Willem de Kooning (1904-1997) was a pioneering figure of Abstract Expressionism and one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. Moving seamlessly from figuration to abstraction—and at times working simultaneously in both—de Kooning’s work underwent radical stylistic shifts from decade to decade, continuously evolving and refining.
Born in Rotterdam, de Kooning would become recognized as a leader of the New York school by the 1950s. He studied at the Academie vood Beeldende Kunsten en Technische Wetenschappen, Rotterdamn from 1916-1925 before moving to the US and settling briefly in Hoboken, NJ. In 1927, de Kooning moved to New York. A decade later, de Kooning started his first series of Women in 1938. Heavily influenced by Cubism and Surrealism of Pablo Picasso, he created abstract and figurative works. His first solo show opened at Egan Gallery, New York, in 1948, which solidified his reputation as a major artist. The following decade, de Kooning explored imagery that included abstract urban landscapes, parkways, and rural landscapes. During the 1960s, he returned to depicting women. In 1969, he executed his first cast bronze sculptures.
Although de Kooning did not make many prints throughout his career, he made extraordinary lithographs during the period between 1970 and 1971. After a trip to Japan where he was exposed to calligraphy and Sumi brush painting, traditional Japanese ink and wash painting done with various concentrations of black ink, he made a series of lithographs: 20 on aluminum plates and four on stone, primarily using tusche ink. Ranging from spare to layered and complex, these prints retain all of the wild gesture that de Kooning is known for. Minnie Mouse (1971), one of the lithographs drawn on stone, is a full, playful composition that explores the full capacity of ink on stone: washes, droplets, heavily inked passages and delicate lines overlap to create this energetic scene.
De Kooning’s work has been exhibited at most major museums. In 1974, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, organized a show of his drawings and sculptures that traveled throughout the US. In 1978, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, mounted an exhibition of his recent work. A major retrospective was held at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2011. He was awarded the Andrew W. Mellon prize in 1979, which accompanied an exhibition at the Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, PA.
De Kooning moved to the Springs, East Hampton in 1963 and died in Long Island in 1997.