Art/ Collection/ Art Object

Attic

Artist:
Willem de Kooning (American (born The Netherlands), Rotterdam 1904–1997 East Hampton, New York)
Date:
1949
Medium:
Oil, enamel, and newspaper transfer on canvas
Dimensions:
61 7/8 x 81 in. (157.2 x 205.7 cm)
Classification:
Paintings
Credit Line:
The Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman Collection, Gift of Muriel Kallis Newman, in honor of her son, Glenn David Steinberg, 1982
Accession Number:
1982.16.3
Rights and Reproduction:
© 2016 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 920
Born in Rotterdam, Holland, Willem de Kooning left school at sixteen and apprenticed with a firm of commercial artists and decorators. In 1926, he moved to New York, where his first job was as a house painter. Sharing a studio with the artist Arshile Gorky, de Kooning immersed himself in the New York art scene. He quickly developed a highly individual style that is characterized by his "allover" approach to the composition and his thick, energetic application of paint. In his refusal to completely abandon representation—as witnessed by his extended series of Women and, later, Clam Diggers—de Kooning always veered from the mainstream of Abstract Expressionism, although he was a leader of that movement along with Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.


Between 1946 and 1949, de Kooning produced a series of highly abstract black-and-white-paintings that culminated in "Attic," in which angular, thrusting forms collide with organic, curvilinear ones to yield a high-pitched, expressive picture. The dense web of white shapes and black lines makes it difficult to sort out relationships between form and space, though it is still possible to determine a figural basis for the scene. Stretched across the canvas are biomorphic symbols and shapes that allude to the curves and forms of human anatomy.


De Kooning's palette of black and white, with touches of red and yellow, was determined in part by the availability of inexpensive commercial enamel paint. Although restricted in his use of color, de Kooning displays virtuosity in his sensuous, expressive handling of paint, surface, and line. His gestural brushwork and dynamic allover composition exemplify the new visual language adopted by the Abstract Expressionist painters. De Kooning routinely made revisions on his canvases, and "Attic" was exhibited at two different stages of completion. To accelerate the drying time of the paint, he blotted sheets of newspaper over the wet canvas, and the surface bears evidence of transferred newsprint. Immediately following "Attic," de Kooning reintroduced full color into his work, already hinted at here in the touches of red and yellow, and he soon returned to the figurative imagery for which he is best known.

Inscription: Signed (lower left): de Kooning
the artist (on consignment in 1950 to Charles Egan Gallery, New York; to Janis); [Sidney Janis Gallery, New York, until 1952; sold on February 9, 1952 to Steinberg]; Muriel Kallis Steinberg, Chicago (1952–82; her gift to MMA)

New York. Samuel M. Kootz Gallery. "The Intrasubjectives," September 14–October 3, 1949, unnumbered cat. (as "The Attic").

New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. "Annual Exhibition of Contemporary American Painting," December 16, 1949–February 5, 1950, no. 23.

Richmond. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. "American Painting: 1950," April 22–June 4, 1950, unnumbered cat. (as "The Attic," lent by Egan Gallery, New York, N.Y.).

Venice. U. S. Pavilion. "XXV Biennale di Venezia: Willem de Kooning, Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock," June 8–October 15, 1950, not in catalogue.

New York. Charles Egan Gallery. "Willem de Kooning," April 1–30, 1951, no catalogue.

New York. Sidney Janis Gallery. "5th Anniversary Exhibition," September 29–October 31, 1953, no. 57.

Venice. U. S. Pavilion. "XXVII Biennale," June 19–October 17, 1954, no. 12 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. Jay Z. Steinberg, Chicago, Illinois).

New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. "The New Decade: 35 American Painters and Sculptors," May 11–August 7, 1955, unnumbered cat. (p. 92, lent by Mrs. Jay Steinberg).

New York. World House Galleries. "The Struggle for New Form," January 22–February 23, 1957, not in catalogue.

Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. "Willem de Kooning," September 19–November 17, 1968, no. 35 (lent by Muriel Newman, Chicago, Ill.).

London. Tate Gallery. "Willem de Kooning," December 5, 1968–January 26, 1969, no. 38 (lent by Muriel Newman, Chicago, Ill.).

Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Willem de Kooning," March 6–April 27, 1969, no. 38.

Art Institute of Chicago. "Willem de Kooning," May 17–July 6, 1969, no. 38.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art. "Willem de Kooning," July 29–September 14, 1969, no. 38.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "An American Choice: The Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman Collection," May 21–September 27, 1981, unnumbered cat. (p. 59).

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "30 Painters: Recent Acquisitions," January 26–March 14, 1982, brochure no. 16.

New York. Whitney Museum of American Art. "Willem de Kooning: Drawings, Paintings, Sculpture," December 15, 1983–February 26, 1984, no. 170.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Selection One," February 1–April 28, 1985, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Willem de Kooning: The Early Years," March 14–August 14, 1989, no catalogue.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "14 Americans," July 16, 1990–January 2, 1991, unnum. checklist.

National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "Willem de Kooning: Paintings," May 8–September 5, 1994, no. 19.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Willem de Kooning: Paintings," October 11, 1994–January 8, 1995, no. 19.

London. Tate Gallery. "Willem de Kooning: Paintings," February 15–May 7, 1995, no. 19.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Abstract Expressionism and Other Modern Works: The Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art," September 17, 2007–February 3, 2008, extended to March 2, 2008, no. 25.

Museum of Modern Art, New York. "De Kooning: A Retrospective," September 18, 2011–January 9, 2012, unnumbered cat. (pl. 67).

Thomas B. Hess. "8 Excellent, 20 Good, 133 Others." Art News 48, no. 9 (January 1950), p. 34, ill.

Howard Devree. "American Roundup: Four Group Shows of Contemporary Art." New York Times (April 30, 1950), ill. p. X8, calls it "The Attic".

Louis Finkelstein. "Marin and De Kooning." Magazine of Art 43, no. 6 (October 1950), ill. p. 206, calls it "The Attic".

Aline S. Louchheim. "One Man Picks and Defends Biennial." New York Times (April 30, 1950), p. X8, quotes James Johnson Sweeney explaining his decision to include this painting in the 1949 biennial at the Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia because he was drawn to "its flashes of red and yellow, and its rushig–and–retreating line breaking into ever new images".

Thomas B. Hess. "Introduction to Abstract." Art News Annual 20 (1951), ill. p. 157.

Howard Devree. "Masters' Drawings: Five Centuries of French Artists' Work at Metropolitan–de Kooning." New York Times (March 22, 1953), p. X8, calls it "The Attic".

William C. Seitz. "Abstract–Expressionist Painting in America: An Interpretation Based on the Work and Thought of Six Key Figures." PhD diss., Princeton University, 1955, pp. 127, 207, fig. 23, calls it "The Attic".

Louis Finkelstein. "New Look: Abstract-Impressionism." Art News 55, no. 1 (March 1956), p. 66.

Thomas B. Hess. Willem de Kooning. New York, 1959, pp. 21, 24, pl. 106.

Harriet Janis and Rudi Blesh. De Kooning. New York, 1960, pp. 10, 30, pl. 9.

Eleanor Page. "She Lives in an Art Museum." Chicago Tribune (September 13, 1964), sec. 5, p. 3, ill. (installation photo).

Thomas B. Hess. De Kooning: Recent Paintngs. Exh. cat., M. Knoedler & Co., Inc. New York, 1967, p. 17.

Thomas B. Hess. Willem de Kooning. Exh. cat., Tate Gallery, London. New York, 1968, pp. 47, 51, 73, 75–76, 123, ill. pp. 65 and 77 (detail).

Andrew Forge. "De Kooning's 'Women'." Studio International 176 (December 1968), p. 248.

Walter Darby Bannard. "Willem de Kooning's Retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art." Artforum 7 (April 1969), p. 46.

Dore Ashton. "New York Commentary." Studio International 177 (May 1969), p. 244.

Irving Sandler. The Triumph of American Painting: A History of Abstract Expressionism. New York, 1970, pp. 128, 130, figs. 9–11.

Gabriella Drudi. Willem de Kooning. Milan, 1972, pp. 20–21, 33, fig. 56.

Thomas B. Hess. Willem de Kooning: Drawings. Greenwich, Conn., 1972, pp. 14, 33, 47.

