Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Black Untitled

Artist:
Willem de Kooning (American (born The Netherlands), Rotterdam 1904–1997 East Hampton, New York)
Date:
1948
Medium:
Oil and enamel on paper, mounted on wood
Dimensions:
29 7/8 in. × 40 in. (75.9 × 101.6 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
From the Collection of Thomas B. Hess, Gift of the heirs of Thomas B. Hess, 1984
Accession Number:
1984.613.7
Rights and Reproduction:
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Not on view
In 1946, de Kooning began a series of largely black and white paintings that culminated in his first solo exhibition at New York's Charles Egan Gallery in the spring of 1948. His use of synthetic commercial enamel for these works was an economic choice-as he told the critic Harold Rosenberg, "I needed a lot of paint…. I could get a gallon of black paint and a gallon of white paint-and I could go to town." On paper the enamel paint also dried quickly, allowing de Kooning to build up wafer-thin layers of experimental forms without worry that they would blend together. The restricted palette of black and white allowed de Kooning to experiment with a loose, Cubist-style abstraction, but remnants of the human figure remain underneath the swirls of paint.
Inscription: Signed (upper left): de Kooning
the artist (from 1948; probably sold to Hess); Mr. and Mrs. Thomas B. Hess, New York (by 1954–her d. 1974); Thomas B. Hess, New York (1974–d. 1978); his heirs (1978–84; joint ownership with MMA 1984–92; their gift to MMA)

New York. Charles Egan Gallery. "de Kooning," April 12–May 12, 1948, no catalogue.

Venice. U. S. Pavilion. "XXVII Biennale," June 19–October 17, 1954, no. 9 (as "Pittura [Painting]," lent by Sig. Thomas Hess, New York).

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. "Willem de Kooning," September 19–November 17, 1968, no. 31 (as "Untitled," lent by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas B. Hess, New York).

London. Tate Gallery. "Willem de Kooning," December 5, 1968–January 26, 1969, no. 29 (as "Untitled," lent by Mr. and Mrs. Thomas B. Hess, New York).

Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Willem de Kooning," March 6–April 27, 1969, no. 29.

Art Institute of Chicago. "Willem de Kooning," May 17–July 6, 1969, no. 29.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Willem de Kooning," July 29–September 14, 1969, no. 29.

New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. "Willem de Kooning: Drawings, Paintings, Sculpture," December 15, 1983–February 26, 1984, no. 164 (as "Untitled," lent by a private collection).

Berlin. Akademie der Künste. "Willem de Kooning: Drawings, Paintings, Sculpture," March 11–April 29, 1984, no. 164.

Paris. Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou. "Willem de Kooning," June 26–September 24, 1984, unnumbered cat. (p. 74; as "Untitled," lent by a private collection, United States).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Willem de Kooning: The Early Years," March 14–August 14, 1989, no catalogue.

Coral Gables, Fla. Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami. "Abstract Expressionism, Other Dimensions: An Introduction to Small Scale Painterly Abstraction in America, 1940-1965," October 26–December 3, 1989, no. 21.

Chicago. Terra Museum of American Art. "Abstract Expressionism, Other Dimensions: An Introduction to Small Scale Painterly Abstraction in America, 1940-1965," January 23–March 11, 1990, no. 21.

New Brunswick, N. J. Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum. "Abstract Expressionism, Other Dimensions: An Introduction to Small Scale Painterly Abstraction in America, 1940-1965," March 25–June 13, 1990, no. 21.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "14 Americans," July 16, 1990–January 2, 1991, unnum. checklist.

Atlanta. High Museum of Art. "Abstract Expressionism, Works on Paper: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," January 26–April 4, 1993, no. 6.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Abstract Expressionism, Works on Paper: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art," May 4–September 12, 1993, extended to November 7, 1993, no. 6.

National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "Willem de Kooning: Paintings," May 8–September 5, 1994, no. 11.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Willem de Kooning: Paintings," October 11, 1994–January 8, 1995, no. 11.

London. Tate Gallery. "Willem de Kooning: Paintings," February 15–May 7, 1995, no. 11.

Madrid. Fundación Juan March. "Expresionismo Abstracto: Obra Sobre Papel, Colección The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nueva York," May 9–July 2, 2000, no. 25.

Museum of Modern Art, New York. "De Kooning: A Retrospective," September 18, 2011–January 9, 2012, unnumbered cat. (pl. 60).

