signed 'de Kooning' (lower right)
charcoal on vellum
54 x 3614 in. (137.2 x 92.1 cm.)
Drawn circa 1964.
Harold Diamond, New York
Pace Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the present owner, 1989
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Lot Essay

Infamous for his furious exertions in line and spirited draftsmanship, Willem de Kooning achieved legendary status in Post-War American art, beginning as early as the 1960s. De Kooning's perpetual desire to rethink and rework compositions is well known and was played out nowhere more obsessively than in his seminal figurative drawings. This complex figure, whether painted or sketched, resides among examples of his most inventive and haunting evocations of the human form.

Untitled, 1964, consists of a flurry of richly drawn charcoal lines, so thoroughly abstract that it is difficult to tell where one body ends and another begins. Drawing played an important role in de Kooning's conception of the figure, a visual forum for endless trials that were central to the creative process. Not surprisingly, it is within the artist's impressive body of drawings that the most diverse and radical expressions of this tumultuous image can be found. The charcoal slashes both define the body and obscure it. Paul Cummings notes that of all de Kooning's single standing figures are "wrapped in a superstructure of lines. Though they often touch parts of the figure, the lines continue into space, then form a transparent network which contains the figure. Light is trapped in the deftly controlled formations. Fragments of the torso are closely studied with emphasis on the volumes" (P. Cummings, op. cit., p. 18). Volume was also enhanced through de Kooning's frequent use of an eraser, employed no more aggressively as it is in the present drawing, its tracks spreading the charcoal over the body.

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