Woman Standing-Pink, 1954-1955
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Willem de Kooning was an action painter and central artist in the New York School. The artist’s pink women are statuesque, made of broad brushstrokes and saturated colors. Picasso’s Les Desmoiselles D’Avignon seems present in the angular lines and geometric nose and legs of Woman Standing – Pink, though de Kooning denied any influence of cubism on his work. Willem de Kooning described his drawing process as guided by a sense of intuition. He made his drawings of women, not unlike Woman Standing – Pink, with his eyes closed.

“Flesh was the reason why oil painting was invented,” de Kooning once claimed. Though today he is counted among the foremost Abstract Expressionists, he never fully abandoned the human figure. In 1952 the critic Harold Rosenberg proposed “Action Painting” as a more apt descriptor for de Kooning’s intensely physical painting process. That same year, de Kooning began his Woman series. These works reimagined a conventional subject, the female nude, with startling results. In Woman Standing—Pink, a buxom figure is squeezed by the margins on three sides of the canvas, her constriction emphasizing the inextricability of her body from the rectangular surface of the picture plane. The fierceness she projects is further undermined by the painting’s pastel hues.

-Sidney Simon, PhD ‘18