Tate Liverpool. "Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions," June 30–October 18, 2015, unnumbered cat. (p. 250).

Thomas B. Hess. Willem de Kooning. New York, 1959, pp. 17, 24, 29, pl. 78, relates that the artist said this painting "reminds him of seventeenth century Dutch naval prints".

Thomas B. Hess. Willem de Kooning. Exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London. New York, 1968, pp. 50, 161, no. 29, ill. p. 60.

Gabriella Drudi. Willem de Kooning. Milan, 1972, p. 33, fig. 39, calls it "Untitled".

Thomas B. Hess. Willem de Kooning: Drawings. Greenwich, Conn., 1972, p. 34, fig. K, calls it "Untitled painting" and locates it in a private collection.

Harold Rosenberg. De Kooning. New York, [1974], pl. 54, calls it "Untitled" and locates it in a private collection, New York.

Jörn Merkert in Willem de Kooning: Drawings, Paintings, Sculpture. Exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Munich, 1983, pp. 115, 121, no. 164, ill. p. 162 (color).

Eugene Victor Thaw. "The Abstract Expressionists." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 44 (Winter 1986–87), p. 28, fig. 20 (color).

Hilton Kramer. "Though Exhibiting It Badly, Met Offers a Worthy de Kooning Show." New York Observer (August 28, 1989), p. 19, calls it "of superlative quality".

Jeffrey Wechsler. Abstract Expressionism, Other Dimensions : An Introduction to Small Scale Painterly Abstraction in America, 1940-1965. Exh. cat., Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami, Coral Gables. New Brunswick, N. J., 1989, pp. 40, 73, no. 21, fig. 55.

Lisa Mintz Messinger. Abstract Expressionism, Works on Paper: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., High Museum of Art, Atlanta. New York, 1992, pp. 18, 24, fig. 6 (color).

David Anfam. "Abstract Expressionism: Works on Paper. New York, Metropolitan Museum." Burlington Magazine 135 (September 1993), p. 658.

David Sylvester in Willem de Kooning: Paintings. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. Washington, D.C., 1994, p. 19, calls this painting the artist's "paraphrase" of Picasso's "Guernica" (1937, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid).

Marla Prather in Willem de Kooning: Paintings. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1994, pp. 93, 95, 103 n. 26, 201, no. 11, ill. p. 110(color), notes that according to William S. Lieberman, the artist titled this painting.

Judith L. Wolfe. "The Young Willem de Kooning: Early Life, Training and Work, 1904–1926." PhD diss., City University of New York, 1996, p. 583, fig. 321.

Lisa M. Messinger. Expresionismo Abstracto: Obra Sobre Papel, Colección The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nueva York. Exh. cat., Fundación Juan March. Madrid, 2000, pp. 62, 64, no. 25, ill. p. 66 (color).

Enrique Juncosa in Willem de Kooning. Exh. cat., IVAM / Institut Valencia d'Art Modern. Valencia, 2001, p. 8.

Richard Shiff in Willem de Kooning. Exh. cat., IVAM / Institut Valencia d'Art Modern. Valencia, 2001, p. 70, fig. 3 (color).

Richard Shiff. "'With Closed Eyes': De Kooning's Twist." Master Drawings 40 (Spring 2002), pp. 79, 87 n. 28, fig. 7, calls it "Untitled".

Stefan Neuner in Willem de Kooning. Ed. Ingried Brugger and Florian Steininger. Exh. cat., Kunstforum Wien. Vienna, 2005, p. 26, fig. 3 (color).

John Elderfield. De Kooning: A Retrospective. Ed. David Frankel. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York. New York, 2011, pp. 121, 179, 183, 453, colorpl. 60, notes that it was the artist's black–and–white abstractions, such as this one, that established his reputation as an Abstract Expressionist; notes the pieces of human anatomy at the bottom of the composition.

Richard Shiff. Between Sense and de Kooning. London, 2011, pp. 142–43, fig. 49 (color), describes this painting as "one of many examples of de Kooning's lettering technique, where edges are traced from inside out and from outside in"; adds that the skills the artist used to create this work "derived from de Kooning's early experience with commercial techniques while a teenager apprenticed to a decorating firm in Rotterdam".

Gavin Delahunty in Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots. Ed. Gavin Delahunty. Exh. cat., Tate Liverpool. London, 2015, p. 21, ill. (color).



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