Willem de Kooning

b. April 24, 1904 and died March 19, 1997

Willem de Kooning was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, where he attended the Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques for eight years. He relocated to the United States in 1924 by becoming a stowaway. De Kooning in 1938 started working on series of male figures (Two Men Standing, Man, and Seated Figure) while also starting on a more purist series (Pink Landscape and Elegy) of lyrically colored abstractions that continued into the 1940s. During this period Willem de Kooning created the representational Woman and Standing Man that was somewhat geometricized along with many untitled abstractions with biomorphic forms that increasingly suggest the presence of figures. Around 1945 the two methods were merged into the Pink Angels sucessfully.

During the 1940's Willem de Kooning became increasingly identified with the Abstract Expressionist movement and in the 1950's was recognized as one of the leaders and he was also a part of the New York School along with Adolph Gottlieb, Mark Rothko, Jackson Pollock, and Robert Motherwell.

The recognizable charachteristic of de Kooning's style was the emphasis on complex figure ground ambiguity. Willem de Kooning's background figures would overlap his other figures causing them to appear in the foreground which in turn may be overlapped by dripping lines of paint which positioned the area into the background. In the 1950's de Kooning began to explore the subjec of women exclusively for example he started that summer with Woman I which went through many changes before it was completed in 1952.

De Kooning's artworks were figurative at a time when his fellow Abstract Expressionists were painting abstractly. The imagery he created used aggressive brushwork, intentionally placed colors, merged with the large eyes and squarely chiseled bodies reminiscent of early Mesopotamian artworks.

Around the late 1950's to early 1960's De Kooning evolved the path of his artwork into pure abstractions that related more to landscapes (Bolton Landing, 1957 and Door to the River, 1960) than to the the human figures. The paintings bore broad brushstrokes and calligraphic tendencies similar to works by Franz Kline.

De Kooning moved to East Hampton, Long Island and returned to depicting women while also refrencing the landscape (Woman, Sag Harbor, and Clam Diggers). He also created a number of works that were later cast in bronze.