Willem de Kooning
“The drawings that interest me the most are made with eyes closed. With eyes closed, I feel my hand slide down on the paper. I have an image in mind, but the results always surprise me. Beauty becomes petulant to me. I like the grotesque, it's more joyous”.
Born in 1904 to a working class family in Rotterdam, abstract Expressionist artist Willem de Kooning was celebrated for his exuberant paintings and vivid compositions, merging abstraction and representation. His seven-decade career was filled with continuous experimentation, shifting his style to explore new techniques and forms of expression.
In 1927 De Kooning stowed away on a boat bound for the United States of America in search of an "American" life. Starting as a house painter, De Kooning would go on to become one of America's most influential 20th century artists.
De Kooning was fond of working on paper, as it allowed for an immediacy that appealed to him. In 1953, Willem de Kooning shocked the art world by exhibiting his "Women" paintings which featured aggressively painted figural works and were seen by some as a betrayal of Abstract Expressionist principles. The Women paintings represented a commitment to the figurative tradition when artists like Pollock and Kline were moving away from representational imagery to pure abstraction. MoMa purchased Woman I in 1953, a validation of de Kooning's new experiment.
Throughout his career De Kooning continued to experiment, avoiding stagnation, and often found inspiration in looking to create works based on the many perils and realities of human life. De Kooning continued to work well into his eighties, producing his last work in 1991, before passing in 1997 at the age of 92. Leaving behind a legacy of his own, a synthesis of abstraction and figuration, De Kooning insisted on a freedom of breaking away from the "shoulds" of art to allow the true essence of what he believed lay at the very crux of an artists right to create.
De Kooning found great success in his decades long career and, as such, was awarded many honours including The Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1964. His works have been included in thousands of exhibitions and are in the permanent collections of many of the most exclusive art institutions abroad, including the Tate Modern, the Stedelijk Museum and the National Gallery of Australia, as well as, the Museum of Modern Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., among others.