About This Artwork

Willem de Kooning
American, born Netherlands, 1904–1997

Untitled, 1948/49

Oil and enamel on paper, mounted on composition board
92.1 x 123.8 (36 1/4 x 48 3/4 in.), without frame
Not inscribed on recto; inscribed: verso: "de Kooning" (upper left in black crayon)

Gift from the Mary and Earle Ludgin Collection, 1981.260

© 2017 The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Willem de Kooning established his reputation as a key figure in the Abstract Expressionist movement with a series of black-and-white paintings that he created in the late 1940s using household enamels and paper. Characterized by lyrical brushwork and biomorphic abstractions, these works marked the artist’s shift from a figurative drawing style, largely influenced by Arshile Gorky and other European artists, to the evolving gestural tradition of the New York School. Having eliminated color from his palette at that moment, de Kooning became more spontaneous with his application of paint, pushing his compositions to the edge of the paper. The resulting works embodied the physical act of painting, a defining characteristic of what would later become termed “action painting.”

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

San Francisco, California Palace of the Legion of Honor, “4th Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting,” November 25, 1950–January 1, 1951, n.pag. (ill.).

Art Institute of Chicago, “27th Annual Society for Contemporary American Art Exhibition,” April 11–May 21, 1967, no cat.

Chicago, Richard Gray Gallery, “Willem de Kooning: 1941–1959,” October 4–November 16, 1974, cat. 7 (ill.).

David and Alfred Smart Gallery, University of Chicago, “Abstract Expressionism, A Tribute to Harold Rosenberg: Paintings and Drawings from Chicago Collections,” October 11–November 25, 1979, front cover (ill.), cat. 5 (ill.).

Art Institute of Chicago, “Mary and Earle Ludgin Collection,” September 11–October 31, 1982, no cat.

Washington, D. C., National Gallery of Art, “Willem de Kooning: Paintings,” May 8–September 5, 1994, cat. by Marla Prather with essays by David Sylvester and Richard Shiff; traveled to New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, October 11, 1994–January 8, 1995, and London, Tate Gallery, February 15–May 7, 1995, p. 96, cat. 13 (color ill.).

Publication History

“Contemporary Americans: West Coast Version,” “Art Digest” 25, 6 (December 15, 1960), p. 9 (ill.), as “Black and White.”

“The Art Institute of Chicago Annual Report, 1981–82” (Art Institute of Chicago, 1982), pp. 13, 38, fig. 4 (ill.), as “Untitled (Black and White).”

James N. Wood, “Treasures of 19th- and 20th-Century Painting: The Art Institute of Chicago” (Abbeville Press, 1993), p. 298 (color ill.).

“Franz Kline: Black and White, 1950–1961,” exh. cat. (Menil Collection/Houston Fine Art Press, 1994), p. 11, fig. 1 (ill.).

Anthony Haden-Guest, “The Last Modernist,” “Sunday Times (London),” February 5, 1995, p. 29 (ill.).

David Sylvester, “The Birth of ‘Woman I,’” “Burlington Magazine” 137, 1105 (April 1995), p. 225, fig. 4 (ill.).

Ownership History

Sold, Charles Egan Gallery, New York, to Mary and Earle Ludgin, Chicago, by 1967; given to the Art Institute, 1981




Interpretive Resources

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