Sam Hunter and John Jacobus. American Art of the 20th Century: Painting, Sculpture, Architecture. New York, 1973, p. 245.

Harold Rosenberg. De Kooning. New York, [1974], p. 30, pl. 74.

E. A. Carmean, Jr. in American Art at Mid-Century: The Subjects of the Artist. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. Washington, D.C., 1978, p. 167.

Diane Waldman. Willem de Kooning in East Hampton. Exh. cat., Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. New York, 1978, p. 15.

Judith Goldman. "Collecting in Chicago: 'Love Affairs with Art'." Art News 78 (February 1979), p. 49, ill. (installation photo), calls it "The Attic".

Alice Hess. "Great Private Collections: A Chicago Visionary." Saturday Review 7 (October 1980), pp. 72, 75, ill. p. 73 (installation photo).

Grace Glueck. "Met Is Given a $12 Million Art Collection." New York Times (December 10, 1980), p. B7, ill.

"Chicagoan Gives Art to N. Y. Museum." Chicago Sun-Times (December 11, 1980), p. 8.

Charles F. Stuckey. "Bill de Kooning and Joe Christmas." Art in America 68 (March 1980), p. 77.

Hilton Kramer. "Modernist Show Moves Met Firmly into Art of 20th Century." New York Times (May 22, 1981), pp. C1, C21.

Lisa M. Messinger in "Twentieth Century Art." The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Notable Acquisitions, 1980–1981. New York, 1981, p. 62, ill.

Grace Glueck. "Is Chicago Losing Out in the Art War?" New York Times (August 2, 1981), sec. 2, p. 1, calls it "The Attic".

"Newman at the Met." Connaissance des arts no. 17 (June 1981), p. 28.

Diana Loercher-Pazicky. "The Newman Bequest." Connaissance des arts no. 19 (August 1981), p. 16.

Franz Schulze. "Art: Newman Collection Gets Lavish Attention from Met." Chicago Sun-Times (August 9, 1981).

Grace Glueck. "Met Acquires Early Pollock." New York Times (January 13, 1982), p. C19.

Grace Glueck. "De Kooning Retrospective of 60 Years at Whitney." New York Times (December 16, 1983), p. C1.

Harry F. Gaugh. Willem de Kooning. New York, 1983, pp. 31, 36, pls. 25–26 (detail and overall).

Kathleen Howard, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York, 1983, p. 421, no. 23, ill.

William C. Seitz. Abstract Expressionist Painting in America. Cambridge, Mass., 1983, ill. p. 23.

Jörn Merkert in Willem de Kooning: Drawings, Paintings, Sculpture. Exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Munich, 1983, pp. 115, 126, no. 170, ill. p. 167 (color).

Lowery Stokes Sims. The Figure in 20th Century American Art: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., Jacksonville Art Museum. New York, 1984, p. 124.

"Upfront: Up's Column." Chicago Magazine (April 1984), p. 14.

Harry F. Gaugh. "De Kooning in Retrospect." Art News 83 (March 1984), p. 94.

Budd Hopkins. "The Drawings of Willem de Kooning." Drawing 5 (March—April 1984), pp. 121, 124.

Catherine Bompuis and Claire Stoullig in Willem de Kooning. Exh. cat., Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou. Paris, 1984, pp. 190–91, 232, 242, reprints a discussion between Clement Greenberg and Ann Hindry from 1983.

Eugene Victor Thaw. "The Abstract Expressionists." Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 44 (Winter 1986–87), p. 25, fig. 19 (color).

William Agee. "Muriel Kallis Newman–Life Among the Moderns." Architectural Digest (December 1986), p. 70.

Lisa Mintz Messinger in 20th Century Art: Selections from the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Vol. 2, Painting: 1945-1985. New York, 1986, pp. 20–21, ill. (color, overall and detail).

Sally Yard. Willem de Kooning: The First Twenty–Six Years in New York. PhD diss., Princeton University. New York, 1986, pp. 153, 159, 169–71, 195, 222 n. 213, pp. 223–24 n. 221, figs. 209 and 210 (detail), groups this painting as among the artist's abstract works using primarily black and white enamel paint from 1947–52; identifies it as de Kooning's largest abstract painting before 1950, with the exeception of his backdrop for the ballet "Labyrinth" (Allan Stone Collection, New York); suggests that this composition's densely "compacted and quirky shapes" are "evocative of the cluttered masses of many an attic".

