The Wave

  • Willem de Kooning, The Wave, ca. 1942-1944, oil, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift from the Vincent Melzac Collection, 1980.6.1

Luce Center Label

In The Wave, Willem de Kooning divided large areas of color with contoured lines to create shapes that suggest distorted figures. The dramatic composition of cool greens and blues in the background offset by brighter reds, pinks, and yellows in the foreground attract your eyes to every corner of the canvas. The Wave was first exhibited in New York in 1945 at Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Century Gallery, a major showcase for the surrealists in exile; the exhibit significantly advanced de Kooning's career in the mid-1940s.

Publication Label

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.

Title
The Wave
Artists
Date
ca. 1942-1944
On View
Dimensions
48 x 48 in. (121.9 x 121.9 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift from the Vincent Melzac Collection

Mediums
Classifications
Highlights
Keywords
  • Abstract
Object Number
1980.6.1
Palette
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI