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Willem de Kooning (1904 – 1997)


Abstract expressionist painter, born in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Willem de Kooning
And then there is that one-man movement, Marcel Duchamp — for me a truly modern movement because it implies that each artist can do what he thinks he ought to — a movement for each person and open for everybody.
Kooning quotes
I met a lot of artists – but then I met Gorky. I had some training in Holland, quite a training, the Academy. Gorky didn’t have that at all. He came from no place; he came here (US) when he was sixteen, from Tiflis in Georgia, with an Armenian upbringing. And for some mysterious reason, he knew lots more about painting and art – he just knew it by nature... He had an extraordinary gift for hitting the nail on the head; very remarkable. So I immediately attached myself to him and we became very good friends. It was nice to be foreigners meeting in some new place.
Kooning
Today artists are in a belated age of reason. They want to get hold of things. Take Mondrian; he was a fantastic artist. But when we read his ideas and his idea of Neo-Plasticism – pure plasticity – it’s kind of silly. Not for him, but I think one could spend one’s life having this desire to be in- and outside at the same time. He could see a future life and a future city – not like me, who am absolutely not interested in seeing the future city. I’m perfectly happy to be alive now.




Kooning Willem de quotes
Now I can make some highways, maybe. Of course there will be something else. Now I can set to do it, and then it will be, maybe it will be a painting of something else. Because if you know the measure of things – for yourself there is no absolute measure – you can find the size of everything. You say now that’s just this length and immediately with that length you can paint, well, a cat. If you understand one thing you can use it for something else. That is the way I work... I mean I have an attitude. I have to have an attitude.
Kooning Willem de
The pictures (I have) done since the 'Women', they’re emotions, most of them. Most of them are landscapes and highways and sensations of that, outside the city – with the feeling of going to the city or coming from it. I am not a pastoral character. I’m not a – how do you say that? – ‘country dumpling’. I am here and I like New York City. But I love to go out in a car... I’m just crazy about going over the roads and highways.
Willem de Kooning quotes
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
..Man’s own form in space – his body – was a private prison; and that it was because of this imprisoning misery – because he was hungry and overworked and went to a horrid place called home late at night in the rain, and his bones ached and his head was heavy.
Kooning Willem de quotes
You know the real world, this so-called real world, is just something you put up with. Like everybody else. I’m in my element when I am a little bit out of this world. Then I’m in the real world – I’m on the beam. Because when I’m falling, I’m doing all right. When I’m slipping, I say: he, this is interesting. It’s when I’m standing upright that bothers me.
Kooning
But one day, some painter used 'Abstraction' as a title for one of his paintings. It was a still life. And it was a very tricky title. And it wasn’t really a very good one. From then on the idea became something extra. Immediately it gave some people the idea that they could free art from itself. Until then, Art meant everything that was in it – not what you could take off it. There was only one thing you could take out of it sometime when you were in the right mood – that abstract and indefinable sensation, the aesthetic part – and still leave it were it was...
Kooning Willem de
I had my own eyes, but I wasn't always looking in the right direction. I was certainly in need of a helping hand at times. Now I feel like Manet who said, "Yes, I am influenced by everbody. But every time I put my hands in my pockets I find someone else's fingers there."
Willem de Kooning
Some painters, including myself, do not care what chair they are sitting on. It does not even has to be a comfortable one. They are too nervous to find out were they ought to sit. They do not want to ‘sit in style’. Rather they have found that painting – any kind of painting, any style of painting – to be painting at all, in fact – a style of living, so to speak. That is where the form of it lies. It is exactly in its uselessness that it is free. Those artists don’t want to conform. They only want to be inspired.




Willem de Kooning quotes
When, about fifteen years ago, I walked into Arshile’s studio for the first time, the atmosphere was so beautiful that I got a little dizzy and when I came to, I was bright enough tot take the hint immediately. If the bookkeepers think it necessary to make sure of where things and people came from, well then, I came from 36 Union Square ... I am glad that it is about impossible to get away from his powerful influence.
Willem de Kooning
I admit I know little of Orient art. But that is because I cannot find in it what I am looking for, or what I am talking about. To me the Oriental idea of beauty is that ‘it isn’t there’. It is in a state of nor being there. It is absent. That is why it is so good. It is the same thing I don’t like in Suprematism, Purism and non-objectivity... I do like the idea that they - the pots and pans (in the old still lives) , I mean – are always in relation to man. They have no soul of their own, like they seem to have in the Orient...
Kooning quotes
For really, when you think of all the life and death problems in the art of the Renaissance, who cares if a Chevalier is laughing or that a young girl has a red blouse on.
Kooning Willem de
Kandinsky understood ‘form’ as a form, like an object in the real world; and a object, he said, was a narrative – and so, of course, he disapproved of it. He wanted ‘his music without words’. He wanted to be ‘simple as a child’. He intended, with his ‘inner-self’ to rid himself of ‘philosophical barricades’ (he sat down and wrote something about all this). But in turn his own writing has become a philosophical barricade, even it is a barricade full of holes. It offers a kind of Middle European idea of Buddhism or, anyhow, something too theosophical for me.
Kooning Willem de quotes
Jackson has broken the ice for us.
Willem de Kooning
In the days before de Kooning establishing himself formally as a painter, Willem de Kooning had a variety of experiences that helped him to define himself. His influences by friends and the times were surprising. Of the singular influences was his relationship to music: "In the early thirties,... de Kooning made one astonishing and symbolic purchase. Just when the Depression was destroying the livlihood of millions of people, including that of many artists, de Kooning bought the best and most expensive record player money could buy - a miraculous machine that could summon "God and all those angels up there." Called a Capehart high-fidelity system, it was one of the first to change records automatically. It cost then prodigious sum of $700, more than half of de Kooning's annual salary at A.S. Beck; he got an advance to pay for it. With this purchase, de Kooning announced that he would not use this money to make himself conventionally respectable, even during the hard, early years of the Depression. He did not buy a house or a car, get married, have a baby, or stash away money against hard times. Instead, he professed himself sublimely irresponsible, a man nourished by music rather than mundane realities. And yet, it was still music rather than art that prompted his expansive gesture, for he could not yet find a comparable fluency, vitality, or extravagance in art."
Willem de Kooning quotes
The aesthetics of painting were always in a state of development parallel to the development of painting itself. They influenced each other and vice versa. But all of the sudden, in that famous turn of the century a few people thought they could take the bull by the horns and invent an aesthetic beforehand. After immediately disagreeing with each other, they began to form all kind of groups, each with the idea of freeing art... The question as they saw it, was not so much what you could paint, but what you could not paint. You could not paint a house or a tree or a mountain. It was then that the subject matter came into existence as something you ought not to have.
Willem de Kooning
The point they (Lissitzky, Rodchenko, Tatlin, Gabo, the neo-Plasticists, and so on) all had in common was to be inside and outside at the same time... For me, to be inside and outside is to be in an unheated studio with broken windows in the winter, or taking a nap on somebody’s porch in the summer.
Kooning Willem de
Certain artists and critics attacked me for painting the ‘Women’, but I felt that this was their problem, not mine. I don’t really feel like a non-objective painter at all... It’s really absurd to make an image, like a human image. With paint, today, when you think about it, since we have this problem of doing it or not doing it. But then all of a sudden it was even more absurd not to do it. So I fear I have to follow my desires.


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