Known as one of the most renowned abstract expressionist in the history of art, Willem de Kooning has influenced numerous artists during his time and even years after his death.
Willem de Kooning was a Dutch American artist who was born in North Rotterdam on April 24, 1904. His father was Leendert de Kooning, and his mother was Cornelia Nobel. Throughout his childhood, he became closer to his mother after the divorce of his parents.
As a young boy, he became acquainted to the arts, and eventually pursued professional art training at the Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques. To practice his artistic skills, he found employment at a department store in Rotterdam, where he worked as an art director.
Afterwards, he decided to migrate to the United States, in 1926. While in a foreign land, he was fortunate enough to be among the 38 artists who were invited to take part in the painting of 105 murals during the New York World's Fair, in 1939.
Inspired by an artist named Arshile Gorky, he decided to create a series of paintings that featured male subjects. These artworks included Seated Figure and Two Men Standing. Aside from being
fascinated with these themes, he also made some abstract paintings including Elegy and Pink Landscape. His love for abstract art moved him to create more masterpieces such as the Pink Angels,
which was among his well-loved paintings.
As the years progressed, de Kooning became more and more interested in abstract artworks, which made him among the key personalities in the Abstract Expressionist Movement in the 1940s. By 1948, the artist featured his very first art exhibitions, and most of his artworks included compositions in black and white enamel paintings. The exhibit was held in New York, at the Charles Egan Gallery.
His love for black and white enamels started in 1946, as he barely had enough resources to buy professional artists' pigments. Despite that financial concern, he was able to produce fine artworks including Black Friday and Light in August, which included black and white elements. As for his other masterpieces entitled Mailbox and Zurich, these were largely white with a hint of black. It was also during the late 1940s that he began to paint more complex abstract works. These included Attic, Excavation, and Asheville.
The greatest technique that made de Kooning more popular was his use of complex figures, which introduced a hint of ambiguity. In addition, some background figures were observed to overlap some other elements in the painting, which gave them an image as though they were appearing in the foreground.
Use of Different Subjects
Beginning the early 1940s, de Kooning often made use of women as his common subjects. However, it was in the 1950s when he became more fascinated with presenting women in his artworks. In fact,
among his finest works included Woman I, which was on exhibit in new York's Museum of Modern Art. This painting has undergone numerous changes until it was completed fully in 1952.
By 1953, he continued to present women in most of his paintings. These artworks were on display at the Sidney Janis Gallery, and his masterpieces became somewhat of a sensation because of his use of imagery. For instance, he experimented on aggressive brushwork, and he focused on putting greater emphasis on certain areas in his paintings such as large breasts, exaggerrated extremeties and other features that revealed a man's typical sexual inhibitions.
The explosive nature of de Kooning's work tells us that it is an art of struggle, that its source is both painful and personal, obviously based on feeling over intellect and very probably stemming from some "primal event" (as Sigmund Freud might term it) in his early life, or series of events, so traumatizing that the artist was forced to thrust them into his unconscious, and has spent a lifetime trying to keep a lid on them, only to have the unconscious contents violently erupt countless times in his paintings.
Works During the 1950s
Before the 1960s, de Kooning's masterpieces were more inspired by natural landscape, and he started to move gradually from featuring human figures. Some of his best works that included landscapes
as his subjects included Door to the River and Bolton Landing. These paintings had broader brushstrokes that gave his works a more intense appeal.
By the early 1960s, de Kooning began to combine women and landscape as his subjects. Moreover, he began to explore his fascination with sculpting, which led him to create a total of 13 clay s culptures that depicted women as the subject, just like in his paintings.
In the 1980s, de Kooning became quite active as an artist, which led him to create over 300 canvases. However, he began to show signs of health issues such as dementia symptoms. In fact, he was diagnosed to have the great probability of developing Alzheimer's disease. When his wife died in 1989, his daughter and his lawyers were assigned to have full guardianship of the aging artist.
Throughout the life of de Kooning, he was able to reap numerous achievements in the field of art. One of his first accomplishments was when he had a first show in 1948, at New York's Charles
Egan Gallery. Several of his works were also on display at the Whitney Museum of American Art, National Gallery of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.
De Kooning was also awarded by President Lyndon Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, in 1964. Other awards that he received included the National Medal of Arts, and the Andrew W. Mellon Prize, which was given to him and Eduardo Chillida.
As for the style of his works during the latter years of his life, he was able to present a significant different between his early masterpieces and his paintings during the late 1980s. More people became fascinated with his special art techniques, which led to an increase in his profits. For instance, his painting entitled Woman III was priced at $137.5 million. This was also noted as the second most expensive artworks that was sold in 2006.
This was the life of Willem de Kooning, an exceptional artist who has introduced novel art techniques, which made him among the most respected artists throughout the world.