Lot 21
  • 21

Willem de Kooning

Estimate
1,500,000 - 2,000,000 USD
Sold
2,832,500 USD
bidding is closed

Description

  • Willem de Kooning
  • Woman Landscape X
  • signed
  • oil on paper mounted on canvas
  • 28  1/2  x 41  1/8  inches

Provenance

Estate of Elaine de Kooning, New York (acquired directly from the artist)
Christie's, New York, November 8, 1989, Lot 353 (consigned by the above)
C&M Arts, New York (acquired from the above)
Acquired by the present owner from the above in 1999

Exhibited

New York, M. Knoedler & Co., Inc., de Kooning: January 1968 - March 1969, March 1969, no. 41 (checklist)
Berkeley, University of California, Berkeley, Powerhouse Gallery, de Kooning: The Recent Work, August 1969 (checklist)
Huntington, New York, Heckscher Museum, Artists of Suffolk County, Part II: The Abstract Tradition, July 1970, no. 5 (checklist)
Baltimore, C. Grimaldis Gallery, Willem de Kooning: Paintings and Drawings, February 1982

Catalogue Note

As a radiant embodiment of a profoundly unique visual lexicon, Willem de Kooning’s Woman Landscape X crafts a stirring paean to the artist’s discovery of a personal Arcadian realm. In this pivotal work from 1968, luscious swathes of radiant pigment generate kaleidoscopic impressions of light, landscape and the undulations of the human form, all of which find cohesive embodiment in the artist’s dynamically lyrical abstractions. Beaming with an emotional sentiment that shows de Kooning’s deep contemplation during this crucial period of artistic change, the present work richly captures the atmospheric serenity of the artist’s seaside environs and a new sense of sanctuary that he found outside of New York City.  

A direct reflection of the artist’s perception, the intense psychological force behind many of de Kooning's most celebrated masterpieces is grounded in his fusion of the human figure with its immediate environment. In Woman I of 1950-52, now in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, we are confronted with the speed, grit, and coarseness of the urban landscape that de Kooning inhabited at the time. Woman Landscape X continues this existential exploration of time and place, but replaces the aggressive strokes of New York City for the tranquil buoyancy of the rural East End of Long Island. Having spent much of his early career based in Manhattan, it was in 1963 that Willem de Kooning moved out of the urban center and found a new home and studio in Springs, a small hamlet in East Hampton close to Montauk. This transition from the densely populous city streets to a seaside residence engulfed in the quiet beauty of nature had a profound effect on his practice, as he reveled in the new aesthetic inspiration that it offered:  "When I moved into this house," de Kooning reflected years later in 1976, "everything seemed self-evident. The space, the light, the trees – I just accepted it without thinking about it much. Now I look around with new eyes. I think it's all a kind of miracle." (the artist cited in Exh. Cat., Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Willem de Kooning: Paintings, 1994, p. 197)

Free from the shadows of engulfing architecture it was the particular light conditions that inspired de Kooning. Describing the luminosity of this coastal location, the artist remarked: “When the light hits the ocean there is a kind of a grey light on the water… Indescribable tones, almost. I started working with them and insisted that they would give me the kind of light I wanted… I got into painting in the atmosphere I wanted to be in. It was like the reflection of light. I reflected upon the reflections on the water, like the fishermen do.” (the artist cited in Exh. Cat., New York, Museum of Modern Art, de Kooning: A Retrospective, 2011, p. 352) Through a palette of fleshy pinks, aquamarine blues and sun-kissed golds, Woman Landscape X conjures  the sense of a warm blissful repose on the shore. The phosphorescence of de Kooning’s palette sets the tone for his distinct gestural mark making. Slippery forms oscillate between figuration and abstraction, realizing a new sense of kinetic freedom as luscious drips and washes hover, suspended in motion as an indexical sign of the artist’s working process.

Again grounding this new sense of perception in the distinct phenomena of his immediate surrounds, de Kooning remarked: “I try to free myself from the notion of top and bottom, left and right, from realism! Everything should float. When I go down to the water's edge on my daily bicycle ride I see the clam diggers bending over, up to their ankles in the surf, their shadows quite unreal, as if floating." (the artist cited in Exh. Cat., Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Op. Cit., p. 174) We find shapes both composed and agitated, receding in and out of their backgrounds. Yet, for all its profound visual instantaneity, Woman Landscape X displays a calculated sense of tonal balance and compositional integrity. The delicate pinks of the central figure are enlivened with the rich ochre of the earth, scorched by the radiant sun. The carnal rouge outlines are set in sonorous contrast with the verdant green of the distant flora. The exquisitely delicate white highlights of the body are bound to the swirling nexus of blue and a seascape texturized by the whites of the clouds and sky. Crucially, de Kooning’s Woman Landscape X does not simply inhabit the frame, but melds into every corner to create an ecstatic vision of natural splendor and personal joy: an encapsulation of emotive memory.

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