Willem de Kooning Drawings: 1920s – 1970s – October 30 to December 22, 2007 – celebrates forty-five years of de Kooning exhibitions at the Allan Stone Gallery. This exhibition of over twenty rarely seen works on paper reflects the breadth of de Kooning’s talent, as well as the depth of the Allan Stone Gallery’s longstanding relationship with Willem de Kooning’s work.
De Kooning is at his most aesthetically radical in the drawings. According to Donald Kuspit, “de Kooning’s drawings are clearly related to his paintings, but they form a separate and distinctive ‘experimental’ body of work within de Kooning’s oeuvre.” De Kooning’s drawings are progressive in the purest sense of the word: they portend major shifts in his body of work.
The drawings begin and end with the figure, but their mood and manner change radically through the years. In the 1940s, de Kooning began to pull away from his European roots. De Kooning never entirely abandoned representation, but his work became deliberately abstract and exploratory, more contextually significant than representationally accurate. This change begins more or less with Seated Woman, ca. 1941.
In fact, Allan Stone argued in the 1995 Liquefying Cubism exhibition catalog that the evolution of de Kooning’s figurative work can be traced through three drawings. The first is the 1940 Portrait of Elaine, a classical drawing in the tradition of Ingres, which represents de Kooning at his classical best. The second is the 1952 Untitled (Woman) in which the classical figure is distorted and energized. The third is the 1963 Drawing of a Woman (Clam Digger) in which the figure is not so much drawn, but materializes from a series of squiggles coalescing into a form.
Allan Stone bought his first de Kooning drawing Study for Pink Angels, 1945, as an undergraduate at Harvard. A number of years later, Stone, then a lawyer, began a “legal aid society for starving artists” where he met Willem de Kooning’s wife Elaine. It was Elaine who encouraged Stone to open the Allan Stone Gallery in 1960. Allan Stone Gallery’s longstanding relationship with Willem de Kooning’s work involved more than seven major solo exhibitions and many group exhibitions through the years.