Willem de Kooning (American, born The Netherlands, 1904–1997)
Oil on canvas; 54 x 44 in. (137.2 x 111.8 cm)
From the Collection of Thomas B. Hess, Gift of the heirs of Thomas B. Hess, 1984 (1984.613.1)
© 2011 The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
In his fascination with landscape and figurative subjects, Willem de Kooning has always veered away from mainstream Abstract Expressionism, a movement of primarily abstract painting, in which he was nevertheless a leader. The Glazier belongs to an early series of men—placidly sitting or standing, singly or in pairs—which were painted in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Later, in the 1950s, his subjects favored fierce female characters (such as Woman, 1950, 1984.613.6), for which he is still best known.
The Glazier has a ghostly, elusive quality. Parts of the body, especially the arms and head, seem to evaporate into veils of color, while other sections of the picture—the face, right shoulder, trouser creases, and table covering—are quite solidly modeled. The representation of space is equally ambiguous, vacillating between what de Kooning called the "no-environment" of color fields and abstract rectangles, and the specificity of an elegant ewer placed on a table and reflected in a mirror. The artist said that his palette of somber earth tones was inspired by the Boscoreale frescoes that he had often come to see at the Metropolitan Museum.