Formal Analysis: Woman and Bicycle by Willem de KooningWoman and Bicycle is an abstract expressionist painting created by Willem de Kooning in 1952-53 as part of his collection of Women paintings. It roughly measures 6ft. by 4ft. in size and is an oil painting on canvas. The image can be understood to be figurative, however the figure is difficult to decipher on account of the haphazard style in which it was created. It appears that the picture has been altered a great many times, as if it is just one picture deposited upon the remains of or intentions of ones prior. It is easy to decipher a pair of large jaunty eyes with their gaze intently directed back towards the viewer over a pair of particularly large breasts. The insinuation of a body remains just that, wildly gestural brushstrokes that only imply the presence of hips and thighs. De Kooning himself makes note of the illusive nature of his forms saying, “Content is a glimpse of something, and encounter like a flash. It’s very tiny—very tiny, content,” (Hess p.148). Another more distinguishable element in this painting is the pair of legs centered at the bottom of the canvas. Beyond this, the theory of content in this piece is at the discretion of the viewer’s imagination.The gestural and heavy working of the paint and the contrasting colors make the painting appear active yet are arduous to follow. The defining element of Woman and Bicycle is the presence of the black lines that do most of the work in terms of identifying the figure. Through the wild nature of the brushwork, color, and composition of the painting, it can be implied that the artist is making an implication towards the wild nature of even the most proper of women.The most...... middle of paper ......ess in such a vulgarly constructed work of art.The contrasts between depth and surface, figure and landscape, promiscuity and modesty, beauty and vulgarity all present themselves in de Kooning’s Woman and Bicycle. Although the figure is a seemingly normal woman out for an afternoon with her bike, she becomes so much more through the artist’s use of color, contrast, and composition. The exotic nature of woman presents itself in her direct stare and slick buxom breasts in spite of a nearly indiscernible figure.


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It is understood that, on the whole, de Kooning did not paint with a purpose in mind, but rather as an opportunity to create an experience, however, that does not go to say that there isn’t some meaning that can come of this work. Even Willem de Kooning once said that art is not everything that is in it, but what you can take out of it (Hess p.144).