Reclining Figure (1969) is one of the three sculptures by Willem De Kooning in Rotterdam. They stand together near the Hofplein in the centre of the city. The other scuptures are Seated Woman (1969) and Standing Figure (1969). Seated Woman is owned by the city, the other two sculptures are in ownership of the Willem De Kooning Foundation and had previously stood in Boston.
At the end of the sixties, the painter Willem de Kooning began experimenting with modelling clay. De Kooning saw his working with clay as painting in three dimensions. He made the sculptures, just like his paintings, with a spontaneous gesture without sketches or preparatory studies. Advised by Heny Moore, he had Seated Woman elnraged and cast in bronze. He was enthousiastic and started working on a large scale with three pairs of gloves on top of one another because he found his own hands too small. He did not consider modelling to be any different from painting; he regarded clay as thick paint.
The working method is imprinted in the sculpture: the limbs of rolled clay attached to the kneaded trunk, the bowl-like impression of a thumb and the enlarged fingerprints on the bronze skin – they all bare the trace of the human hand. This contrasts with the geometric form on which the woman sits. The reflections in the lively dark patina emphasise the sculpture’s curves.
The sculpture’s subject – a seated woman – is not immediately recognisable. The woman appears to have crossed her legs, which are a little too long, but it is not entirely clear how these limbs are constructed. To the left the lower part of a leg is folded backwards, to the right floats a form that resembles additional limbs. The arms too are sketchy and are out of proportion with the body.