De Kooning, Willem

1904-1997
De Kooning, Willem Biography

Dutch-born American painter, whose artwork is characterized by energetic brushstrokes and twisted forms. De Kooning was a leading member of the abstract expressionism movement, which sought to capture the spontaneous and often vigorous act of oil painting through the artist’s personal gestures.
De Kooning was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. From 1916 onward he received classical instruction in drawing and oil painting at the Rotterdam Academie and at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, Belgium. He emmigrated to the United States in 1926, and settled in New York City in 1927.
In the early 1950s de Kooning used slashing strokes of color to create a series of oil paintings of women. In many of these art works, an imposing framework of angular shapes conceals a violently distorted figure with exaggerated female features. His oil paintings of women shocked many feminists, who interpreted his colliding brushstrokes as a gesture of violence toward the female body. But de Kooning related his oil paintings of women to prehistoric fertility figures.
De Kooning's art always hovers between figuration and abstraction. Easter Monday (1956, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City) combines abstract brushstrokes with recognizable lettering and photographs of human figures
In the early 1960s de Kooning’s compositions opened up, with long, wide swaths of color that evoked landscape forms. By the 1970s his canvases had become more densely congested with brushstrokes. De Kooning produced simpler and more lyrical artworks in the 1980s, which featured loops and twisting lines of orange, blue, or red on bare white surfaces.

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