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WILLEM DE KOONING (1904-1997)

 
WILLEM DE KOONING - Woman in a Rowboat - oil on paper laid on masonite - 47 1/2 x 36 1/4 in. WILLEM DE KOONING - Woman in a Rowboat - oil on paper laid on masonite - 47 1/2 x 36 1/4 in. WILLEM DE KOONING - Woman in a Rowboat - oil on paper laid on masonite - 47 1/2 x 36 1/4 in. WILLEM DE KOONING - Woman in a Rowboat - oil on paper laid on masonite - 47 1/2 x 36 1/4 in. WILLEM DE KOONING - Woman in a Rowboat - oil on paper laid on masonite - 47 1/2 x 36 1/4 in. WILLEM DE KOONING - Woman in a Rowboat - oil on paper laid on masonite - 47 1/2 x 36 1/4 in. WILLEM DE KOONING - Woman in a Rowboat - oil on paper laid on masonite - 47 1/2 x 36 1/4 in. WILLEM DE KOONING - Woman in a Rowboat - oil on paper laid on masonite - 47 1/2 x 36 1/4 in. WILLEM DE KOONING - Woman in a Rowboat - oil on paper laid on masonite - 47 1/2 x 36 1/4 in. WILLEM DE KOONING - Woman in a Rowboat - oil on paper laid on masonite - 47 1/2 x 36 1/4 in.
Woman in a Rowboat196447 1/2 x 36 1/4 in.(120.65 x 92.08 cm) oil on paper laid on masonite
Provenance
Allan Stone Gallery, New York
Private Collection, New York
Private Collection, Arizona
Exhibition
North Hampton, Smith College Museum of Art; Cambridge, The New Gallery, Charles Hayden Memorial Library, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Willem de Kooning: a Retrospective from Public and Private Collections, April – June 1965 (Cambridge only) New York, Allan Stone Gallery, De Kooning/Cornell, February – March 1965
Rotterdam, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, American Paintings, September - October 1966, cat. no. 26
Dublin, The Ro
...More...yal Dublin Society, Rosc'67:The Poetry of Vision, November – December 1967, p. 201, illustrated
Detroit, J.L. Hudson, Willem de Kooning: Three Decades of Painting, March – April 1968, no. 31 (exhibition checklist)
Easthampton, Gild Hall, Works from 1951 – 1981, May – July 1981, cat. no 21 (exhibition checklist)
Literature
Thomas B. Hess, "De Kooning's New Women," Art News, March 1965, p. 37 (text reference) Exh. Cat., Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Willem de Kooning: Paintings, 1994, fig. 15, p. 15, illustrated
Exh. Cat., Allan Stone Gallery, Willem de Kooning:Liquefying Cubism, 1994, p. VII, illustrated (installation photograph from the 1965 De Kooning/Cornell exhibition)
Exh. Cat., Museum of Modern Art, Willem de Kooning: A Retrospective, 2011, fig. 7, p. 356, illustrated.
John Elderfield, “de Kooning: A Retrospective,” Museum of Modern Art – New York, 2011- 2012, p. 356
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“The figure is nothing unless you twist it around like a strange miracle.” – Willem de Kooning

History

Willem de Kooning is one of the most celebrated American artists, not least for his pioneering work developing the Abstract Expressionist movement. Emerging from the destruction of World War II, the loosely associated movement worked through the trauma of the past and the anxiety of a new present. Along with Jackson Pollock, De Kooning helped to cultivate the action painting branch in which artists appeared to attack the canvas with bold and dynamic brushwork.

Nevertheless, this label of abstraction never sat well with de Kooning as figuration always played a role in his process, ebbing and flowing at various points in the 1930s and 1940s. Thus, it was his first Woman series in the early 1950s that cemented de Kooning’s legacy. With this series, de Kooning fused the techniques of Abstract Expressionism with representative figuration.

Despite this leap in art history, the series was not without controversy. For some, it was a betrayal of the tenets of abstraction. For others, it was the grotesqueness of the women that seemed degrading and violent. But it was Clement Greenberg, the art critic that defined and promoted Abstract Expressionism, who championed this series; for the critic, de Kooning pushed modernism by imbuing abstraction with “the power of sculptural color.” The bold brushstrokes and expressive colors seem to carve out the women on the canvas while conveying a sense of energy that captured the anxieties of the artist and of the times.

Rather than break with art history, the Woman series rooted itself within a lineage of artists painting women (and particularly nude women). For example, both de Kooning and Picasso reimagined the female form and developed new approaches to brushwork, yet maintained a link to the history of female nudes. And like Picasso, de Kooning deconstructed conventional notions of proportion, tossing aside geometry for closer psychological examinations and boundary-pushing technique that explored the possibility of the visual plane.

