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Willem de Kooning

Willem de Kooning, The Privileged (Untitled XX), 1985 Oil on canvas, 70 × 80 inches (177.8 × 203.2 cm)© 2013 The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo by Tim Nighswander/IMAGING4ART

Willem de Kooning, The Privileged (Untitled XX), 1985

Oil on canvas, 70 × 80 inches (177.8 × 203.2 cm)
© 2013 The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, photo by Tim Nighswander/IMAGING4ART

Willem de Kooning, Untitled, 1987 Oil on canvas, 77 × 88 inches (195.6 × 223.5 cm)

Willem de Kooning, Untitled, 1987

Oil on canvas, 77 × 88 inches (195.6 × 223.5 cm)

About

If I stretch my arms next to the rest of myself and wonder where my fingers are—that is all the space I need as a painter.
—Willem de Kooning

Willem de Kooning (1904–1997) was a first-generation member of the New York School, a group of American artists who rose to prominence in the mid- to late 1940s and were noted for their dynamic, “allover” approach to abstract painting. Over a career that spanned seven decades, de Kooning’s singular contributions to abstraction and figuration set him apart from his peers, and his influence drastically shifted the direction of postwar American painting.

Born on April 24, 1904, in Rotterdam, Netherlands, de Kooning enrolled at the Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques at the age of thirteen, while simultaneously working as an apprentice at a commercial and decorative arts firm. He studied drawing at the academy in the evenings, and at the design firm he learned about decorative painting, creating marble and wood-grain patterns, as well as lettering. This multifaceted education equipped him with a unique skill set that would inform his mature art. In 1926 he arrived in the United States, having stowed away on a British freighter, and settled in New York the following year. It was there, on the opposite side of the Atlantic, that he would first encounter European modernism in depth, prompting him to make still lifes inspired by Henri Matisse. He would also soon meet artists Stuart Davis, Arshile Gorky, and John Graham, who would become close friends. In 1935 de Kooning joined the Federal Art Project, part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). The experience led him to pursue painting full time. In these early years in New York, his work fluctuated between biomorphic abstraction and more traditional depictions of the figure, from Depression-era men to classical portraits of his wife, the former Elaine Fried, an artist he married in 1943. This seamless transition between styles and subject matter—and resistance to easy categorization—would become hallmarks of de Kooning’s art throughout his long career.

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Willem de Kooning

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Website

dekooning.org

Fairs, Events & Announcements

Willem de Kooning in his studio, East Hampton, New York, 1971. Artwork © 2022 The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artists Rights Society, New York. Photo: © 2022 The Estate of Dan Budnik. All rights reserved

In Conversation

New Social Environment
Ode to Willem de Kooning

Saturday, March 19, 2022, 4pm EDT

As part of the Brooklyn Rail’s online series New Social Environment, John Elderfield, Joan Levy Hepburn, David Reed, Richard Shiff, Mark Stevens, Robert Storr, Charles Stuckey, Annalyn Swan, Flora Yukhnovich, and Phong H. Bui will be in conversation to celebrate the life and work of Willem de Kooning on the occasion of the twenty-fifth anniversary of his death. De Kooning Foundation executive director Amy Schichtel will introduce the discussion. To join the online event, register at brooklynrail.org.

Willem de Kooning in his studio, East Hampton, New York, 1971. Artwork © 2022 The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artists Rights Society, New York. Photo: © 2022 The Estate of Dan Budnik. All rights reserved

Willem de Kooning, Woman, 1953, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC © 2021 The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Symposium

When New York looks at the School of Paris

Tuesday, November 30, 2021, 4–10am est (10am–4pm cet)

An online symposium will take place in conjunction with the exhibition Chaïm Soutine/Willem de Kooning, la peinture incarnée, currently on view at the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris. At 4:30am est (10:30am cet) John Elderfield, chief curator emeritus of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, will speak with Claire Bernardi, chief curator of paintings at the Musée d’Orsay. The pair will discuss responses to the 1950 MoMA exhibition of Chaïm Soutine’s work as seen in Willem de Kooning’s paintings and in the writings of critic Clement Greenberg. To join the online event, register at www.musee-orangerie.fr.

