A header graphic with the following information: Willem de Kooning,  Milkmaid (Untitled X), 1984, Oil and charcoal on canvas,  77 x 88 inches, 195.6 x 223.5 cm.
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“I have to change to stay the same.”

 

 

—Willem de Kooning

A painting by Willem de Kooning, titled Milkmaid (Untitled X), dated 1984.

Willem de Kooning

Milkmaid (Untitled X), 1984
Oil and charcoal on canvas
77 x 88 inches (195.6 x 223.5 cm)
Framed: 78 1/2 x 89 3/8 inches (199.4 x 227 cm)

A significant large-scale canvas that was included in Willem de Kooning’s much-lauded exhibition of late paintings at The Museum of Modern Art in 1997, Milkmaid (Untitled X) (1984) features an airy and minimalistic palette of goldenrod yellows, bright salmon reds, and deep, jewel-like blues set against pristine expanses of off-white. 

A photo of Willem de kooning in his studio, dated 1983.

Willem de Kooning in his studio, 1983

Willem de Kooning in his studio, 1983

After developing his signature abstract vocabulary in the 1940s, de Kooning turned to figuration in the early 1950s, blending his inventive approach to brushwork and form with an interest in the female figure. 

Over the next decade, de Kooning began to travel more frequently from New York City to East Hampton, and in 1963, built a studio there in the rural town of Springs, New York. 

A photo of Willem de Kooning’s studio in Springs, New York

Willem de Kooning’s studio in Springs, New York

Willem de Kooning’s studio in Springs, New York

This move was crucial to the development of the artist’s style. In 1980, de Kooning was to shift his approach once more, creating a celebrated group of late paintings.

A painting by Willem de Kooning, titled "Untitled XXI," dated 1982.

Willem de Kooning, Untitled XXI, 1982. Philadelphia Museum of Art. © The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Willem de Kooning, Untitled XXI, 1982. Philadelphia Museum of Art. © The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

A painting by Willem de Kooning, titled "Untitled III," dated 1982.

Willem de Kooning, Untitled III, 1982. Museum of Modern Art, New York

Willem de Kooning, Untitled III, 1982. Museum of Modern Art, New York

“[In these paintings] Undulating strands like ribbons in a wind are bodiless. Their often feathered textures have a whizzing quality, a sizzle of speed, without kinetic grab.”

 

 

Peter Schjeldahl, 1997

A painting by Henri Matisse, titled "Le Bonheur de Vivre," also called "The Joy of Life," dated 1905–1906.

Henri Matisse, Le Bonheur de Vivre, also called The Joy of Life, 1905–1906. BF719. © 2022 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Henri Matisse, Le Bonheur de Vivre, also called The Joy of Life, 1905–1906. BF719. © 2022 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

A painting by Arshile Gorky, titled "Garden in Sochi," dated1943.

Arshile Gorky, Garden in Sochi, c.1943. The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Arshile Gorky, Garden in Sochi, c.1943. The Museum of Modern Art, New York

“In such abstract arabesques as those in Milkmaid (Untitled X), the linear choreography suffused with intense luminosity is reminiscent of the stylized figurative outlining and chromatic brilliance of Matisse’s early masterpiece, The Joy of Life.”

 

Judith Zilczer, 2014

The composition of Milkmaid (Untitled X) highlights the artist’s unique ability to evoke nebulous and atmospheric scenes from the natural world—such as swirling water or currents of air—purely through methods of abstraction. At the center of the canvas is a meandering black line, its liquid contours bringing to mind the visual language of ink and calligraphy. 

“De Kooning held the world to his own proportion, but he got everything that mattered into his paintings. By turns volcanic and suave, labored and virtuosic, wrenching, exultant, giddy, lewd and ethereal, de Kooning’s art embraced formal tensions and poetic contradictions with an unparalleled continuity of character.”

 

 

—Robert Storr, 1997

An Installation view of an exhibition titled Willem de Kooning: The Late Paintings, The 1980s, at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1997.

Installation view, Willem de Kooning: The Late Paintings, The 1980s with Milkmaid (Untitled X) seen at center, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1997

Installation view, Willem de Kooning: The Late Paintings, The 1980s with Milkmaid (Untitled X) seen at center, Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1997

“The [late] paintings are dizzyingly various and inventive, packed with surprises.... We have only begun to see them.”

 

 

—Peter Schjeldahl, 1997

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