1904-1997 Dutch born, one of the 20th Century Painters, spent most of his life in America

Born in Rotterdam, he apprinticed in commercial art from the time he was 12 till he was 20. He had formal training at the Rotterdam Academy. In 1926, he stowed away on a boat headed for New York. There he worked as a sign painter and house painter to make a living. In 1935, he got involved with the Federal Art Project designed to help artists caught in the Great Depression.

He met and made fast friends with Arshile Gorky, whose work became an influence in Willem's own paintings. In his early career, the subject was clothed men. Some of this was inspired by Gorky, Pablo Picasso and others. In 1935, he was employed in the mural and easel divisions of the Works Projects Administration Federal Art Project

He was very much a part of the New York Art world in the early 20th Century. He was married to artist Elaine De Kooning and in many references it's always "Willem and Elaine De Kooning." He first painted in the Cubist style. One of the leaders of Abstract Expressionism and also part of Action Painting, he and Jackson Pollock were rivals. Spent some time at Black Mountain College because John Cage invited him there. He used the media of printmaking. de Kooning and Pollock were among a number of artists who were 'discovered' and represented by Peggy Guggenheim.

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His work is held in the permanent collection of many institutions, including:

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He developed Alzeimers in later life, yet continued to produce new work. He died in 1997.

Sources: http://www.si.edu/i+d/dekooning.html http://art-meets-art.net/art/willem-de-kooning.html Last Updated 05.01.04

Renown abstract artist Willem de Kooning was born on April 24, 1904 in Rotterdam. His parents separated when he was 5 and he lived with his father for while (they were very close) until his mother forced de Kooning to live with her. He showed interest in art early on and began taking classes at the Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques by age 12. He graduated as a certified artist in 1925.

The following year he migrated to the United States and lived first in Hoboken, New Jersey (while there he worked as a house painter) and then moving to New York City in 1927. The next decade of his life he spent earning a living as a muralist and sign painter, honing his skills in his personal craft in the evening and on weekends. During these years he met people such as Stuart Davis and John Graham. His first “group” exhibition took place in 1936 at the Museum of Modern Art, after having worked for two years on the Federal Art Project of the W.P.A. De Kooning’s first gallery exhbition was also part of a group show, held in New York in 1942 when he was 38 years of age.

During the 1930s, both de Kooning’s abstract and figurative work was mostly influenced by Cubism and Surrealism; the work of Picasso and Arshile Gorky in particular. In 1938 he first began his series focusing on women, which would become thereafter a recurring theme in his work. In the 1940s he began working with fellow artist who would form the New York School and become known as Abstract Expressionists. This group — which included Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still — were quite prominent in the 1940s and 50s and were considered the first truly American avant-garde. He did not have his first one-person show until 1948, which took place at the Egan Gallery in New York, and this helped to establish de Kooning as a major artist.

De Kooning married painter Elaine Marie Fried in December of 1942. Over the years the couple often seperated, living apart for extended periods of time, though they spent more time together towards the end of his life. After de Kooning’s Women of the early 1950s, he focused on creating abstract urban and rural landscapes, then returned to painting women in the 1960s. In 1968 he visited the Netherlands for the first time since 1926 and opened a retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam. He created first sculpture pieces, which were modeled in clay and later cast in bronze, in 1969 — and during the early 1970s the artist began a series of life-size figures.

Though his work may appear spontaneously created, de Kooning actually spent months on a single piece quite often. Art critic Harold Rosenberg applied the term "action painting” for the first time to de Kooning’s passionate slashes of color and busy backgrounds. His later work focused primarily on employment of color and light; by the 1980s de Kooning’s style took simpler forms, in which he worked most often with orange, blue and red hues. In this work he took much of his inspiration from Matisse.

Eduardo Chillida and Willem de Kooning received the Andrew W. Mellon Prize in 1979. He resided at East Hampton, Long Island from 1963 on. In 1997 de Kooning was honored with a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He had been a hard drinker throughout the majority of his life but stopped drinking alcohol during his later years. The artist developed Alzheimer’s in the 1980s, forced to quit his artistic endeavors in 1986, and died on Long Island on March 19, 1997.

On a personal note — for most of my life I never found great interest in abstract painting. During the past few years, however, I’ve developed a fondness for some of the work- particularly pieces by de Kooning and Basquiat. I intend to look at more of de Kooning’s work in the future, since so far all his pieces have struck me with intense emotions. Check out his strikingly powerful art if you get the chance.

Help for this node came from brain-juice.com.

The subject of the Manic Street Preachers song "Interiors (A Song for Willem De Kooning)", which is track number ten on the 1996 album "Everything Must Go". It is one of the seven or so tracks on the album penned by bassist Nicky Wire, and not by recently disappeared guitarist Richey Edwards (although one of Edward's lyrical contributions to the album was on the song "Kevin Carter", the South African Pulitzer Prize winning photographer).

The song outlines Wire's respect for the artists ability - 'who sees the interiors, like young Willem once did?', as well as making reference to his struggle with Alzheimers - 'now you seem to forget it so much'.

The result is music that goes from cheery and choppy on the verses to downright melancholic and wistful on the choruses. The notions of escape and remembering the past are major themes in Wire's lyrics, and the music set by Moore and Bradfield mixes picky guitar riffs with dreamy synths in an attempt to create in music what de Kooning managed with his art (judgement left to any prospective listeners on whether they manage to achieve this).

This song was not released as a single.

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