Willem de Kooning

Dutch-American painter, born in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

He worked in a commercial art firm and attended art evening classes before emigrating to New York in 1926.

In the mid 1940s he emerged as, with Pollock, the creator of American abstract expressionism.

For years he had painted figures, balancing an Ingres-like conception of form with an anti-classical view of the painting as a dialogue between painter, materials and marks.

John Ciraham and Gorky guided him towards a style of spontaneity and risk.

By 1945 his figures were spread across the canvas as fragments of anatomy close to abstraction. His first solo exhibition, in 1948, was of black-on-white and white-on-black paintings, suggesting anatomies but seen principally as energetic and impassioned brushstrokes. The control and taste demanded by them has become more apparent over time.

Recognized by the end of the 1940s as a key figure in the new painting, De Kooning shocked his admirers in 1953 bv showing figure paintings again, crude images of big women that marked him a traitor to the movement. Time has shown that they represent a fusion of his earlier figure painting with his more expressive manner; the humor in them is still admitted only reluctantly.

From about 1955 on, he also painted grandiose quasi-abstract landscape images in resonant colours. Figures and places have continued to be his themes.

In 1969, he began to make figure sculptures, clay coagulations which take tin great presence in bronze and, like the painted women of about 1952, hover precariously between joke and awesome monument.

The vividness and brilliant management of his work have kept it in the forefront of American art. Since the later 1950s, Kooning was an international star, exhibiting solo and in mixed exhibitions around the world.

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