What were de Kooning’s attitudes toward women?
Gary Garrels, curator at the Museum:
In some ways the painting is quite sensual, it’s quite delicate. The rendering of the line is very complex. The form is very unstable though. It sort of comes in and out of focus. There isn’t any one place where you can finally resolve the image. It keeps shifting. That also reflects his attitude toward art. That art was a process of discovery. He was more interested in the process of painting than he was in making a finished picture. The high-keyed color, the kind of tormented, psychological feeling of the picture, the intense energy, and yet the beauty of the surface, of the way it’s painted, I think is not unlike Van Gogh.
De Kooning painted a number of “Woman” paintings, and they’ve become his most famous series. In these works he reflects a variety of moods and inspirations, from popular pinups to powerful goddesses. His actual relationship to the female form, however, has often been subject to art world debate.
Did he hate women? Was he angry at women? It’s never going to be possible to finally resolve those questions. There are issues around his relationship with his mother, from whom he was very estranged. On the other hand, De Kooning profoundly loved women. His affairs in the New York art world were legendary. He was quite the ladies’ man. He was very handsome. He was one of the funniest and most pleasant companions. And yet on the other hand he would get wildly drunk and become incredibly antagonistic and angry. So he was a very complex man. I think all of those qualities show up in the painting.
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