William S. Lieberman in 20th Century Art: Selections from the Collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Vol. 2, Painting: 1945–1985. New York, 1986, p.7.

Robert Saltonstall Mattison. Robert Motherwell: The Formative Years. Ann Arbor, 1987, p. 206.

Janet Hobhouse. The Bride Stripped Bare: The Artist and the Nude in the Twentieth Century. London, 1988, p. 238, colorpl. 211.

Paul and Yvonne Schimmel in The Figurative Fifties: New York Figurative Expressionism. Exh. cat., Newport Harbor Art Museum. Newport Beach, 1988, p. 53, ill. p. 55.

Lynne Catherine Cooke. "Willem de Kooning: 'A Slipping Glimpser'." PhD diss., Courtauld Institute, 1988, pp. 88, 98, 127, 150, 223, 227.

Diane Waldman. Willem de Kooning. New York, 1988, pp. 71–72, 75, 79, colorpl. 56, notes references to Picasso's "Guernica" (Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid) in some of this painting's imagery, the use of black and white, as well as the impression of newsprint.

Philippe Sollers. De Kooning, Vite. Paris, 1988, vol. 1, p. 79, vol. 2, colorpl. 17.

Hilton Kramer. "Though Exhibiting It Badly, Met Offers a Worthy de Kooning Show." New York Observer (August 28, 1989), p. 19.

David Anfam. Abstract Expressionism. New York, 1990, p. 134.

Stephen Polcari. Abstract Expressionism and the Modern Experience. Cambridge, 1991, pp. 263, 280, 282–83, 296, fig. 201.

Lisa Mintz Messinger. Abstract Expressionism, Works on Paper: Selections from The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Exh. cat., High Museum of Art, Atlanta. New York, 1992, pp. 24, 30 n. 7.

April Kingsley. The Turning Point: The Abstract Expressionists and the Transformation of American Art. New York, 1992, pp. 211–12, 366, 389 n. 38.

Lee Hall. Elaine and Bill, Portrait of a Marriage: The Lives of Willem and Elaine de Kooning. New York, 1993, p. 133.

Barbara Burn, ed. Masterpieces of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1993, p. 305, ill. (color).

Michael Kimmelman. "America's Living Old Master." New York Times (May 15, 1994), p. H41.

Stephen Polcari. "Willem de Kooning: Washington, National Gallery." Burlington Magazine 136 (September 1994), p. 644.

David Anfam in Franz Kline: Black and White, 1950–1961. Exh. cat., Menil Collection. Houston, 1994, p. 11.

Richard Shiff in Willem de Kooning: Paintings. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1994, p. 54.

Marla Prather in Willem de Kooning: Paintings. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1994, pp. 93, 99–100, 105 n. 65, no. 19, ill. p. 118 (color).

Kathleen Howard, ed. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. 2nd ed. (1st ed., 1983). New York, 1994, p. 446, no. 27, ill. (color).

David Sylvester. "The Birth of 'Woman I'." Burlington Magazine 137 (April 1995), pp. 225–26, 229, fig. 6.

Robert Hughes. The Shock of the New: The Hundred–Year History of Modern Art–Its Rise, Its Dazzling Achievement, Its Fall. New York, 1996, p. 294.

Michael Kimmelman. "Willem de Kooning Dies at 92; Reshaped U.S. Art." New York Times (March 20, 1997), p. B14.

Claude Cernuschi. "Not an Illustration but the Equivalent": A Cognitive Approach to Abstract Expressionism. Madison, N.J., 1997, ill p. 144.

Barbara Haskell. The American Century: Art and Culture, 1900–1950. Exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art. New York, 1999, p. 366, fig. 699 (color).

Robert Rosenblum. "American Painting since the Second World War." On Modern American Art: Selected Essays by Robert Rosenblum. New York, 1999, p. 66, fig. 36, dates it ca. 1949.

Catherine Morris. The Essential Willem de Kooning. New York, 1999, pp. 57, 59, 61, 94, ill. (color).

