Willem DE KOONING | July 4th

The Netherlands 1904 – United States of America 1997

July 4th 1957 oil on paper
signed and dated l.r., pencil, "de Kooning 57"
68.6 (h) x 56.0 (w) cm
Framed 85.3 (h) x 73.0 (w) x 5.5 (d) cm Purchased 1972 National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
NGA 1972.322 © Willem de Kooning/ARS. Licensed by Viscopy

  • the artist;
  • to his wife, Elaine de Kooning, East Hampton, New York;
  • from whom bought through Fourcade, Droll Inc., New York, by the Commonwealth Art Advisory Board, August 1972
  • American Drawings
    • Krannert Art Museum 17 Sep 1964 – 05 Dec 1965
    • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 17 Sep 1964 – 22 Oct 1964
    • University of Michigan Museum of Art 11 Nov 1964 – 13 Dec 1964
    • Grand Rapids Art Museum 10 Jan 1965 – 07 Feb 1965
    • University Gallery, University of Minnesota 24 Feb 1965 – 21 Mar 1965
    • Denver Art Museum 06 Jun 1965 – 04 Jul 1965
    • Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas 25 Jul 1965 – 22 Aug 1965
    • Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts 12 Sep 1965 – 10 Oct 1965
    • 15 Nov 1965 – 05 Dec 1965
  • Willem de Kooning
    • The Museum of Modern Art 03 Mar 1968 – 27 Apr 1968
    • The Museum of Modern Art 16 May 1968 – 06 Jul 1968
    • Los Angeles County Museum of Art 28 Jul 1968 – 14 Sep 1968
    • Stedelijk Museum 19 Sep 1968 – 17 Nov 1968
    • Tate 08 Dec 1968 – 26 Jan 1968
  • Twentieth Century American Drawing: Three Avant-Garde Generations
    • Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 23 Jan 1976 – 28 Mar 1976
    • Staatliche Kunsthalle, Baden-Baden 27 May 1976 – 11 Jun 1976
    • Kunsthalle, Bremen 18 Jul 1976 – 29 Aug 1976
  • Willem de Kooning at the National Gallery of Australia
    • 13 Mar 1999 – 30 May 1999
  • Intensely Dutch
    • Art Gallery of New South Wales 05 Jun 2009 – 23 Aug 2009
  • Abstract Expressionism: the National Gallery of Australia celebrates the centenaries of Jackson Pollock and Morris Louis
    • 14 Jul 2012 – 24 Feb 2013
  • Gabriella Drudi, De Kooning, Milan: Fratelli Fabbri Editori 1972, illus. col. pl. 102;
  • Harold Rosenberg, Willem de Kooning, New York, Harry N. Abrams Inc. 1974, illus. b&w pl. 124;
  • Twentieth-century American drawing: Three avant-garde generations, New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum 1976, cat. 106, pp. 69, 72, illus. b&w;
  • Thomas B. Hess, 'Four pictures by de Kooning at Canberra', Art and Australia vol. 14 nos 3 & 4, January–April 1978, pp. 289–290, illus. col.;
  • James Mollison and Laura Murray (eds), Australian National Gallery: An introduction, Canberra: Australian National Gallery 1982, pp. 108–109, illus.
  • Michael Lloyd and Michael Desmond, European and American paintings and sculptures 1870–1970 in the Australian National Gallery, Canberra: Australian National Gallery 1992, pp. 260–262, illus. col.;
  • Lucina Ward, ‘A dame, some clams and the broad: Willem de Kooning at the NGA’, artonview no. 17, Autumn 1999, pp. 26–28, illus. col.;
  • Hendrik Kolenberg, Intensely Dutch : image, abstraction and the word post-war and beyond,  Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales 2009, cat.47, illus. col. p. 100;
  • John Elderfield, withJennifer Field, Delphine Huisinga, Lauren Mahony, Jim Coddington and Susan Lake, DeKooning: A Retrospective, New York: Museum of Modern Art, Distributed Art Publishers, 2011, p. 320, illus. col.

The image of woman, which had been the primary subject of de Kooning's paintings from 1950, gradually began to dissolve into the landscape. By 1955 the women had virtually disappeared, subsumed and replaced by gestural abstractions inspired by the forms of the urban landscape. These paintings typically are made with small shapes, tightly knitted together in strong primary colours, becoming a teeming conglomeration of horizontal and vertical marks. The paintings that followed show the shift of interest from city to countryside that was to climax in de Kooning's decision to move to Springs on Long Island, in 1961. Indeed, while still living in New York, de Kooning had taken to painting occasionally in the country outside the city, often staying at the home of his brother-in-law, Peter Fried, who had moved to Springs in 1955. De Kooning was eventually to purchase this house for himself.

His paintings of 1957, such as the National Gallery's July 4th, mark a change from the preceding landscapes in the use of wider brushstrokes, and enlarged and clarified areas that convey a sense of open natural spaces. The notion of rural landscape is suggested by the strong white horizontal band towards the bottom of the painting, which was formed by removing the tape that protected the white paper support. At this time, de Kooning made a number of paintings titled after roadways; Thomas B. Hess has drawn attention to the way this ribbon of white suggests a highway, bridge or horizon line. Certainly this parallel may have amused de Kooning, for he rarely allowed so strong a feature to remain unaltered in his work. No doubt this is also because de Kooning used small paintings on paper as a test bed for new ideas and accidental effects that could be incorporated into larger works. July 4th itself is built from pre-existing work, being composed of a single sheet of paper painted in oil paint, to which torn pieces from another, crustily painted sheet have been overlaid, then trimmed back to the size of the final.

De Kooning had perfected a collage approach over the previous decade and he would often overlay sections of his paintings with drawings, incorporating them into the work, or trace areas of a work to use at a later stage. Collage allowed him to test a variety of solutions to painterly problems, with each alternative provoking new effects or inspiring further possibilities. De Kooning fully capitalised on the breaks in the continuity of the painted surface that were generated by the addition or subsequent removal of collaged elements. The white strip produced by the removal of masking tape at the bottom of July 4th is a crude but startling example of this. The addition of elements of an existing painting on paper to the upper half of the Gallery's work produces no less dramatic elisions, which break up the image to create new structures. Photographs of de Kooning, taken in 1959, show similar painted fragments tacked together on the studio wall. July 4th initially had the sculptural facility of this loose construction, but was flattened and glued down by Elaine de Kooning to facilitate mounting and framing.[1]

Like other paintings from the 1950s that were titled with calendar references, the title July 4th refers to the date the painting was completed.

Michael Lloyd and Michael Desmond, European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870–1970 in the Australian National Gallery, Canberra: Australian National Gallery 1992, pp. 260–262

[1]Thomas B. Hess, 'Four Pictures by de Kooning at Canberra', Art and Australia vol. 14 nos 3 & 4, 4 January–April 1977, pp. 289–296, at p. 295.

As well as two oil paintings on canvas and two oils on paper, the National Gallery of Australia holds the artist’s proof of the de Kooning – Harold Rosenberg collaboration Revenge (New York: Morris Gallery 1960), an early lithograph, Clam digger 1967. It also holds the set of artist’s proofs of the lithographs made by de Kooning at the Hollander Workshop, New York, 1970–71, one of his bronze multiples (5/100) dated 1972, and a pastel, charcoal and pencil drawing Untitled (Figures in landscape) 1974.