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Willem de Kooning (1904-1997) was a Dutch-American abstract expressionist artist whose gestural work inspired by figures, landscapes, and still lifes helped establish a distinctly American style of painting. Born on April 24, 1904, in Rotterdam, Netherlands, De Kooning went on to study art at Rotterdam Academie voor Beldende Kunsten en Technische Wetenschapp, the Académie royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels and the van Schelling School of Design in Antwerp before traveling to the United States as a stowaway in 1926. He first lived in Hoboken, NJ, where he worked as a commercial painter and carpenter before settling in New York in 1927. In New York, met other artists, including John Graham, Stuart Davis, and Arshile Gorky, and worked for the Federal Art Project, for which he created murals between 1935 and 1939. In 1950, he developed his first Women pictures and continued this type of figuration until the 1990s while also working on fairly abstract landscapes between 1957 and 1961. In 1964, he received the "Presidential Medal of Freedom."


Though the artist had fallen from the spotlight by the late 1960s, he continued to create distinctive works, living out on a farmhouse in Long Island. De Kooning died on March 19, 1997 in East Hampton, NY. Today, his works are held in the collections of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Tate Gallery in London, and the Kunstmuseum Basel, among others.

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