Willem de Kooning achieved renown as one of the preeminent Abstract Expressionist painters of the New York School. Born in The Netherlands, he emigrated to the United States in 1926 by stowing away on a boat bound for New York from Rotterdam. Initially he supported himself as a commercial artist and sign painter, but soon became involved in the active group of artists and intellectuals that were centered in his Greenwich Village neighborhood.
De Kooning made tentative forays into printmaking at various points in his career: in 1943 he experimented at Atelier 17, the workshop run by Stanley William Hayter that had temporarily relocated from Paris to New York; in 1957 he created an etching for an illustrated book project; in 1960 he made two large lithographs at the University of California at Berkeley in a single day, famously using a mop to draw on the lithographic stones; and in 1966, he contributed a lithograph to a portfolio published by his friend, master printer Irwin Hollander.
However, 1970 proved to be an extremely intense and productive period of printmaking for the artist. Just back from Japan and newly inspired by calligraphy and Sumi ink painting, de Kooning thought that lithography might provide a new means to investigate these ideas. Executed in black and white, the twenty-four lithographs editioned during his year-long collaboration with Hollander are full of figurative references that dissolve into loose, gestural brushwork, drips, and splashes. This example makes a playful reference to his best-known body of work, his Women, which are usually more aggressively depicted. With the artist's title as a clue, the viewer can make out the white high heels of the titular cartoon character. Although de Kooning issued editions after 1971, that year marked the end of his most active period of printmaking.
Publication excerpt from an essay by Sarah Suzuki, in Deborah Wye, Artists and Prints: Masterworks from The Museum of Modern Art, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2004, p. 132.