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Willem De Kooning

Willem De Kooning

(1904 - 1997)
Born: Rotterdam, Netherlands
Style: Abstract Expressionism
Famous Works:
  • Woman II (1952)
  • Woman and Bicycle (1952-3)
  • Marilyn Monroe (1954)
Dutch-born Willem de Kooning was a central figure among the American Abstract Expressionists. He started his career as a commercial artist in the Netherlands, and later worked as a portrait artist after arriving in America as a stowaway. His participation in the 1935-6 Federal Art Project marked the beginning of his career as a full-time painter. In New York, the artist met painters Stuart Davis, Arshile Gorky and John Graham. These three artists strongly influenced de Kooning, who was then experimenting with an abstract style of highly expressive brushstrokes. He was granted his first one-man show in 1948 in New York, which established him as a leader of vision comparable to Jackson Pollock. Whereas Pollock's work developed towards a totally non-representational vocabulary of drips and color, de Kooning retained the shape of the figure in his work. In 1953 he displayed his first painting of the now famous Women series. These often violently brushed females demonstrate the vitality of de Kooning's art, and demand the attention of the viewer. Critics and art lovers were shocked by the Women paintings. They were not the well-behaved abstract images which were en vogue; instead de Kooning had invented a fresh and potent language of abstract representation. His style shaped an entire generation of painters, and his works were collected by prestigious museums around the world. In the 1970s de Kooning produced a series sculptural figures cast in bronze. Painting was his passion until the end of his life. Willem de Kooning succumbed to Alzheimer's disease in March of 1997.
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