Willem de Kooning. Pirate (Untitled II). 1981

Willem de Kooning Pirate (Untitled II) 1981

  • Not on view

De Kooning’s mental and physical health was precarious from the late 1970s through the 1980s. Years of alcoholism were exacting their toll and, though he gave up drinking in 1981, he soon developed Alzheimer’s disease. By 1990, he stopped painting. Despite these challenges, he had fertile periods of productivity and stylistic reinvention. Breaking from his labored technique and from compositions characterized by density, he loosened and quickened his approach. This resulted in paintings like Pirate (Untitled II). Its free-flowing ribbons of color curving across patches of glowing white, yellow, pink, and green foreground de Kooning’s virtuosic hand. He used a taper’s knife (a flat-bladed tool used in drywall construction) to pull the paint into thick bands. This work was likely painted on top of an earlier discarded painting, whose original composition was sanded down to a ghost of itself. Bright and fresh, Pirate (Untitled II) belies the difficulty of the artist’s later years.

Additional text from In The Studio: Postwar Abstract Painting online course, Coursera, 2017
Oil on canvas
7' 4" x 6' 4 3/4" (223.4 x 194.4 cm)
Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection Fund
Object number
© 2021 The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Painting and Sculpture

Installation views

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

All requests to license audio or video footage produced by MoMA should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills or motion picture footage from films in MoMA’s Film Collection cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For licensing motion picture film footage it is advised to apply directly to the copyright holders. For access to motion picture film stills please contact the Film Study Center. More information is also available about the film collection and the Circulating Film and Video Library.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication or moma.org, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].