Willem de Kooning
Willem de Kooning (1904, Rotterdam, Netherlands - 1997, East Hampton, New York, United States) left school in 1916 and became an apprentice in a firm of commercial artists. Until 1924 he attended evening classes at the academy of Fine Arts and Applied Sciences of Rotterdam. In 1926 de Kooning travelled to the United States as a stowaway on the Shelley, a British freighter bound for Argentina, and on August 15 landed at Newport News, Virginia. He stayed at the Dutch Seamen's Home in Hoboken, New Jersey, and found work as a house-painter. In 1927 he moved to Manhattan, where he had a studio on West Forty-fourth Street. He supported himself with jobs in carpentry, house-painting and commercial art.
Along with Pollock, de Kooning was the most prominent and celebrated of the Abstract Expressionist painters. His pictures typify the vigorous gestural style of the movement and he, did more than any of his contemporaries to develop a radically abstract style of painting that fused Cubism, Surrealism and Expressionism. Although he established his reputation with a series of entirely abstract pictures, he felt a strong pull towards traditional subjects and would eventually become most famous for his pictures of women, which he painted in spells throughout his life. Later he turned to landscapes, which were also highly acclaimed, and which he continued to paint even into his eighties, when his mind was significantly impaired by Alzheimer's disease.
Although known for continually reworking his canvases, de Kooning often left them with a sense of dynamic incompletion, as if the forms were still in the process of moving and settling and coming into definition. In this sense his paintings exemplify 'action painting' - they are like records of a violent encounter, rather than finished works in the old Beaux Arts tradition of fine painting. De Kooning maintained a commitment to the figurative tradition, developing a signature style that fused vivid color and aggressive paint handling with deconstructed images of the female form- a then-controversial body of works that has become known as his “Women” paintings. Influenced by Arshile Gorky and Pablo Picasso, de Kooning was often thought to have blended Cubism, Expressionism, and Surrealismin his signature style, paving the way for generations of gestural figurative painters like Cecily Brown. De Kooning pursued non-objective lyrical abstraction until his death in 1997.
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