Willem de Kooning

  • Born 1904 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands
  • Died 1997 in East Hampton, NY, USA
Willem de Kooning attended night classes at the Academie voor Schone Kunsten en technieken (Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques) in Rotterdam while he worked as an apprentice at a design and decoration firm from the age of twelve. He migrated to the United States in 1926, arriving in New York City the following year. De Kooning soon befriended modernists such as Arshile Gorky (1904–1948) and Stuart Davis (1892–1964). During the Great Depression he joined the artists Artists Union (1934) and designed murals for the Federal Art Project (1935). In the late 1940s and early 1950s, he became a leading artist of the highly influential movement alternately labeled as action painting, Abstract Expressionism or the New York School. This new mode of entirely abstract painting was based on emotion, bodily involvement and gesture. His first solo exhibition was held at Charles Egan Gallery in New York in 1948. The critically acclaimed show included his now-famous black-and-white paintings. Despite his early success with abstraction, de Kooning continued to explore new styles, methods and mediums, such as drawing, sculpture and lithography. Inspired by gestural abstraction and Cubism yet attracted by figurative painting, de Kooning embarked on his groundbreaking Woman series in 1950. His 1968 retrospective, organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, traveled to five cities.

Artworks by Willem de Kooning in the exhibition