Artwork Detail

Saturday Night
American, b. Netherlands, 1904–1997
Oil on canvas
68 3/4 x 79 "
University purchase, Bixby Fund, 1956
WU 3855
© The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Born in Rotterdam, Willem de Kooning became one of the most prominent representatives of postwar American Abstract Expressionism. Saturday Night is characterized by a complex configuration of form and color with layers of expressive brushwork oriented in multiple directions. Taking the title into account, the horizontal registers of the painting might allude to a gridded cityscape, specifically invoking the energetic environment of modern urban life. However, this work also revisits the female figure, one of de Kooning’s favorite leitmotifs, here conjured through the painting’s abstract medley of ovular forms, suggestive flesh tones, and organic curves. Formally de Kooning also questions the idea of painting as a supposedly pure expression of an authentic subjectivity: by altering and correcting his original brushstrokes in several passages—blending or scraping the layers of paint—de Kooning renders the painting subject to intentional artistic reflection. He thus conveys a notion of subjectivity as driven by the artist’s consciousness rather than by unconscious processes of the psyche. [Permanent collection label, 2017]