Willem Kooning (de) |1904 - 1997 , Born in Rotterdam

Willem de Kooning, born on 24 April 1904 in Rotterdam and died on 19 March 1997 in East Hampton, was a Dutch painter, naturalised as an American citizen, and a founder of abstract expressionism. He studied at Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques and then in Brussels.  In 1926, at the age of 21, he set off as a stowaway for the United States and settled in New York where he earned his living with various odd jobs. Discovering the artists’ quarter, Greenwich Village, he became acquainted with leading American abstract artists and devoted himself entirely to painting. In 1937 he added the ‘de’ to his name to make it more distinctive. De Kooning categorically refused to be part of any art movement, saying : « Style is a fraud (…) Trying to attain a distinct style from scratch, like Van Doesberg or Mondrian, is a horrible idea. »  He was, however, associated with the development of abstract expressionism. In 1950 he produced a series called « Women », including a study of Marilyn Monroe, followed by a series on the American Black people. In 1961, he moved into a large studio in East Hampton.

In 1989 he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease causing increasing incapacity, however he continued to produce paintings that were exhibited, and he died in 1997 at the age of 92. An art school in his home town Rotterdam bears his name : The Willem de Kooning Academie. In 2012, the Museum of Modern Art in New York organised the largest ever retrospective of his work, with more than 200 works of art.

  • Untitled XLIII 1983