Willem de Kooning 

Willem de Kooning (1904–1997) was one of the 20th century’s most renowned, prolific, and multifaceted artists. Born in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, in 1904, de Kooning trained as a commercial artist, and also studied fine art at the Rotterdam Academy, the Académie royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels, and the van Schelling School of Design in Antwerp. In 1926, the artist traveled by ship as a stowaway to Hoboken, New Jersey, eventually making his way to New York City, where during the 1930s and 1940s he established his place in the Manhattan art world, becoming known for his ghostly portraits of solitary male figures.

Influenced by painter colleagues such as Stuart Davis, Arshile Gorky, and Franz Kline, de Kooning eventually turned to abstraction, creating a series of dripping, biomorphic, mostly black-and-white paintings which were exhibited at the Charles Egan Gallery in 1948 and received enormous critical acclaim. Shortly thereafter the artist’s monumental Excavation, 1950, part of this same body of work, was selected by the New York Museum of Modern Art director Alfred Barr to represent the United States at the Venice Biennale. The painting also received the Art Institute of Chicago’s Logan Medal and Purchase Prize.

De Kooning soon began to combine his efforts in both figuration and abstraction with his “Woman” series, starting with Woman, I, 1950-52, a painting that is now part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. The intense, often violent-seeming works conflate figure and ground, so that the female form, complete with large breasts and sharp teeth, begins to break apart and converge with the surrounding context of harsh, jagged lines. These vital paintings secured de Kooning as a central figure, alongside Jackson Pollock, in the New York School of artists, also known as the Abstract Expressionist movement.

During his lifetime, de Kooning exhibited his work at many prominent art institutions, including the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, the Tate Gallery, London, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York. In 2011, the artist was the posthumous subject of a major retrospective at MoMA, New York, organized by Chief Curator Emeritus of Painting and Sculpture John Heartfield, which featured an enormous variety of works spanning the seven decades of his career.


    • Willem de Kooning / Zao Wou-Ki
    • Lévy Gorvy, New York
      January 19 - March 11, 2017
    • With Willem de Kooning | Zao Wou-Ki, Lévy Gorvy presented the first exhibition to pair the abstract landscapes of Chinese-French master Zao Wou-Ki (1920–2013) and the works of Dutch-born American titan Willem de Kooning (1904–1997). With the full support of the Willem de Kooning Foundation and the Fondation Zao Wou-Ki, this exhibition inaugurated the partnership of Dominique Lévy and Brett Gorvy. It was the first presentation in their gallery’s expanded space at 909 Madison Avenue.

      Although contemporaries, the two postwar painters never met. The exhibition at Lévy Gorvy...

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Selected Artworks

    • Willem de Kooning
    • Untitled IV, 1978
    • Oil on canvas
    • 70¼ × 80¼ inches (178.4 × 203.8 cm)
    • Willem de Kooning
    • Untitled XII, 1975
    • Oil on canvas
    • 79¾ × 69¾ inches (202.6 × 177.2 cm)
    • Willem de Kooning
    • Head #3, 1973
    • Bronze
    • 20 × 11½ × 11⅝ inches (50.8 × 29.2 × 29.5 cm)
    • 8 of 12, 3 APs
    • Willem de Kooning
    • Untitled, 1970
    • Oil on paper laid down on canvas
    • Work: 71 × 36¾ inches (180.3 × 93.3 cm)

Selected Press