The last time this de Kooning was for sale at Christie’s there was a competition among Russian buyers for de Kooning works from the mid-1970s sometimes referred to as landscape paintings. This particular work topped out that run of private and public purchases at $27m. Eventually, that record for de Kooning was eclipsed. In November of 2013, de Kooning’s Untitled VIII, also from 1977, made $32m.
Christie’s press release offers some perspective on this body of work:
Untitled XXV comes from a remarkable series of large canvases that de Kooning made in a sudden burst of activity in the mid-1970s. In the spring of 1975, a comparatively long dry spell of painterly inactivity for the artist suddenly came to an end. In a flood of creativity that lasted until 1978, de Kooning found himself once again reveling in the act of painting. Fresh and re-vitalized by his recent exploration into sculpture and rejuvenated by an ever-deepening love affair with a young woman, Emilie Kilgore, de Kooning was able to sustain this output for a period of nearly four years. “I made those paintings one after the other, no trouble at all,” he said. “I couldn’t miss. It’s a nice feeling. It’s strange. It’s a man at a gambling table (who) feels that he can’t lose. But when he walks away with the dough, he knows that he can’t do that again.”
These years are now viewed by critics as the apex of de Kooning’s painterly oeuvre, and 1977 a particular highpoint amongst them. The celebrated critic, David Sylvester called this year de Kooning’s annus mirabilis, writing that the works from 1977 “belong with the paintings made at the same age by artists such as Monet and Renoir and Bonnard and, of course, Titian.”