Woman V, 1953 by Willem de Kooning

This painting's impact comes from the apparent conflict between the violence of the brush marks and the subject of woman, between the slashing strokes and her big smile. Assessment has veered between Willem de Kooning's own assurance that he was after 'some of the enchantment and sunny charm of the All-American girl', and condemnation from feminist critics for his viciousness and brutality.

Here is the turmoil of an artist who could leave nothing out. He put into the canvas everyone's desire, frustration, conflict, pleasure and pain. He pursued inspired accidents of the brush, of which some worked and could stay, while others did not and had to be scraped out. It took him many months; he worked on the six canvases in the Woman series between 1950 and 1953.

De Kooning is proof that not all members of the New York School were Abstract Expressionists. Expressionist, yes, but he kept painting the figure, even if here she is defined within her indeterminate surroundings mainly by charcoal sketching. The truly luscious painted passages in the arms and shoulders are made by an artist who claimed that the glory of western art lies in its physicality, and that 'flesh was the reason oil paint was invented'.

Quote from National Gallery of Australia