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Willem de Kuning
Willem de
United States 1904−1997
Biography and information
Willem de Kooning (niderl. Willem de Kooning 24 April 1904, Rotterdam, Netherlands — March 19, 1997, East HAMPTON, new York, USA) was an American artist of Dutch origin, is considered one of the founders of abstract expressionism. At the age of 22 years old, illegally migrated to the US almost all my life I lived in new York. Achieved recognition during his lifetime, has organized solo exhibitions in museums and galleries in the United States. In the twenty-first century paintings de Kooning was sold for a record amount.

Features of the artist Willem de Kooning: worked in a variety of techniques, ranging from woodcuts and finishing projects muralov, were constantly experimenting with materials. However, the greatest contribution to American painting are the works of de Kooning, painted in the style of abstract expressionism, as well as a series of "Women".

Famous paintings of Willem de Kooning:"Woman I","Woman III", "Exchange", "The police newspaper", "Door to the river".

Position in life of Willem de Kooning was simple and complex at the same time: "You have to change to stay the same". His whole life seems to have been subordinated to this paradoxical rule. Unlike other artists in the works of de Kooning there is no work that could be called his "calling card". The division of painting styles he considered cheating and is not officially belonged to any artistic movement. Following their own inspiration, the artist in fact is constantly changing, experimenting with subjects, techniques and materials, and still managed to remain the same, holding on to the narrow limits of the "classical" painting.

Artist vs painting

First job Willem Kooning (the prefix "de" he will add to his name much later) got in 12 years. Being the son of divorced parents, Willem, it seems, felt the need for independence and found the opportunity to provide a modest, but regular income. Even then, he decided to connect his life with the "visual artist" and was hired as an assistant in a company engaged in interior design.

Around the same time the young artist recorded on evening courses at the Rotterdam Academy of arts and crafts (in 1998 the school was renamed in honor of Willem de Kooning). Training caused Willem mixed feelings. On the one hand, here was done a certain rate to the utility inherent in the newly formed group "De Stijl". Students were taught drawing and the basics of painting, but also design, and printing. But at a time when throughout the rest of Europe broke patterns and crumbling stereotypes when rattled abstractionism, cubism and later surrealism, teachers of the Rotterdam Academy admired by artists of the Barbizon school. De Kooning later recalled that even then painting that seemed to him something horribly archaic: "To be a contemporary artist had nothing to do with the desire of becoming a painter".

In 1920, de Kooning hired as an assistant to the artistic decorator and designer Bernard the Romaine. At this time he already began to write in free from work hours, but early paintings of the artist, unfortunately, remained very small ("Portrait Of Rene", "Still life (Bowl, pitcher and mug)", "Saleswoman of flowers"). Four years later, de Kooning interrupts the training for a trip to Belgium, where he attends classes at the Royal Academy of fine arts in Brussels, earning a living advertising orders. After returning home, the artist received a diploma from the Academy of arts and crafts. And here he was faced with the big question: where to go? The answer was a surprise even for the most de Kooning — New Light.


In 1948 at the Charles Egan Gallery in Manhattan hosted the first solo exhibition of Willem de Kooning. For the artist, who after moving to the States was forced to work as a house painter, a carpenter and a window dresser, and in the years of the great Depression and did almost lead a miserable existence because of its position on the illegal immigrant, this event was a major step. Soon after the exhibition, de Kooning begins to sell his paintings for large sums, and in 1951 received the prize from the Art Institute of Chicago for large-scale abstract painting "Excavations". This painting, many art critics consider to be one of the most important works in American art of the twentieth century.

When looking at paintings by de Kooning created the impression that his imagination was in a constant search, constant motion. In the 30's and early 40's in his work he often refers to anthropomorphic forms (for example, writes a series of single male figures (1, 2), then completely switches to abstract painting, creating a series of black and white works ("Dark pond", "Picture"). And in the early 50's suddenly gorosave the audience and critics for its famous "Women."

The creation the first picturethat was the beginning of the most controversial and ambiguous of the series in the artist, it took him about two years. All this time de Kooning was altered almost six-foot canvas, making a canvas for new and new changes and not being satisfied with the result. In the end, the artist just ripped the painting off the wall and gave up working on it for a few months.

"Women" was first published in 1953, the exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery and caused a sensation. First, due to the fact that de Kooning returned to figurative painting, while his supporters (at that time the artist was already considered to be abstract expressionists) carefully moved away from her. Moreover, these studies have been embodied, it seemed, all the darkest sexual fears of mankind. Women of de Kooning, with their broken limbs, predatory grinning teeth and empty eyes, frightened and fascinated at the same time.

