Willem de Kooning

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de Kooning, Willem

(də ko͞o`nĭng), 1904–97, American painter, b. Netherlands; studied Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques. De Kooning immigrated to the United States, arriving as a stowaway in 1926 and settling in New York City, where he worked on the Federal Arts Project (1935). He began experiments with abstraction as early as 1928, but continued to produce realistic paintings throughout the 1930s, and he later oscillated between an abstracted figuration and pure abstraction. Influenced by Arshile GorkyGorky, Arshile
, c.1900–48, American painter, b. Armenia as Vosdanig Adoian. He escaped the Turkish slaughter of Armenians, emigrated to the United States in 1920, studied at Boston's New School of Design, and moved to New York City in 1925.
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, de Kooning forged a powerful abstract style and in the 1940s became a leader of abstract expressionismabstract expressionism,
movement of abstract painting that emerged in New York City during the mid-1940s and attained singular prominence in American art in the following decade; also called action painting and the New York school.
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. In his monumental series of the early 1950s entitled Woman, he reintroduced a representational element. Woman I (1950–52; Mus. of Modern Art, New York City), with its startling ferocity, brought him considerable notice and some notoriety. He subsequently reverted chiefly to nonfigurative work, but during the 1960s, when he moved to Long Island, he also produced more paintings of women as well as many works with landscape elements. In this period de Kooning also created semiabstract sculptural figures in bronze and several lithographs. He created a dazzling group of painterly abstractions in the 1970s.

Slashed with color and formed with eloquent brushstrokes, de Kooning's often huge canvases are charged with explosive energy; many are widely considered some of the masterpieces of abstract expressionism. His last works, produced (1980–90) when he was increasingly affected by Alzheimer's disease, include hundreds of large canvases in elegantly composed configurations; their elements are pared down, and their limited, mainly primary colors form sinuously intertwining ribbons. In some sense, de Kooning's art endured amid his encroaching dementia until he stopped painting in mid-1990. He was married to the painter Elaine Fried de Kooning (1920–1989).

Bibliography

See biographies by H. F. Gaugh (1983), L. Hall (1993, repr. 2000), and M. Stevens and A. Swan (2004); studies by H. Rosenberg (1974), D. Waldman (1978 and 1988), D. Cateforis (1994), D. Sylvester et al. (1994), G. Garrels and R. Storr (1995), S. Yard (1997), K. Kertess et al. (1998), C. Morris (1999), E. Liever (2000), and S. F. Lake (2010).

de Kooning, Willem

(1904–  ) painter; born in Rotterdam, Holland. He came to America in 1926, and is considered, along with Jackson Pollock, a leader in abstract expressionism, the New York-based school of painting that rejected naturalistic content. Examples of this period include his dramatic Black Paintings (1946–48), which were limited to black-and-white colors using enamel and oil paints. His later work became increasingly figurative, and The Woman series, beginning in 1950, brought him notoriety due to his brutal and often erotic treatment of his subject matter.