MoMA Chief Conservator Jim Coddington conducted extensive studies of Woman II (1952) and Rider (Untitled VII) (1985). Close examination of the surfaces reveals traces of de Kooning’s process—from pinholes and charcoal fragments to turpentine drips—while infrared and X-ray imaging allows conservators to delve beneath the surface, revealing under-drawings and compositions otherwise obscured by subsequent layers. Chemical analysis helps us decipher the mediums with which de Kooning experimented, including cooking oils he added to extend the wetness and workability of paints. Combined with archival studio photographs, oral histories, and other documentation, these clues help construct a more robust picture of de Kooning’s materials and studio practice.
Click on the images at right to reveal up-close details of these paintings and hear the full story from MoMA Chief Conservator Jim Coddington.