Willem de Kooning

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Willem de Kooning is the man who radically changed the concept of art; suddenly a painting became much more than just a mere painting under de Kooning. It is regarded as an evolutionary change in the history of art, and one which is universally accepted, that with de Kooning one witnessed an innovative and heroic era of painting. De Kooning’s style falls into the Abstract Expressionism category, and he dealt in his signature vigorous motion style of painting. Many referred to de Kooning’s work as Action painting as well due to their vivid display. The Dutch born American raised De Kooning also became associated with a group called the New York School which consisted of other great artists including Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Franz Kline, Hans Hoffman, Adolph Gottlieb, Anne Ryan, Philip Guston and Clyfford Still to name a few.

Willem de Kooning was born on April 24, 1904 in Rotterdam, Netherlands into a working class family. De Kooning’s working class background instilled in him a deep work ethic and determination which is translated into his works. De Kooning was also someone who was very perceptive; this can be seen very clearly in some of his masterpieces. Due to moments where he doubted himself, de Kooning worked twice as hard as any other artist to deliver one wonderful work after another which is why he is regarded today is one of 20th century’s most influential and charismatic artists. A young de Kooning moved to New York in his early twenties which only further instigated his love for art. In his paintings there is a clear depiction of the culture clash de Kooning went through from his move from Europe to America – at one point there is the gentle European imagery and the other is the flashy and equally brash American way. Both cultures meshed together beautifully in de Kooning’s work. In De Kooning’s Rosy – Fingered Dawn at Louse Point, he exhibited a master class of colorful blending with his signature vigorous style. Named after one of de Kooning’s favourite procrastinating spots in New York, the Louse Point, the painting is an expanse of colors and space. Deep in pastel colors, the painting contains complex angles and is driven by de Kooning’s memory and is quite intuitive. De Kooning always insisted there is a women present in this painting somewhere, and if there is then the figure is lost in the neutral colors.

De Kooning became well known for his portraits of women, which then ventured off into landscapes. It is truly astonishing that de Kooning continued to paint well into his 80s even when his health was plagued by Alzheimer’s. While painting women, his work was found to be generally vague and with very unclear outlines, as in the case of Woman I. Woman I is de Kooning’s most interesting and famous painting, it took de Kooning two years to finish the painting. The main figure of the woman in the painting gives a very aggressive and assertive stance. Almost threatening in a way, so tough were de Kooning’s brush strokes that the paintings reportedly had holes in the canvas. In this painting the woman’s figure is clearly visible but it is summed up in de Kooning’s signature style with wide angles and deep thick dark colors. De Kooning is a firm believer in having a painting contain all elements including anger, emotion, drama, love and above all his ideas.

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