Willem de Kooning
(American/Dutch, 1904–1997) was a leading figure in the Abstract Expressionist movement and is renowned for establishing a distinctly American style of painting. Born in the Netherlands, he immigrated to New Jersey in 1926, where he supported himself as a house painter for several years. In 1935 de Kooning began to work for Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration, but was forced to resign in 1937 due to his foreign citizenship; the experience, along with his friendship with painter Arshile Gorky
(American, 1904–1948), encouraged him to paint full time.
In the 1940s, he became associated with the New York Abstract Expressionist movement, as he painted increasingly expressive figurative and abstract works and taught at the progressive Black Mountain College at the height of its artistic influence. In the 1950s, de Kooning exhibited his first Woman
series, which shocked audiences with its wildly brushed depictions of menacing women and brought him international fame. In addition to figurative paintings, de Kooning created many landscapes and abstract works, and also cast bronze figures
. In 1980, de Kooning overcame his hindering alcoholism with his wife’s assistance, allowing him to paint for another ten years in a simpler, more streamlined expressionist style than in his earlier paintings. He died in 1997 in East Hampton, NY.