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  • Design Credit: Samantha Todhunter Design Ltd., Photo Credit: Oliver Clarke. Dimensions: H 22.5 in. x W 15 in.
  • Design Credit: Lucy Harris Studio, Photo Credit: Francesco Bertocci. Dimensions: H 22.5 in. x W 15 in.
  • Design Credit: Timothy Godbold, Photo Credit: Karl Simone. Dimensions: H 22.5 in. x W 15 in.
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Willem de Kooning
Wow

1969

$215,000

About

A painting by Willem de Kooning. "Wow" is an abstract expressionist painting, oil on newsprint in bright, vivid colors by Blue Chip artist Willem de Kooning. The artwork is signed in the lower right. The newspaper is the New York Times from Friday 25 July 1969. Willem de Kooning (1904-1997) was a Dutch American abstract expressionist artist who was born in Rotterdam, Netherlands. de Kooning is included among the artists of the New York School, a loosely knit group inspired by the avant-garde. The hallmark of de Kooning's style was an emphasis on complex figure ground ambiguity. Background figures would overlap other figures causing them to appear in the foreground, which in turn might be overlapped by dripping lines of paint, thus positioning the area into the background. De Kooning had painted women regularly in the early 1940s and again from 1947 to 1949. The biomorphic shapes of his early abstractions were derived from objects found in the studio. However, in the 1950's de Kooning began to explore the subject of women exclusively, after meeting his future wife Elaine. These works reveal inspiration from Pablo Picasso and are important within its historical context surrounding the American Feminist Movement. “Wow” presents not just free movement of the brush but the power of de Kooning to sculpt color on a flat plane. Despite seeming to be a near complete abstraction of paint and form, de Kooning creates an interplay between the color and the brushstrokes and the text of the newsprint. Provenance: Private Collection, Florida Woodward Gallery, New York

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About the Artist

Willem de Kooning

As the de facto leader of the New York avant-garde art movement of the 1950s known as Abstract Expressionism, Dutch-American painter Willem de Kooning blended figuration and abstraction in a revolutionary manner that has resonated for decades. His best-known paintings, which were most often of women but gesturally abstract, were unique and incredibly influential at the time. Today, de Kooning is widely considered one of the most important artists of the 20th century.

De Kooning trained in fine and commercial arts at the Rotterdam Academy in his hometown of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, before immigrating to the United States in 1926. His first job in America was as a house painter in New Jersey, and the period left an indelible impression on him as he brought large brushes, loose strokes and fluid paints into his work as an artist. He also worked on public murals under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) program in the 1930s. De Kooning’s studies weren’t executed but they included some of his first abstractions, which showed the influence of like-minded artists as well as the music of the Jazz Age. His broad foundation in classical drawing and physical labor are evident even in the most abstract of his works, which amounted to a fusion of Cubism, Expressionism and Surrealism.

It was in New York that de Kooning found the space and an abundance of inspiration to pursue art full time. Surrounded by prominent artists like Jackson Pollock, Arshile Gorky, Lee Krasner and Fernand Léger, de Kooning drew from the freedom and boldness with which they all approached their work. In 1943, he married Elaine de Kooning, a versatile and immensely talented New York painter with a significant role in the Abstract Expressionist movement.

A major motif in de Kooning’s work is the deconstructed female form. A collection of paintings demonstrative of this is now known as his “Woman” series of the early 1950s, which remains controversial more than half a century later. Drawing inspiration from photography in magazines and using vivid colors and expressive brushstrokes to unforgettable effect, de Kooning depicted his subjects as grotesque, sexualized and loosely abstracted forms, which many critics deemed angry and misogynistic. But it is this very fearlessness in visual and conceptual experimentation that made de Kooning a crucial figure of Abstract Expressionism.

Today, de Kooning’s work is among the most coveted art in the world. His Interchange (1955), with its bold lines and shapes executed in primary colors, is one of the most expensive paintings ever sold.

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