Willem De Kooning

Willem De Kooning

From the Hirshhorn Museum Collection

Book - 1993
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Blackwell North Amer
Willem de Kooning (b.1904), one of the great pioneers of Abstract Expressionism, is a towering figure in the history of twentieth-century painting - and widely regarded as America's greatest living painter. The extraordinary Hirshhorn Museum collection of his work - the largest and most significant public collection of his art in the world - comprehensively represents all aspects of his art from the late 1930s to the mid-1980s.
Patron Joseph H. Hirshhorn and his wife, Olga, forged a special friendship with de Kooning, helping to fund his studio, purchasing his paintings, drawings, and sculpture, and corresponding with him for more than a decade. Hirshhorn acquired such emblematic de Kooning paintings as Woman, 1948, from the artist's famed pictures depicting women, and Zurich, 1947, from the daring group of black-and-white works that established his reputation as a leading Abstract Expressionist. Hirshhorn also acquired such pivotal works from the 1950s as Two Woman in the Country, in which de Kooning merged themes of figure and landscape, as well as the first and most ferocious of his paintings on door panels, Woman Sag Harbor, from the 1960s. Rounding out the collection are bronzes from the early 1970s and lyrical abstractions from the 1980s. In addition, Hirshhorn's prescient collection of de Kooning's pastel, ink, and charcoal drawings allows us to see the artist's creative process from early ideas to finished paintings.
Author Judith Zilczer explores the evolution of de Kooning's work from his academic training in his native Rotterdam and his experience in New York in the 1930s through to his development both of intensely expressionist style in evocative abstractions and disturbing figurative works from the 1940s and 1950s. She traces these courses in de Kooning's oeuvre to a number of influences, focusing particularly on his creative response to the urban and cosmopolitan environment of New York City, where he lived from 1926 to 1963 and where he formed friendships with such artists as Arshile Gorky, Franz Kline, and John Graham. Zilczer explores de Kooning's inventive combination of sources from high art and popular culture, for the first time placing his violent imagery within the tradition of caricature in Western art. By contrast, Lynne Cooke outlines de Kooning's later work, made after he moved to rural Long island in the early 1960s, and established his art within the pastoral tradition of painting, as well as within the social context of America in the 1960s. She views his art of these years as analogous to the approaches to art taken by many of the Old Master painters, who achieved "old-age" styles late in life.
A pioneering essay on the technical qualities of de Kooning's work, reporting on results of infrared examination and other conservation analyses, by Zilczer and Susan Lake reveals the extent to which de Kooning's spontaneous-looking imagery was in fact carefully crafted. The book is completed with an extensive bibliography, chronology, and catalog section, making this the most substantial publication of de Kooning's work to date.

Publisher: Washington, D.C. : Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution ; New York : Rizzoli, [1993]
Copyright Date: ©1993
ISBN: 9780847817696
Branch Call Number: 759.13 DeKOO
Characteristics: 218 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 31 cm
Additional Contributors: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Notes: "Exhibition dates, 21 October 1993-9 January 1994, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. [and others]"--Title page verso


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