Born in the Netherlands in 1904, William de Kooning came to the United States in 1926 without a passport or visa, and went on to become a defining figure of the New York School. Like his contemporaries Franz Kline and Jackson Pollock, de Kooning created works premised on painterly improvisation and gestural form. The artist’s movements, erasures, and revisions remain clearly visible on the surfaces of his canvases–decades after the pigment has dried, the viewer has the impression of witnessing the works coming into being. De Kooning was unique among his peers in his persistent engagement with the human form. Here, an elegant looping line suggests a figure reclining before a window or a door. Featuring bold brushwork, intense color, and flattened, dissolving forms, The Wave exemplifies de Kooning’s simultaneous fascination with representational and abstract modes of expression.
In The Wave, Willem de Kooning divided large areas of cool marine colors with contoured lines to create shapes that suggest distorted figures. An elegant looping line like the automatic drawing of the surrealists suggests a figure reclining before a window or a door. Painting quickly, de Kooning applied layers of wet paint atop one another. Not long after this work was finished, cracked emerged near the center of the image. Like a good surrealist, de Kooning accepted the damage as an accidental element of the painting and did not repair it.
Smithsonian American Art Museum: Commemorative Guide. Nashville, TN: Beckon Books, 2015.
- ca. 1942-1944
- Not on view
- 48 x 48 in. (121.9 x 121.9 cm)
- Credit Line
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift from the Vincent Melzac Collection
- Mediums Description
- oil on fiberboard
- Object Number
- Linked Open Data
- Linked Open Data URI