Untitled (The Cow Jumps Over The Moon)
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

Trained as a commercial artist, de Kooning moved easily between figurative and abstract modes. Though his later canvases would come to epitomize the vigorous gestural style of the abstract expressionist movement, his early work reveals the influence of Joan Miró’s biomorphic, surrealist works. In the 1930s, as this work demonstrates, de Kooning began to paint more sparely, depicting fewer elements dispersed over fields of color. This approach is also evident in the studies he made for the mural division of the Federal Art Project, where he worked with other artists who would dominate the avant-garde at mid-century in America. The suggestive forms that emerge from de Kooning’s organic abstraction, like the inkblots of a Rorschach test, may have inspired the painting’s playful title, pulled from a well-known children’s nonsense rhyme.

Identification and Creation
Object Number
2007.31
People
Willem de Kooning, American (Rotterdam, Netherlands 1904 - 1997 East Hampton, NY)
Title
Untitled (The Cow Jumps Over the Moon)
Classification
Paintings
Work Type
painting
Date
1937-1938
Culture
American
Location
Level 1, Room 1310, Modern and Contemporary Art, Surrealism
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Physical Descriptions
Medium
Oil on masonite
Dimensions
52 x 93 cm (20 1/2 x 36 5/8 in.)
frame: 71 x 112 x 5 cm (27 15/16 x 44 1/8 x 1 15/16 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.r.: de Kooning
  • (not assigned): No opportunity to inspect back as yet.
Provenance
Willem de Kooning; to Martin Craig, New York, New York, (c. 1938 - 1958), sold; to Dr. and Mrs. Joseph Coltrera, Brooklyn, New York (through [Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, New York]), sold; to Harvard University Art Museums, 2007.

NOTE: Per a letter in the curatorial file the work was a trade between de Kooning and Martin Craig.

Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Dr. Ernest G. Stillman, Class of 1907, by exchange
Copyright
© The Willem de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Accession Year
2007
Object Number
2007.31
Division
Modern and Contemporary Art
Contact
am_moderncontemporary@harvard.edu
Publication History

Willem de Kooning: Garden in Delft, exh. cat., Mitchell-Innes & Nash (2004), pp. 13-14, repr. p. 25 (plate 2), pp. 26-27 (detail)

Willem de Kooning, exh. cat., BA-CV Kunstforum (Vienna, 2005), p. 45, 49, cat. 1, ill. p. 44

Harvard University Art Museums, Harvard University Art Museums Annual Report 2006-7 (Cambridge, MA, 2008), p. 21, ill.

Terry Winters, Depth Charge: Terry Winters Talks with John Elderfield about De Kooning, Artforum (New York, 2011), XLIX, No. 10, pp. 328-335, p. 330, ill.

John Elderfield and Lauren Mahony, de Kooning: A Retrospective, exh. cat., ed. David Frankel, The Museum of Modern Art (New York, NY, 2011), pp. 109, 113, 115-116, cat. 28, pl. 28, ill.

Exhibition History

De Kooning: A Retrospective, Museum of Modern Art, New York, New York, 09/18/2011 - 01/09/2012

32Q: 1310 Surrealism, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/01/2014 - 01/01/9999

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Verification Level

3 - Good. Object is well described and information is vetted