The Sculptures of Willem de Kooning

05/26/2018     News and Film

Abstract Expressionist Willem de Kooning was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in 1904 and traveled to the U.S. at the age of 22 as a stowaway on a British freighter. He settled in New York, and initially found work as a house painter and commercial artist. In 1928 de Kooning joined the art colony in Woodstock, through which he met artists Stuart Davis and Arshile Gorky. Gorky became a close friend of the artist as well as an important influence on de Kooning 's developing style. Best known for his depictions of women, de Kooning is considered one of the leaders of the New York school in the 1950s, a group that included Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Robert Motherwell and Hans Hofmann.In 1969 while vacationing in Rome, Italy, de Kooning ran into Herzl Emanuel, an old friend from the Depression and WPA era. De Kooning quickly accepted an invitation to visit Emanuel at his Trastevere foundry where Emanuel was casting his own bronzes and reliefs. Emanuel offered de Kooning a sunlit studio space, and over the course of several weeks, de Kooning spent his days experimenting and creating small sculptures out of discarded clay from the foundry, perhaps inspired by the ambience of the centuries old, sunlit space.Upon de Kooning 's return to New York, he had 13 of these works cast in small bronze editions of six and sent them to his dealer, Xavier Fourcade. Shortly thereafter, Henry Moore saw the small works at Fourcade 's gallery and enthusiastically encouraged de Kooning to translate them into larger scale. This was the beginning of a short, but important five year period of sculptural creations culminating in the archetypal, grand scale bronzes “Clamdigger,” “Cross-legged Figure,” “Floating Figure,” and “Seated Woman.”“Head #3,” to be offered in the June 4 sale of 18 Works from the Bachman Collection, dates from 1973, just one year before the artist completed his final works in bronze, and exhibits a mastery of the medium. Certainly, the clay form afforded de Kooning an even more visceral, tactile manipulation of media as evidenced by the gouged, pulled, pressed and pinched crevices seen in “Head #3.”  A viewer accustomed to the artist 's canvases, that at once convey energy and angst both in its subjects and hand of the artist, will see the same energy and torment rendered in the bronzes from 1969-1974. “Head #3” is a remarkable portrait of the human condition buzzing with energy and angst, belying its inherently static form. Indeed, as the English painter and art critic Andrew Forge noted, “There can hardly ever have been sculptures made in which the engagement with the material is more rawly exposed. And one cannot escape the feeling that somehow the work starts with this engagement, starts with it and ends with it too. In other words, the gestures, the rolling, pinching, gouging, flinging actions that one is continually reading as one moves around each piece are not agitations of the surface of the piece but rather the crests of violent actions that go to its very center.”Discover 18 Works from the Bachman Collection today.