Thursday, October 4, 2007


Willem de Kooning ( 1904 – 1997) was an abstract expressionist painter, born in Rotterdam. His early artistic training included eight years at the Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques. In the 1920s he worked as an assistant to the art director of a Rotterdam department store. In 1926, De Kooning entered the United States as a stowaway on a British freighter and in 1927 he settled in Manhattan. In October 1935, De Kooning began to work on the WPA (Works Progress Administration) Federal Art Project, and he won the Logan Medal of the arts.

Developing a bold style of gestural paintings, he produced figure paintings and abstract, urban landscapes throughout the 1950s. In the following decade, pastoral themes replaced the urban violence of his earlier expressionist work. In 1963, de Kooning moved from a Manhattan loft to his newly built studio in the East Hampton community of the Springs. The North Atlantic light and flat beaches of Long Island inspired the luminous paintings of de Kooning's later career.

He made many canvasses about women, all distorted and rather monstruously looking. For that reason, he has sometimes been accused of being a woman-hater.

Known for his draftsman's hand and "bravura brushstroke," de Kooning never settled into a single style. "You have to change to stay the same," he would say, and following his own wisdom, he constantly reinvented himself.

In the 80s, Willem de Kooning was diagnosed with, in all probability, Alzheimer's disease. After his wife, Elaine, died on February 1, 1989, his daughter, Lisa, and his lawyer, John Eastman were granted guardianship over a Wilhem De Kooning, alcoholic and sick.

Woman-hater or not, his work was appreciated and sought after well before his passing : in 1983, this picture of Two Women fetched $1.2 million on auction.

When Willem de Kooning died in 1997, he was remembered as the first modern art star. His giant, eruptive works, long career and turbulent lifestyle made him one of the most complex and romantic figures of the 20th century.

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