Sex, painting and alcohol

Elaine fried admired the paintings of de Kooning’s long before personal acquaintance with the artist. Their first encounter in a Manhattan café staged teacher Elaine. At that time the girl was barely 18 years old, de Kooning was 34. The artist decided to mentor a young ambitious fried, but the relationship quickly beyond work. De Kooning was a strict and demanding teacher, he repeatedly forced the girl to alter the drawings to get more accurate or correct silhouette shadows, ruthlessly destroying unsuccessful from his point of view work. However, this approach, according to Elaine, it was not discouraged, but rather encouraged to work smarter, more accurate, and sleeker.

In 1943, Willem and Elaine were married, and the loft de Kooning became their shared home and Studio. Joint life de O was rather strange from the point of view of accepted norms. As we would say today, they lived in an "open marriage," quietly treating periodic hook-UPS each other and the sex in principle. Elaine started the novels with friends and acquaintances of her husband, which, among other things, helped the development of his career. De Kooning, too, did not lack for female attention. One of the mistresses, Joan ward, even gave birth to his daughter.

But painting the same views on marital fidelity were the only two "pillars" that held this strange marriage. The third was alcohol. In the end, it was the alcohol finally shattered the fragile structure that has managed to survive for nearly 15 years. In 1957 the couple separated. Elaine remained in new York almost without a livelihood, and de Kooning was plunged into depression and after some time moved to long island. They lived apart for almost 20 years, it does not find it necessary to divorce, and then unexpectedly reunited and lived together until the death of Elaine from lung cancer in 1989.

Return home

When in July 1926, Willem de Kooning stepped off the boat in Virginia, he was disappointed. In their dreams, the artist painted the image of a very different America, with skyscrapers, noisy streets and endless traffic. Here he waited "some kind of Netherlands, a flat country, similar to the one I just left". New York also fully embodied the "American dream" by de Kooning.

However, after years of living in the heart of the Big Apple artist suddenly decided to settle down in a quiet East HAMPTON on long island. De Kooning designed his house and Studio and actively participated in the construction. The building was filled with light, and as if hovering above the ground, with a roof resembling the wings of a butterfly. When the artist in 1971, he finally settled in the new house, his work again began to change. The light and landscapes in East HAMPTON resembled de Kooning about his native Holland, and he began to paint abstract landscapes ("The North Atlantic light", "Untitled V").

Color in the works of the artist softened, became fluid. He is again experimenting with materials, adding to paint water and safflower oil, making them more liquid and sliding, and at the same time turning them in a very complex substance.

In 1984, Willem de Kooning officially retired, and in 1991 wrote his last picture. Two years before Elaine died, and nine he was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Memories began to slip away from the artist along with images that he could transfer to canvas. Every year de Kooning worked less, the demand for his early work only increased. In 1989 work "Exchange"was bought for $ 20.6 million, setting a record for highest price for a work of art sold during the artist’s life. In 2015, it’s the canvas unofficially broke a new record, having gone in Fund billionaire Ken Griffin’s approximately 300 million (the same cost the most expensive at that time painting in the world — "When's the wedding?"Of Paul Gauguin).

At the time chief creative triumph as de Kooning is already so deteriorated that the court officially recognized him as incapable. The only daughter of artist Lisa took care of him until his death 19 March 1997.

Author: Eugene Sidelnikov
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Andrey Poleshko

Last year, there were no exorbitant amounts at the auctions like  "Savior of the World" by Leonardo da Vinci, sold for $ 450.3 million in 2017. But in the top 10 most expensive works sold by auction, there are new world records for major artists. The total amount paid for the top ten lots of the outgoing year is about 915 million 157 thousand 400 dollars. It's impressive, isn't it?
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Willem de Kuning. Woman as Landscape
Woman as Landscape
Willem de Kuning
1955, 166.3×125.4 cm
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Whole feed
Artworks by the artist
total 167 artworks
Willem de Kuning. Woman III
Woman III
1953, 172.7×123.2 cm
Willem de Kuning. Valentine's day
Valentine's day
1947, 92.2×61.5 cm
Willem de Kuning. Untitled (Two women)
Untitled (Two women)
1947, 50.8×40.6 cm
Willem de Kuning. Standing man
Standing man
1942, 104.3×87.1 cm
Willem de Kuning. Woman. Fragment
Woman. Fragment
Willem de Kuning. Woman
Willem de Kuning. Woman
1954, 65.4×49.8 cm
Willem de Kuning. Two figures in a landscape
Two figures in a landscape
Willem de Kuning. Untitled XX
Untitled XX
1977, 203.2×177.8 cm
View 167 artworks by the artist