Willem de Kooning

Willem de Kooning

Willem de Kooning, Woman V (1952-53), National Gallery of Australia
Born April 24, 1904(1904-04-24)
Rotterdam, Netherlands
Died March 19, 1997(1997-03-19) (aged 92)
Long Island, New York United States
Nationality Dutch, American
Field Abstract expressionism
Works Woman I, Easter Monday, Attic, Excavation

Willem de Kooning (April 24, 1904 – March 19, 1997) was a Dutch American abstract expressionist artist who was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

In the post-World War II era, de Kooning painted in a style that came to be referred to as Abstract expressionism or Action painting, and was part of a group of artists that came to be known as the New York School. Other painters in this group included Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Arshile Gorky, Mark Rothko, Hans Hofmann, Adolph Gottlieb, Robert Motherwell, Philip Guston and Clyfford Still.

In September 2011 de Kooning's work was honored with a large-scale retrospective exhibition: de Kooning: A Retrospective September 18, 2011–January 9, 2012 at MoMA in New York City. Organized by John Elderfield it's the first major museum exhibition devoted to the full breadth and depth of de Kooning's career, containing nearly 200 works.

Contents

Biography

De Kooning's parents, Leendert de Kooning and Cornelia Nobel, were divorced when he was about five years old, and he was raised by his mother and stepfather.[1] His early artistic training included eight years at the Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques.[2] In the 1920s he worked as an assistant to the art director of a Rotterdam department store.[3] de Kooning was one of the thirty-eight artists chosen from a general invitation to New York City metropolitan artists to design and paint the 105 public murals at the 1939 New York World’s Fair.[4]

In 1938, probably under the influence of Arshile Gorky, de Kooning embarked on a series of male figures, including Two Men Standing, Man, and Seated Figure (Classic Male), while simultaneously embarking on a more purist series of lyrically colored abstractions, such as Pink Landscape and Elegy. As his work progressed, the heightened colors and elegant lines of the abstractions began to creep into the more figurative works, and the coincidence of figures and abstractions continued well into the 1940s. This period includes the representational but somewhat geometricized Woman and Standing Man, along with numerous untitled abstractions whose biomorphic forms increasingly suggest the presence of figures. By about 1945 the two tendencies seemed to fuse perfectly in Pink Angels.

In 1938, de Kooning met Elaine Marie Fried, later known as Elaine de Kooning, whom he married in 1943. She also became a significant artist. During the 1940s, he became increasingly identified with the Abstract Expressionist movement and was recognized as one of its leaders into the mid-1950s, while notoriously stating: "It is disastrous to name ourselves."[3] In 1948, de Kooning had his first one-man show, which consisted of his black-and-white enamel compositions, at the Charles Egan Gallery in New York. He taught at Black Mountain College in North Carolina in 1948 and at the Yale School of Art in 1950/51. In 1950, de Kooning was one of 17 prominent Abstract Expressionists and avant-garde artists to sign an open letter to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art accusing it of hostility towards “advanced art.”[5]

The Willem de Kooning estate is represented by The Pace Gallery.

Mature works

The attitude that nature is chaotic and that the artist puts order into it is a very absurd point of view, I think. All that we can hope for is to put some order into ourselves.
 
— Willem de Kooning [6]

In 1946, too poor to buy artists' pigments, he turned to black and white household enamels to paint a series of large abstractions; of these works, Light in August (c. 1946) and Black Friday (1948) are essentially black with white elements, whereas Zurich (1947) and Mailbox (1947/48) are white with black. Developing out of these works in the period after his first show were complex, agitated abstractions such as Asheville (1948/49), Attic (1949), and Excavation (1950; Art Institute of Chicago), which reintroduced color and seem to sum up with taut decisiveness the problems of free-associative composition he had struggled with for many years.

The hallmark of de Kooning's style was an emphasis on complex figure ground ambiguity. Background figures would overlap other figures causing them to appear in the foreground, which in turn might be overlapped by dripping lines of paint thus positioning the area into the background.

De Kooning had painted women regularly in the early 1940s and again from 1947 to 1949. The biomorphic shapes of his early abstractions were derived from objects found in the studio. But it was not until 1950 that he began to explore the subject of women exclusively. In the summer of that year he began Woman I (located at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City), which went through innumerable metamorphoses before it was finished in 1952.

Woman III, (1953), private collection

During this period he also created other paintings of women. These works were shown at the Sidney Janis Gallery in 1953 and caused a sensation, partially because they were figurative when most of his fellow Abstract Expressionists were painting abstractly, but also because of their blatant imagery. Aggressive brushwork and strategically placed high-key colors in these paintings merged with images of toothy snarls, overripe, pendulous breasts, enlarged eyes and blasted extremities to reveal a woman seemingly congruent with some of modern man's most widely held sexual fears. Some of these paintings also appeared to reference early Mesopotamian / Akkadian works, with the large eyes and squarely chiseled bodies.

The Woman paintings II through VI (1952–53) are all variants on this theme, as are Woman and Bicycle (1953; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York) and Two Women in the Country (1954). The deliberate vulgarity of these paintings contrast with the French painter Jean Dubuffet's Corps de Dame series of 1950, in which iconic female/goddess imagery was created with a topography of earth colours, and are generally perceived as less provocative.

