Willem de Kooning
Signed de Kooning (ll); signed, dated and inscribed To Barbara and Roy/Goodman/East Hampton/1965/Willem de Kooning on notecard affixed to the reverse
Oil on paper laid to panel
19 x 24 inches (48.26 x 60.96 cm)
Accompanied by a 1965 photograph of the artwork being held by the artist, with Roy Goodman.
Acquired directly from the artist by Roy Goodman, East Hampton, 1965
Willem de Kooning created many small works in charcoal, oil, and pastel as he developed his ideas for larger paintings. When he painted these preliminary compositions in oil, he often worked on newsprint, as the paper slowed the drying time of his pigments. While his style and application are gestural and rapid, he nevertheless pondered his works with painstaking care, and spent great amounts of time reworking them by scraping and repainting. Even his drawings could not escape his obsessive desire to constantly change and rethink. These he reworked by tearing, collaging and smudging, never fully satisfied or quite able to consider a work completed. This search for perfection, and the struggle he undertook in the creation of his work imbues them with a kinetic energy that gives them life.
The work presented here, titled "Woman," is dated 1965. This marks the artist's return to this theme after a decade of creating abstractions. Though all of his work can be said to represent either figures or landscapes, the subject of women is one clearly distinguished from his other themes, and he continued to return to this imagery throughout his career.
The first woman to appear in his work came into his life in 1938, when he met a young art student, Elaine Fried, who later became his wife and lifelong confidant. She inspired his first paintings of women, a theme that he continued to explore until 1955, when he turned to abstracted landscapes. This was not an abrupt shift, but a gradual transition, as can be understood from Thomas B. Hess's recollection of a conversation with de Kooning in 1953, in which he said that "the landscape is in the Woman.and there is woman in the landscapes."
As if drawn back by a lingering, unresolved problem, or perhaps unsatisfied passion, the artist again returned to the theme of women in the mid-sixties. In the works of this period, the figure no longer stood tall in the center of the canvas as before. Now he presented her as seated, either with knees drawn in toward her body, lying down, or seated with arms resting at 45-degree angles at her side, as here.
Perhaps de Kooning's continuing exploration of the theme of Woman was another instance of his quest for perfection. He may have been returning to the safety of his boyhood fantasies of the American Woman, in pursuit of something reality had failed to offer. As Thomas B. Hess recalled, the art critic Harold Rosenberg related that de Kooning's reasons for coming to America were that "he wanted to get rich, then paint in his free time. And he had seen photographs of long-legged American girls."
Hess, Thomas B., Willem de Kooning, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1968
THE HONORABLE ROY M. GOODMAN (1930-2014)
The Honorable Roy M. Goodman was a dedicated advocate for the arts in New York and the nation for more than forty years. Born in New York City, Senator Goodman served for more than three decades in the New York State Senate, representing a large section of Manhattan's Upper East Side, including many distinguished museums and cultural institutions. During his tenure, which lasted from 1969 - 2002, he sponsored more than 1,200 bills, many focused on promoting the arts. As Chairman of the Senate Special Committee on the Arts and Cultural Affairs, he dedicated his energy, talent and political skills to supporting and sustaining many of New York's treasured cultural institutions - from Carnegie Hall to Town Hall. He was a Fellow for Life of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; a Patron of the Metropolitan Opera; a Patron of the New York Philharmonic Society; and President of the Goodman Family Foundation, a philanthropic trust. He was also President of the United Nations Development Corporation, an agency charged with building new offices for the United Nations. In addition to his role as the leading legislative advocate for the arts in New York, he served on the National Endowment for the Arts Council, the National Commission of Fine Arts, and the National Council on the Arts. The National Endowment for the Arts named Senator Goodman an Ambassador for the Arts "in recognition of his unwavering support of the arts and cultural affairs."
C Estate of the Honorable Roy M. Goodman
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