Willem de Kooning, Woman, 1953, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC © 2021 The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Willem de Kooning, . . . Whose Name Was Writ in Water, 1975, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York © 2021 The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In Conversation

Arthur Lubow and Mark Stevens on “Soutine/de Kooning”

Wednesday, July 14, 2021, 12pm EDT

Join art critics Arthur Lubow and Mark Stevens for a conversation on the occasion of the exhibition Soutine/de Kooning: Conversations in Paint at the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia. The pair will discuss painters Chaïm Soutine (1893–1943) and Willem de Kooning (1904–1997), their respective techniques, and how they pushed the capabilities of oil paint to create surfaces with the tactile, pliable, squirming quality of flesh. To join the online event, register at tickets.barnesfoundation.org.

Willem de Kooning, . . . Whose Name Was Writ in Water, 1975, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York © 2021 The Willem de Kooning Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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Museum Exhibitions

Jordan Wolfson, Female Figure, 2014 © Jordan Wolfson. Photo: Markus Tretter, Kunsthaus Bregenz

Opening this Week

Transformers
Meisterwerke Der Sammlung Frieder Burda Im Dialog Mit Künstlichen Wesen

December 10, 2022–April 30, 2023
Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, Germany
www.museum-frieder-burda.de

This exhibition, whose subtitle translates to Masterpieces of the Frieder Burda Collection in Dialogue with Artificial Beings, offers visitors the opportunity to meet artist-made avatars—human machines that are able to move, talk, and learn—and observe the richness of their movements, language, and responses. By juxtaposing these beings with key works from the museum’s collection, Transformers aims to create multidimensional experiences that reflect our increasingly artificially transformed world. Work by Willem de Kooning, Pablo Picasso, Gerhard Richter, and Jordan Wolfson is included.

Jordan Wolfson, Female Figure, 2014 © Jordan Wolfson. Photo: Markus Tretter, Kunsthaus Bregenz

Installation view, The Whitney’s Collection: Selections from 1900 to 1965, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, June 28, 2019–May 2022. Artwork, left to right: © 2020 The Jay DeFeo Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; © Norman Lewis; © 2020 The Franz Kline Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Ron Amstutz

On View

The Whitney’s Collection
Selections from 1900 to 1965

Opened June 28, 2019
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
whitney.org

This exhibition of more than 120 works, drawn entirely from the Whitney’s collection, is inspired by the founding history of the museum. The Whitney was established in 1930 by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney to champion the work of living American artists. A sculptor and a patron, Whitney recognized both the importance of contemporary American art and the need to support the artists who made it. The collection she assembled foregrounds how artists uniquely reveal the complexity and beauty of American life. Work by Jay DeFeo, Willem de Kooning, Roy Lichtenstein, Man Ray, Ed Ruscha, Andy Warhol, and Tom Wesselmann is included.

Installation view, The Whitney’s Collection: Selections from 1900 to 1965, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, June 28, 2019–May 2022. Artwork, left to right: © 2020 The Jay DeFeo Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; © Norman Lewis; © 2020 The Franz Kline Estate/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Ron Amstutz

Helen Frankenthaler, Beach Scene, 1961, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, New York © 2022 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

On View

Ways of Freedom
Jackson Pollock to Maria Lassnig

Through January 22, 2023
Albertina Modern, Vienna
www.albertina.at

Ways of Freedom examines the creative interplay between Abstract Expressionism and Art Informel in a transatlantic exchange and dialogue from the mid-1940s to the end of the Cold War. Exploring radically impulsive approaches to form, color, and material, the exhibition includes more than ninety works by nearly fifty artists with loans from museums worldwide. This exhibition has traveled from the Museum Barberini in Potsdam, Germany under the title The Shape of Freedom: International Abstraction after 1945Work by Willem de KooningHelen Frankenthaler, and Simon Hantaï is included.

Helen Frankenthaler, Beach Scene, 1961, Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, New York © 2022 Helen Frankenthaler Foundation, Inc./Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Francis Bacon, Study for a Portrait, 1967, installation view, Seattle Art Museum © The Estate of Francis Bacon. Photo: Jueqian Fang

Closed

Frisson
The Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis Collection

October 15, 2021–November 27, 2022
Seattle Art Museum
www.seattleartmuseum.org

This exhibition celebrates the Friday Foundation’s gift of nineteen artworks from the Lang Collection to the Seattle Art Museum in honor of Seattle collectors Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis. Dating from 1945 to 1976, the paintings, drawings, and sculptures in Frisson represent mature works and pivotal moments of artistic development from some of the most influential American and European artists of the postwar period. Work by Francis Bacon, Willem de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler, and Alberto Giacometti is included.  

Francis Bacon, Study for a Portrait, 1967, installation view, Seattle Art Museum © The Estate of Francis Bacon. Photo: Jueqian Fang

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