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Although often cited as the originator of Action painting, an abstract, purely formal, and intuitive means of expression, Willem de Kooning most often worked from observable reality. In the latter half of the 1950s, De Kooning turned to the landscape as the basis for a series of abstract compositions. Toward the end of the decade, the frenzied proliferation of forms and planes that had characterized the "abstract urban landscapes" yielded to compositions of relative restraint and clarity. Villa Borghese was based on the artist's encounter with Rome, where he spent roughly five months in 1959–60. The location is alluded to not only by the painting's title, which refers to a large and well-known public park in the Italian capital, but also by its bright Mediterranean palette. The expansive areas of color, painted in wet-on-wet layers, suggest naturalistic correspondences—yellow sunlight, blue sky and water, and green grass and foliage. The painting is not a rendering of a particular view, however, but rather a subjective translation into paint of his memories of the Eternal City.

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