From the late 1950s to the early 1960s, De Kooning entered a new phase of nearly pure abstractions more related to landscape than to the human figure. These paintings, such as Bolton Landing (1957) and Door to the River (1960) bear broad brushstrokes and calligraphic tendencies similar to works of his contemporary Franz Kline.

In 1963, De Kooning moved permanently to East Hampton, Long Island,[7] and returned to depicting women while also referencing the landscape in such paintings as Woman, Sag harbor and Clam Diggers. He also turned to sculpture in later years, creating a number of works that were later cast in bronze.

De Kooning as sculptor: Seated Woman on a Bench, bronze of 1972 (cast 1976), in the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

On September 14, 1964, De Kooning was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Lyndon Johnson. In 1986, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.

In later years, de Kooning was diagnosed with the probability of suffering from Alzheimer's disease.[3] After his wife Elaine died on February 1, 1989, his daughter, Lisa, and his lawyers, Lee and John Eastman were granted guardianship over De Kooning.[3] As the style of his later works continued to evolve into early 1989, his vintage works drew increasing profits; at Sotheby's auctions Pink Lady (1944) sold for US$3.6 million in 1987 and Interchange (1955) brought $20.6 million in 1989. In November 2006, Kooning's Woman III was sold by David Geffen to Steven A. Cohen for $137.5 million, making it the second most expensive painting ever sold.

There is much debate over the significance of his 1980s paintings, which became clean, sparse, and almost graphic, while alluding to the biomorphic lines of his early works. Some have said that his very last works present a new direction of compositional complexity and color juxtaposition, and are prophetic of directions that some current painters continue to pursue. Some speculate that his mental condition and years of alcoholism had rendered him unable to carry out the mastery indicated in his early works. Others claim some of these paintings were removed from the studio and exhibited before de Kooning was finished with them. Unfortunately, de Kooning's last works have not been afforded the amount of critical commentary or substantial serious assessment that his earlier works received.[8]

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Willem de Kooning, Britannica.com, p1
  2. ^ Marcia Brennan, Modernism's Masculine Subjects: Matisse, the New York School, and Post-Painterly Abstraction, MIT Press, p71. ISBN 026202571X
  3. ^ a b c d Barbara Hess, Willem de Kooning 1904-1997: Content as a Glimpse, Taschen, 2004, p87. ISBN 3822821357
  4. ^ Monaghan, Frank, ed (1939). Official Guide Book of the New York World's Fair 1939. New York: Exposition Publications, Inc.. pp. 30–31. 
  5. ^ Grimes, William (April 11, 2011). "Hedda Sterne, an Artist of Many Styles, Dies at 100". New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/12/arts/design/hedda-sterne-artist-of-many-styles-dies-at-100.html?_r=1&ref=obituaries. Retrieved 18 April 2011. 
  6. ^ Abstract Expressionism, by Barbara Hess, Taschen, 2005, pg 15
  7. ^ Willem de Kooning at Encyclopædia Britannica
  8. ^ Perl, Jed (2011-11-03). "The Abstract Imperfect". The New Republic. http://www.tnr.com/article/art/magazine/96121/the-abstract-imperfect. Retrieved 19 October 2011. 

References

External links


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  • Willem de Kooning — (* 24. April 1904 in Rotterdam; † 19. März 1997 in Springs, Long Island, New York) war ein US amerikanischer Maler niederländischer Herkunft. Er war einer der bedeutendsten Vertreter des Abstrakten Expressionismus und gilt neben Jackson Pollock… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Willem de Kooning — Willem [de] Kooning, né le 24 avril 1904 à Rotterdam et mort le 19 mars 1997 à Long Island (New York), est un peintre d origine néerlandaise, naturalisé américain, initiateur de l expressionnisme abstrait. De Kooning est un peintre de figures, de …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Willem de Kooning — (Rotterdam; 24 de abril de 1904 Long Island; 19 de marzo de 1997); pintor neerlandés nacionalizado estadounidense. En los años posteriores a la Segunda Guerra Mundial, de Kooning pintó dentro del movimiento del expresionismo abstracto, y dentro… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Willem De Kooning — Willem [de] Kooning, né le 24 avril 1904 à Rotterdam et mort le 19 mars 1997 à East Hampton, était un peintre néerlandais naturalisé américain, initiateur de l expressionnisme abstrait. Sommaire 1 Biographie 2 Œuvres …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Willem de Kooning — (1904 1997). Pintor estadounidense de origen holandés, perteneciente al expresionismo abstracto, que ha tenido una enorme influencia de ámbito internacional en los estilos artísticos posteriores. Junto a Jackson Pollock, es el artista más… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Willem de Kooning — noun United States painter (born in the Netherlands) who was a leading American exponent of abstract expressionism (1904 1997) • Syn: ↑de Kooning • Instance Hypernyms: ↑painter * * * Willem de Kooning [Willem de Kooning] …   Useful english dictionary

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  • Willem de Kooning Academie — Die Willem de Kooning Academie ist eine 1773 unter dem Namen Hierdoor tot Hooger in Rotterdam gegründete Kunstakademie. 1998 erhielt sie ihren heutigen Namen in Erinnerung an den Künstler Willem de Kooning. bekannte Absolventen Henk de… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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