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  • "Woman in a Rowboat" (far right) on view in the Allan Stone Gallery

    "Woman in a Rowboat" (far right) on view in the Allan Stone Gallery

    Installation View: “de Kooning/Cornell”, February 2-March 13, 1965, Allan Stone Gallery, New York

Top Results at Auction

Oil and charcoal on canvas, 65 1/2 x 49 3/8 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 13 November 2018.

“Woman as Landscape” (c. 1954-1955) sold for $68,937,500 USD

Oil and charcoal on canvas, 65 1/2 x 49 3/8 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 13 November 2018.
Oil on canvas, 77 x 88 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 15 November 2016.

“Untitled XXV” (1977) sold for $44,327,500 USD

Oil on canvas, 77 x 88 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 15 November 2016.
Oil on canvas, 70 x 80 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 12 November 2013.

“Untitled VIII” (1977) sold for for $32,085,000 USD

Oil on canvas, 70 x 80 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 12 November 2013.
Oil on canvas, 70 x 80 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 14 November 2019.

“Untitled XXII” (1977) sold for $30,105,800 USD

Oil on canvas, 70 x 80 in. Sold at Sotheby’s New York: 14 November 2019.

Comparable Paintings Sold at Auction

Oil on paper laid down on canvas, 55 x 36  in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 11 May 2011.

“Woman and Child” (1967-1968) sold for $6,578,000 USD

Oil on paper laid down on canvas, 55 x 36 in. Sold at Christie’s New York: 11 May 2011.
  • Like “Woman in Rowboat” this is a highly desirable “Woman” subject 
  • Also executed on paper and laid to a support 
  • Comparable size
Oil, tempera, charcoal, and graphite on paper. 8 ¾ x 6 in.  Sold at Sotheby’s, New York: 12 May 2015.

“Yellow Woman” (1952), sold for $6,410,000 USD

Oil, tempera, charcoal, and graphite on paper. 8 ¾ x 6 in. Sold at Sotheby’s, New York: 12 May 2015.
  • This work measures a mere 9 x 6 inches but achieved the staggering sum of 6.4 million USD because of the importance of the Woman subject and period 
  • This painting is quite small, and a work on paper 
  • This result is one of the highest prices paid per square inch for any abstract painting in history
Oil on paper laid on masonite. 23 x 28 1/2 in.  Sold at Christie’s, New York: 09 May 2006.

“Two Women (Study for Clamdigger)” (1961-1962) sold for $5,728,000 USD

Oil on paper laid on masonite. 23 x 28 1/2 in. Sold at Christie’s, New York: 09 May 2006.
  • This work is also an oil on paper laid down to Masonite 
  • Comparable date of execution 
  • Another example from de Kooning’s “Woman” series 

Paintings in Museum Collections

Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation

“Nude Figure-Woman on the Beach” (1963), 32 x 26 1/2 in.

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Collection, Washington, D.C.

“Woman, Sag Harbor” (1964), oil and charcoal on wood, 80 x 36 in.

The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.

“Woman with a Hat” (1966), oil on paper, 50 x 21 in.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

“Woman” (1966), oil on paper, mounted on cardboard, 38 x 23 3/4 in.

The Tate Modern, London

“The Visit” (1966-1967), oil on canvas, 60 x 48 in.

The Whitney Museum of American Art

“Woman in Landscape III” (1968), oil on paper, 63 1/2 x 42 1/2 in.

Image Gallery

Heather James Fine Art’s Senior Director, Andrea Rico-Dahlin, discusses Willem de Kooning’s Woman in a Rowboat, along with works by his wife Elaine de Kooning, from our gallery in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Additional Resources

de Kooning: A Retrospective

Explore MoMA’s 2011 show which was the first major museum exhibition devoted to the full scope of de Kooning’s career.

The Willem de Kooning Foundation

Explore the chronology of de Kooning’s life and work through the Willem de Kooning Foundation’s website.

Willem de Kooning: A Way of Living

Curator Judith Zilczer, shares her insight into de Kooning and the work that led her to contribute to the monograph, “Willem de Kooning: A Way of Living.”

Authentication

Willem de Kooning: Paintings

“Woman in a Rowboat” is also featured in the 1994 catalogue raisonné of de Kooning’s works.

Almost immediately, museums around the world recognized the importance of de Kooning’s Woman series. Because of this, Woman in a Rowboat was included in notable exhibitions almost immediately after its completion in institutions. Even while the painting has been in private hands, Woman in a Rowboat was included in the exhibition catalog for MoMA’s 2011 retrospective of de Kooning’s career. The painting is also featured in the 1994 catalogue raisonné of de Koooning’s work.

de Kooning: A Retrospective

See “Woman in a Rowboat”‘s inclusion in MoMA’s 2011 exhibition catalogue.

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Similar Works

Other Works by Willem de Kooning