Art never seems to make me peaceful or pure. I always seem to be wrapped in the melodrama of vulgarity. I do not think...of art as a situation of comfort.

Willem de Kooning

Willem de Kooning 1904–1997

Willem de Kooning (1904-1997) was born in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, in 1924. As a youth, he spent nights studying at the city’s Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques. In 1926, de Kooning immigrated to the United States. While establishing himself among the group of ascendant Abstract Expressionists, de Kooning briefly taught at Black Mountain College and the Yale University School of Art. He painted voraciously from the 1940s through the late 1980s, when dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease halted his artistic production. Early shows at Charles Egan Gallery and Sidney Janis Gallery segued into large scale exhibitions at the Smithsonian Institute, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, Whitney Museum, and Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Posthumous exhibitions include a full-career retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in 2011, among smaller shows at Gagosian, Pace, and Allan Stone Gallery. During his lifetime, de Kooning received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1964), the Andrew W. Mellon Prize (1979), and the National Medal of Arts (1986). The Willem de Kooning Foundation was established in 2011 by Lisa de Kooning, the artist’s daughter. De Kooning passed away in 1997, at his home in East Hampton, New York.

De Kooning’s voracious half-century of painting began robustly in the late 1930s when he was among a group of artists selected to paint murals for the 1939 New York World’s Fair. This early period is characterized by small canvases of biomorphic forms and abstractions, fluent in the languages of Gorky, the European Surrealists, and Cubism. During the 1940s, de Kooning painted portraits of men and women with angular features that utilize a lyrical simplicity line, color and rigorous pentimenti. Simultaneously there were surfacy, colorful abstractions, latter-decade paintings feature enamel paint – he was too poor for anything else – with black and white calligraphic forms. These two-toned works characterize a period that is the predecessor to the heavily impastoed, figural abstractions that are the ‘Women’ paintings of the early 1950s. Throughout his career, de Kooning vacillated between abstraction and figuration. Eventually, the angularity began to dissolve, to "liquefy" as Allan Stone said. By the early 1970s, de Kooning had fully- immersed his figurative references into landscape environments, where they are almost indistinguishable from each other. In the 1980s, he adopted a sparser and more graphical type of abstraction. De Kooning remains a paramount figure of twentieth century art-making, rewriting the conventions of paintings in ways that continue to be relevant.

Upcoming Lots Willem de Kooning

AFTER WILLEM DE KOONING, Ashawagh Hall exhibition poster | ragoarts.com

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After Willem de Kooning

Ashawagh Hall exhibition poster

estimate: $800–1,200

Auction Results Willem de Kooning

WILLEM DE KOONING, Revenge, from 21 Etching and Poems | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

Revenge, from 21 Etching and Poems

estimate: $2,000–3,000
result: $3,840
WILLEM DE KOONING, Rainbow: Thelonious Monk, Devil at the Keyboard | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

Rainbow: Thelonious Monk, Devil at the Keyboard

estimate: $800–1,000
result: $2,250
WILLEM DE KOONING, Man and The Big Blonde | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

Man and The Big Blonde

estimate: $3,000–5,000
result: $5,525
WILLEM DE KOONING, Untitled (Rainbow) | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

Untitled (Rainbow)

estimate: $1,000–1,500
result: $2,500
WILLEM DE KOONING, Clam Digger from Portfolio 9 | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

Clam Digger from Portfolio 9

estimate: $1,500–2,000
result: $1,375
WILLEM DE KOONING, Drawings | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

Drawings

estimate: $7,000–10,000
result: $8,750
WILLEM DE KOONING, Rainbow: Thelonious Monk, Devil at the Keyboard | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

Rainbow: Thelonious Monk, Devil at the Keyboard

estimate: $800–1,000
result: $1,625
WILLEM DE KOONING, Untitled (Rainbow) | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

Untitled (Rainbow)

estimate: $1,000–1,500
result: $5,938
WILLEM DE KOONING, Rainbow: Thelonious Monk, Devil at the Keyboard | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

Rainbow: Thelonious Monk, Devil at the Keyboard

estimate: $800–1,000
result: $2,750
WILLEM DE KOONING, Man and The Big Blonde | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

Man and The Big Blonde

estimate: $3,000–5,000
result: $7,500
WILLEM DE KOONING, Untitled | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

Untitled

estimate: $800–1,000
result: $2,375
WILLEM DE KOONING, Untitled | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

Untitled

estimate: $800–1,000
result: $1,625
WILLEM DE KOONING, Rainbow: Thelonious Monk, Devil at the Keyboard | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

Rainbow: Thelonious Monk, Devil at the Keyboard

estimate: $800–1,000
result: $2,750
WILLEM DE KOONING, Landscape at Stanton Street | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

Landscape at Stanton Street

estimate: $5,000–7,000
result: $9,375
WILLEM DE KOONING, The Preacher | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

The Preacher

estimate: $4,000–6,000
result: $6,875
WILLEM DE KOONING, Love to Wakako | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

Love to Wakako

estimate: $4,000–6,000
result: $6,875
WILLEM DE KOONING, With Love | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

With Love

estimate: $3,000–5,000
result: $6,875
WILLEM DE KOONING, Two Women | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

Two Women

estimate: $2,500–3,500
result: $3,328
WILLEM DE KOONING, Head of a Woman | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

Head of a Woman

estimate: $3,500–4,500
result: $9,100
WILLEM DE KOONING, Composition for Lisa | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

Composition for Lisa

estimate: $2,500–3,500
result: $2,500
WILLEM DE KOONING, Homage to Frank O'hara (two works) | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

Homage to Frank O'hara (two works)

estimate: $2,000–3,000
result: $2,500
WILLEM DE KOONING, Untitled (from Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror) | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

Untitled (from Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror)

estimate: $2,000–3,000
result: $3,500
WILLEM DE KOONING, Homage to Frank O'hara (two works) | ragoarts.com

Willem de Kooning

Homage to Frank O'hara (two works)

estimate: $2,000–3,000
result: $2,000