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ca. 1952-1953 Willem de Kooning Born: Rotterdam, Netherlands 1904 Died: East Hampton, New York 1997 pastel on paper mounted on canvas 23 1/2 x 18 1/2 in. (59.7 x 47.0 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase from the Vincent Melzac Collection through the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program 1980.5.3 Not currently on view

Exhibition Label

The female body was a central theme in Willem de Kooning’s paintings of the 1940s and ‘50s. At the time this drawing was executed, the images from his Women series were becoming increasingly fragmented and chaotic. The inscription at the bottom right, “to dear Ruth with love,” probably refers to the artist’s mistress and muse Ruth Kligman, a well-known art-world socialite about whom de Kooning famously remarked: “She really puts the lead in my pencil.” It is possible that his embrace of the female figure may have taken on new immediacy during this period when he juggled his marriage to Elaine de Kooning, a relationship with Joan Ward, who bore him a child, and an affair with Kligman, who was Jackson Pollock’s mistress shortly before she took up with de Kooning.

Abstract Drawings, 2012



Figure female - full length


crayon - pastel

fabric - canvas