Willem de Kooning was born April 24, 1904, in Rotterdam. From 1916 to 1925, he attended evening classes at the Academie van Beeldende Kunsten en Technische Wetenschappen in Rotterdam, while apprenticing at a furniture factory and later with an art director. In 1924 he visited museums in Belgium and continued his studies in Brussels and Antwerp. De Kooning traveled to the United States in 1926 and settled in New York in 1927, where he met Stuart Davis, Arshile Gorky, and John Graham. He was involved in various commercial-art and odd jobs until 1935–36, when he was employed in the mural and easel divisions of the WPA Federal Art Project. From then on he dedicated himself entirely to painting. During the 1930s, his work had a great affinity with that of his friends John Graham and Arshile Gorky, reflecting the influence of Pablo Picasso and Jean Miró.

In 1938, de Kooning started his first series, titled Women, a subject that became a recurrent theme in his art. During the 1940s, he participated in group shows with other artists who formed the New York School. De Kooning’s first solo show, which took place at the Egan Gallery, New York, in 1948, established his reputation as a major artist; it included a number of black-and-white abstract works started in 1946. The Women of the early 1950s were followed by abstract urban landscapes, Parkways, rural landscapes, and, in the 1960s, a new series of Women.

In 1968, de Kooning visited the Netherlands for the first time since 1926 for the opening of his retrospective at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. In Rome in 1969, he executed his first sculptures—figures modeled in clay and later cast in bronze—and in 1970–71 he began a series of life-size figures. In 1974 the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, organized a show of de Kooning’s drawings and sculptures that traveled throughout the United States, and in 1978 the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York held an exhibition of his recent work. In 1979, de Kooning and Eduardo Chillida received the Andrew W. Mellon Prize, which was accompanied by an exhibition at the Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh. In 1963 de Kooning settled in The Springs, East Hampton, Long Island, where he died March 19, 1997.


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