Willem de Kooning
Offset lithograph printed in colors on wove paper
Hand-signed in pencil in the margin lower right de Kooning, also titled, dated and signed in the image.
A superb impression of the definitive state, from the edition of 200, numbered in pencil in the margin lower left. Published by the Paris Review, New York.
De Kooning created this painting on newsprint for the Paris Review in 1979. This image did not serve as the cover for an issue of the publication but rather was donated to the magazine and then sold, as part of a program designed to support the magazine. While the original work is oil paint on newspaper, the image was reproduced and sold as an offset lithograph in a series of 200. Founded in Paris in 1954, the Paris Review is a literary magazine that publishes quarterly issues to this day, though it is now based in New York. The Review’s donation program solicits contributions from renowned artists and sells prints to raise funds for the publication; artists who made similar donations to the Review include Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg. The program also serves to strengthen the connection between literature and visual art.
Abstract forms painted in oil occupy the bulk of the field. De Kooning worked here with a palette of four colors: yellow, pink-red, black, and off-white. Other colors appear on the canvas but are smaller in size; they could be intentional or accidental smudges that occurred in de Kooning’s messy studio. The textures of the applied paints vary. Thicker strokes with clear paintbrush lines blur the distinction between form and line.
This is not the only work into which de Kooning incorporated newspaper. It was used similarly, as a background, in many other works. Typical of de Kooning’s experimental tendencies, the use of newspaper here shows little respect for the conventions of oil painting—conventions that exist to ensure the paintings’ longevity. Newspaper is a less stable surface for thick oil paint, and as the paint dries it can leak oil into the paper surrounding it. The white splotches in the bottom of the field attest to this—the newsprint has flaked off the canvas. In other works, de Kooning would press newspapers to the freshly painted surface; when the papers were removed, they left behind intriguing textures in the paint and the suggestion of a grid where the creases had rested. Applying newspapers to a painted surface and then removing them could also leave a reflection of the printed ink stained on the surface.
De Kooning selected his newsprint at random from stacks in his studio; nevertheless, by incorporating lingerie ads this work showcases female forms, a common theme in his work. Though the work was completed in 1979, the newspaper is dated 1977, raising the question of how such an old paper came to feature in the work. Many of the works donated to the Review’s program incorporated the title of the publication—often de-emphasized as a border or title element—but some works did not include text at all, suggesting that this choice was left to the artist. Moreover, for some viewers the black strokes in the center evoke script lettering, imbuing each of the three materials in the work with a reference to the written word. These strokes resemble text or script-like forms in de Kooning’s paintings from the late 1940s.