De Kooning famously said, "Flesh is the reason oil paint was invented." Woman I was one of a series of six paintings centered upon a female figure that de Kooning worked on from 1950 to 1953. Here, he took the opportunity to further experiment with the wide-ranging methods of applying paint to canvas, exploring the physical possibilities of the medium. Although it may appear rapidly and intuitively executed, De Kooning made numerous preliminary studies then repainted the canvas repeatedly—scraping away and re-working the image, over nearly two years
Gallery label from 2018
De Kooning famously said, "Flesh is the reason oil paint was invented," and although he often worked in an abstract style he continually returned to the figure. Woman I took an unusually long time to complete. De Kooning made numerous preliminary studies then repainted the canvas repeatedly, eventually arriving at this hulking, wild-eyed figure of a woman. An amalgam of female archetypes, from a Paleolithic fertility goddess to a 1950s pinup girl, her threatening gaze and ferocious grin are heightened by de Kooning’s aggressive brushwork and intensely colored palette.
Gallery label from Abstract Expressionist New York, October 3, 2010–April 25, 2011.