1959, de Kooning’s first one-person exhibition at Janis since April 1956; by noon of opening day, nineteen of the works had sold, and the remaining three were claimed by the end of the first week of the exhibition. Today, not only do paintings from this series belong to such pre-eminent museum collections as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Detroit Institute of Arts, but comparable works on paper from 1957-1958 are held in such esteemed collections as the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.  

The vigorous gestural swathes of blue, white, and yellow of Untitled #9’s composition recall the angular shifts in perspective of the nomadic landscape. As described by Thomas Hess upon the debut of the series at Sidney Janis Gallery, “Most of them are landscapes and highways and sensations of that, outside the city, with the feeling of coming to the city or coming from it… paintings, angles and sections from the breasts and elbows of [de Kooning’s] Women, from the windows that open to their landscape, from their hands that had turned into meadows.” (Thomas Hess cited in Exh. Cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art (and travelling), de Kooning: A Retrospective, 2011, pp. 317-318) Liberated from the constrictions of the city, de Kooning's attention to light is more profound and the frenzied proliferation of stroke, form, and plane has now been reduced. Like Richard Diebenkorn’s Ocean Park paintings, here de Kooning abridges a planar abstraction of space that seems to suggest the sun and sea as it pours in through a window frame—his guiding graphite marks, rivetingly present on the surface of the present work, reveal a heightened acuity to the spatial organization of a subjectively mediated landscape. De Kooning’s sumptuous strokes of paint, though intuitive and purely formal, simultaneously evoke a representational perspective by its highly geometric registers. This broad simplification of composition is matched by a reduction of palette to royal blue, sunlit gold, and creamy white, exuberantly deployed by de Kooning in Untitled #9  and the other landscapes of the late 1950s such as Ruth's Zowie and Bolton Landing of 1957. As Henry Geldzahler wrote, paintings of this period "are packed with shapes, allusions, actions and counteractions, they pile ambiguity on ambiguity; sometimes, it would seem, they are painted at lightning speed, at others in a more relaxed, contour-loving gesture." (Exh. Cat., New York, Gagosian Gallery, Willem de Kooning: Abstract Landscapes, 1955-1963, 1987, n.p.)

The artist's technique, brushwork, and use of color are dazzling in Untitled #9. Broad sweeps of yellow, blue, pearlescent white, and ochre create a vortex of color with an extraordinary bravura. With the architectural graphite lines sketching a template for his abstract design, de Kooning’s painting evokes the sense of personal experience of one’s surroundings, abstracted so as to negate a representational landscape in favor of an emotional interpretation. Paintings such as Untitled #9 are more concerned with the nature of painting as a means to translate the emotions engendered by de Kooning's new environment onto canvas. The selective palette, muscular gestures, and frontal configuration emphasize the texture of paint and the artist's luxuriant celebration of his medium.