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Willem de Kooning

Two Women with Still Life

1952

Willem de Kooning began working on Two Women with Still Life in Southampton, New York, where he was staying for the summer. During the previous two years, he was consumed with the creation of a large painting of a woman, Woman I (1950–52). Although away from his New York City studio, he was likely still grappling with that painting. His expressive use of pastels ran counter to the traditional technique of applying the darkest pigments first, then layering lighter pigments to build forms and create highlights. Here, he applied dark and light colors exuberantly, with no attention to hierarchy of tone. When shown in a 1953 exhibition in New York, this work and related paintings and drawings were considered sensational for their rendering of women in garish colors and aggressive frenetic lines.

Willem de Kooning (b. 1904, Rotterdam, The Netherlands; d. 1997, East Hampton, New York)
Two Women with Still Life, 1952
Pastel and charcoal on paper
22 1/4 x 18 3/4 in.
The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
Bequest of Marcia Simon Weisman

I was painting the woman in me. Art isn’t a wholly masculine occupation, you know. I’m aware that some critics would take this to be an admission of latent homosexuality. If I painted beautiful women, would that make me a non-homosexual? I like beautiful women. In the flesh, even the models in magazines. Women irritate me sometimes. I painted that irritation in the “Woman” series. —Willem de Kooning