Portrait of Willem de Kooning
Robert Beauchamp (American, 1923–1995)
Sheet: 61.3 x 46 cm (24 1/8 x 18 1/8 in.)
Medium or Technique
Charcoal and liquid graphite on paper
Not On View
Robert Beauchamp (pronounced Bee-chum) grew up in Colorado and moved to New York where he studied abstract painting with Hans Hofmann. After a while, however, he wearied of abstraction “because it leaves out too much” and took up figurative painting. At the same time, he found realism too confining. His goal was to fuse the objective observation of natural forms with the subjectivity of abstraction. The transition occurred in 1953-57. Critics and collectors found his hot-blooded work a refreshing change from the overwhelming dominance of non-figurative art. Laden with erotic content and populated with wild creatures, both real and imagined, his paintings sold well. Demand tapered off as Pop became the next new thing and Beauchamp continued to follow his own muse. Often marked by dark humor, his work was so adventurous that it could sometimes fall flat, but his best work remained vibrant.
Beauchamp’s portrait of De Kooning has the bold, Expressionist, cartoon character of Oskar Kokoshka’s mature portraiture. The portrait is a reminder that the figurative artists who began to come of age in the 1950s were not simply competing with Abstract Expressionism. As Michael Kimmelman observed in his exhibition review of ”The Figurative 50’s: New York Figurative Expressionism” held at The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1988, their dialogue was equally with the art of the past.
Signed across bottom in black chalk: Beauchamp 79
Verso upper right in graphite pencil: #50 / LM
Estate of the artist; from which purchased by Elaine and Mauruce Géracht (Chestnut Hill, MA); by whom given to MFA, 29 December 2006.
Gift of Elaine and Maurice Géracht
Reproduced with permission.