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 × 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: © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


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.