Jonathan Fineberg. Art Since 1940: Strategies of Being. New York, 2000, p. 78.

Michael Darling in Takashi Murakami: Summon Monsters? Open the Door? Heal? Or Die? Exh. cat., Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo. Tokyo, 2001, p. 69, fig. 13.

Enrique Juncosa in Willem de Kooning. Exh. cat., IVAM / Institut Valencia d'Art Modern. Valencia, 2001, ill. p. 12 (color).

David Anfam. "De Kooning, Bosch and Bruegel: Some Fundamental Themes." Burlington Magazine 145 (October 2003), p. 709.

Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan. De Kooning: An American Master. New York, 2004, pp. 282, 293–95, 297, call it an antecedent for "Excavation" (1950, Museum of Modern Art, New York); identify this painting as the artist's largest to date.

Caroline A. Jones. Eyesight Alone: Clement Greenberg's Modernism and the Bureaucratization of the Senses. Chicago, 2005, fig. 2.2.

Michael FitzGerald. Picasso and American Art. Exh. cat., Whitney Museum of American Art. New York, 2006, p. 220, fig. 87.

Gary Tinterow in Abstract Expressionism and Other Modern Works: The Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Gary Tinterow, Lisa Mintz Messinger, and Nan Rosenthal. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, p. 5.

Richard Shiff in Abstract Expressionism and Other Modern Works: The Muriel Kallis Steinberg Newman Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ed. Gary Tinterow, Lisa Mintz Messinger, and Nan Rosenthal. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2007, pp. 75–79, no. 25, ill. (color).

John Elderfield. De Kooning: A Retrospective. Ed. David Frankel. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York. New York, 2011, pp. 23–25, 33–34, 36, 189, fig. 13 (color), 254, 360, colorpl. 67.

Lauren Mahoney in John Elderfield. De Kooning: A Retrospective. Ed. David Frankel. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York. New York, 2011, pp. 209–11, 214, 227–28, figs. 3, 5, and 6 (details on p. 211), colorpl. 67, quotes Ref. Gaugh 1983.

Delphine Huisinga in John Elderfield. De Kooning: A Retrospective. Ed. David Frankel. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York. New York, 2011, p. 192.

Jim Coddington in John Elderfield. De Kooning: a Retrospective. Ed. David Frankel. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art, New York. New York, 2011, p. 223.

Richard Shiff. Between Sense and de Kooning. London, 2011, pp. 48, 51, 59, 82, 115, 235, 238, fig. 11 (color), calls the offset newsprint images that appear throughout the painting "accidents" that the artist embraced and incorporated into the composition.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Guide. New York, 2012, p. 422, ill. (color).

Judith Zilczer. A Way of Living: The Art of Willem de Kooning. London, 2014, pp. 91, 99, 104, 253, 261, fig. 109 (color), claims that this painting reflects the artist's attempts to combine multiple figures in a charged space; quotes Elaine de Kooning, the artist's wife, as recalling her husband naming this painting "because you put everything in it".

Calvin Tomkins. "Onward and Upward with the Arts: The Met and the Now." New Yorker (January 25, 2016), p. 33.



Related Objects

Landscape at Stanton St.

Artist: Willem de Kooning (American (born The Netherlands), Rotterdam 1904–1997 East Hampton, New York) Date: 1971 Medium: Lithograph Accession: 1975.641.3 On view in:Not on view

With Love

Artist: Willem de Kooning (American (born The Netherlands), Rotterdam 1904–1997 East Hampton, New York) Date: 1971 Medium: Lithograph Accession: 1975.641.4 On view in:Not on view

Revenge

Artist: Willem de Kooning (American (born The Netherlands), Rotterdam 1904–1997 East Hampton, New York) Date: 1960 Medium: Etching, aquatint, black Ink Accession: 67.507 On view in:Not on view

Minnie Mouse

Artist: Willem de Kooning (American (born The Netherlands), Rotterdam 1904–1997 East Hampton, New York) Date: 1971 Medium: Lithograph Accession: 1975.641.2 On view in:Not on view

Mother and Child

Artist: Willem de Kooning (American (born The Netherlands), Rotterdam 1904–1997 East Hampton, New York) Date: 1971 Medium: Lithograph Accession: 1975.641.5 On view in:Not on view