Willem de Kooning

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Willem

de Kooning

Rotterdam, Netherlands
<p>Image: A formal portrait of Willem de Kooning as a small child, 1906, Rotterdam. Courtesy of The Willem de Kooning Foundation</p>

Willem de Kooning was born in Rotterdam, Netherlands, in 1904. After completing primary school he became an apprentice at a design and decorating firm where he learned a number of different skills, including hand lettering, marble and wood-grain painting, and other decorative methods. He also attended night classes at Rotterdam’s Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques (re-named Willem de Kooning Academy in 1998).

Image: A formal portrait of Willem de Kooning as a small child, 1906, Rotterdam. Courtesy of The Willem de Kooning Foundation

New York, New York
<p>Image: Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning, ca. 1937.<br />
Photo by Oliver Baker. Rudi Blesh papers, 1909-1983.<br />
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.</p>

Willem de Kooning left the Netherlands in 1927 to settle in Manhattan. There, he responded to the European and American avant-garde, particularly the works of Pablo Picasso and Joan Miró. He also established significant relationships with artists based in the city including Arshile Gorky and Stuart Davis, who greatly influenced his understanding of modernism. The 1930s and ‘40s marked a shift in de Kooning’s style that was to connect him the nascent Abstract Expressionist movement with its emphasis on the gestural brushstroke and expressive freedom.

Image: Arshile Gorky and Willem de Kooning, ca. 1937.
Photo by Oliver Baker. Rudi Blesh papers, 1909-1983.
Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Asheville, North Carolina: BMC
<p>Image: Willem de Kooning, "Asheville", 1948.<br />
oil and enamel on cardboard, 25 5⁄8 x 31 7⁄8 inches.<br />
The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.<br />
© The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York</p>

De Kooning arrived at Black Mountain College in the summer of 1948 to teach painting with his wife and fellow artist Elaine de Kooning. The staff that summer included John Cage, Merce Cunningham, and Buckminster Fuller. During the two months that de Kooning spent at the college, he worked intensely on the canvas, Asheville (1948). He also painted the stage set for the production of Erik Satie’s The Ruse of Medusa.

Image: Willem de Kooning, "Asheville", 1948.
oil and enamel on cardboard, 25 5⁄8 x 31 7⁄8 inches.
The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC.
© The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

New York, New York

After returning to New York from Black Mountain College, Willem de Kooning began his second “Woman” painting series, images of abstracted female forms that became his best-known works. From this time on, de Kooning’s reputation continued to grow, and his work was exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1953) and the ICA/Boston (1955).

Video: Willem de Kooning explaining his "Women" youtube.com/watch?v=e6kiVI_KNTY excerpt from Emile de Antonio, Painters Painting, 1972

Springs, New York

After forty years in New York City, in 1963 Willem de Kooning moved permanently to Springs, a hamlet outside East Hampton on Long Island. His work shifted to a brighter palette and more abstract idiom, with which he fused the body and the landscape. During this late period, he also made sculpture and lithography. De Kooning remained on Long Island until his death in 1997.

 

Video: Rare Late Paintings of Willem de Kooning Fill Gagosian Gallery youtube.com/watch?v=XCsn38-zNsU