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Willem De Kooning
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Artist
    (April 24, 1904-March 19, 1997)
    Born in Rotterdam, Netherlands
    Abstract expressionist painter
    Works include 'Asheville' (1948), 'Woman I' (1952), 'Woman II' (1952), 'Woman III' (1953), 'Woman IV' (1953) and 'Interchange' (1955)
    Received the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1964)
    He came to the US as a stowaway (1926).
    He destroyed a number of his works in the 1930s and 40s, later commenting 'I was so modest then I was vain.'
    He was an alcoholic who drank until he blacked out.
    Critics debated whether his simplified 80s paintings were a bold change in direction or the result of his talents deteriorating from alcohol and Alzheimer's.
    He said, 'I always seem to be wrapped in the melodrama of vulgarity.'
    A New York Times critic described his 'choirboy good looks and charismatic charm, a kind of exotic Gary Cooper.'
    Roy Lichtenstein as a young artist would make trips to Greenwich Village just to watch de Kooning at work.
    He turned down an honorary degree, saying 'I can't see myself as an academic.'
    He set a record for a living American artist when 'Interchange' sold at auction for $20.6 million (1989).
    He was named one of the most influential artists of the 20th century by ARTNews.

Credit: C. Fishel


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