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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Town Square

Photo: Spike Mafford / Zocalo Studios. Courtesy of the Friday Foundation

Town Square


Willem de Kooning

American, (born The Netherlands), 1904-1997

1948 was a significant year for Willem de Kooning. In April, his first solo exhibition opened at Charles Egan Gallery in New York, featuring ten mostly black and white abstractions. The exhibition received critical and institutional recognition, and Town Square is part of this important body of work characterized by a hybridity of abstract and figurative forms, reduced color palette, and fluid compositions.

At the time, de Kooning used transparent tracing paper to explore the effects of individual lines and forms. Built in layers, white is the dominant color upon which a composition of black lines with ochre accents appears in a state of flux—an effect the artist described as a “slipping glimpse.” In tandem with his predominantly white abstractions such as Town Square, de Kooning also worked in the inverse, creating white-on-black compositions.
Oil on paper mounted on Masonite
17 3/8 × 23 3/4 in. (44.2 × 60.3 cm)
Gift of the Friday Foundation in honor of Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis
Provenance: Mr. and Mrs. Ben Heller, New York; purchased by Jane and Richard Lang, Seattle, Washington, 1976
Photo: Spike Mafford / Zocalo Studios. Courtesy of the Friday Foundation
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistoryNew York, New York, Egan Gallery, Willem de Kooning, 1948

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Eduardo Chillida/Willem de Kooning (Pittsburgh International Series), Oct. 26, 1979 - Jan. 6, 1980. Cat. no. 10.

New York, New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, Willem de Kooning: Drawings, Paintings, Sculpture, Dec. 14, 1983 - Feb. 26, 1984 (Berlin, Germany, Akademie der Künste, Mar. 11 - May 6, 1984; Paris, France, Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée national d’art moderne, June 28 - Sept. 24, 1984). Cat no. 169.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, The Richard and Jane Lang Collection, Feb. 2 - Apr. 1, 1984. Text by Bruce Guenther and Barbara Johns. Cat. no. 5, pp. 17-18.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, SAM at 75: Building a Collection for Seattle, May 5 - Sept. 9, 2007.

New York, New York, Museum of Modern Art, Willem de Kooning: A Retrospective, Sept. 18, 2011 - Jan. 9, 2012. Text by John Elderfield. Reproduced p. 209, fig. 1.
Published ReferencesA Community of Collectors: 75th Anniversary Gifts to the Seattle Art Museum, Seattle: Seattle Art Museum and University of Washington Press, 2008. Reproduced p. 36.

Seattle Art Museum acknowledges that we are on the traditional homelands of the Duwamish and the customary territories of the Suquamish and Muckleshoot Peoples. As a cultural and educational institution, we honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future. We also acknowledge the urban Native peoples from many Nations who call Seattle their home.

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