Willem de Kooning

Willem de Kooning

Willem de Kooning was one of the 20th Century’s most renowned, prolific, and multifaceted artists. Born in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in 1904, de Kooning trained as a commercial artist, and also studied fine art at the Rotterdam Academy, the Académie royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, and the van Schelling School of Design in Antwerp. In 1926, the artist traveled by ship as a stowaway to Hoboken, New Jersey, eventually making his way to New York City, where during the 1930s and 1940s he established his place in the Manhattan art world, becoming known for his ghostly portraits of solitary male figures.

Influenced by painter colleagues such as Stuart Davis, Arshile Gorky, and Franz Kline, de Kooning eventually turned to abstraction, creating a series of dripping, biomorphic, mostly black-and-white paintings which were exhibited at the Charles Egan Gallery in 1948 and received enormous critical acclaim. Shortly thereafter the artist’s monumental Excavation, 1950, part of this same body of work, was selected by the New York Museum of Modern Art director Alfred Barr to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. The painting also received the Art Institute of Chicago’s Logan Medal and Purchase Prize.

De Kooning soon began to combine his efforts in both figuration and abstraction with his “Woman” series, starting with Woman, I, 1950-52, a painting that is now part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. The intense, often violent-seeming works conflate figure and ground, so that the female form, complete with large breasts and sharp teeth, begins to break apart and converge with the surrounding context of harsh, jagged lines. These vital paintings secured de Kooning as a central figure, alongside Jackson Pollock, in the New York School of artists, also known as the Abstract Expressionist movement.

During his lifetime, de Kooning exhibited his work at many prominent art institutions, including the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Tate Gallery, London, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. In 2011, the artist was the posthumous subject of a major retrospective at MoMA, New York, organized by Chief Curator Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture John Heartfield, which featured an enormous variety of works spanning the seven decades of his career.

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Selected Works

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  • Two Women (detail)
    1947
    Oil on board
    18 1/2 x 23 3/4 inches (47 x 60.3 cm)

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Selected Press

Hamptons Art Hub | ART REVIEW: De Kooning and Zao Wou-Ki Paintings Trace Paths to Abstraction

February 7, 2017

East meets West is an ancient theme in the arts: Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly” and

Cultured | Second Act

February 1, 2017

It might not be known to those who aren’t involved in the art market, but some of the biggest collectors …

Artnet | Lévy Gorvy Demonstrates Art World Clout at Inaugural New York Exhibition

January 20, 2017

A little over a month after the formation of what is predicted to be one of the most formidable art …

Art Observed | Go See – Los Angeles: Willem de Kooning 'Figure & Light'

January 2, 2011

L&M Arts in Venice Beach presents Willem de Kooning: Figure & Light, a collection of drawings …

Los Angeles Times | Art review: Willem de Kooning at L&M Arts

December 16, 2010

Any excuse to look at paintings and drawings by Willem de Kooning is a good excuse, but L&M Arts is …

The New York Sun | Composing Without Composure

May 18, 2006

Robert Mnunchin’s fondness for Willem de Kooning (1904-97) is no secret. The co-owner of L&M Arts …

Video

The Meeting of Edgard Varèse and Charlie Paker

March 22, 2017

Special concert led by Peter Evans, in celebration of the exhibition 'Willem de Kooning | Zao Wou-Ki.'

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