The move to East Hampton was a realization of de Kooning’s desire to separate himself from the wealth and privilege often present in Manhattan’s milieu. The more rural landscape of Long Island, and especially the proximity to the ocean, was a familiar reminder of de Kooning’s native Holland. The present work, created 5 years after his move, is a beautiful example of his change in pace. The earthy oranges, bright yellows, deep greens, and pastel blues naturally bring to mind a leisurely day by the seashore, while the deftly applied stokes of paint exude confidence and vitality. The fluidity and curvature of line also lend the work a sense of dynamism and motion. The central figure of the woman is primarily defined by three swaths of peach-colored paint in the middle of the canvas. As is typical with works of the later 1960s, de Kooning flirted with the limits of abstraction, pushing the boundaries as far as possible while still retaining distinct subject matter. Her fleshy body melts into the surrounding landscape, but simultaneously projects a sense of tactile sensuality, harking back to the voluptuous female portraits of Peter Paul Rubens and the Old Masters.
This image sharply contrasts with his women of the early 1950s, for which he initially gained recognition. These women are imposing figures, daring the viewer to approach. Their stare is aggressive, and the color palette jarring, recalling the tumult and grit of city life. By contrast, Woman in Landscape XII is flirtatious and inviting, drawing the viewer in to her beguiling landscape. This work clearly embodies de Kooning’s shift towards a more calm and sensual style, in which he drew his focus back to the basics of painting: color, line, and form.
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