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Biography of Willem de Kooning

See works in the collection

b. 1904, Rotterdam | d. 1997, East Hampton, New York

1904
Born on April 24.
1916
Drops out of school to enroll as an apprentice in a craftwork and decoration firm in Rotterdam.
1917
Attends classes in fine arts and craftwork at the Rotterdam Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten en Technische Wetenschappen.
1926
Moves to the United States, living in Hoboken, New Jersey, and working as a house painter.
1927
Moves to New York, where he meets other artists, including Stuart Davis, Arshile Gorky, and John Graham.
1934
Joins the Artist's Union.
1935
Begins to work on murals for the WPA (Works Progress Administration) Federal Art Project. Meets critic Harold Rosenberg. De Kooning's work is included in the exhibition New Horizons in American Art at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
1940
Designs the sets and costumes for the ballet Les nuages, performed by the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York.
1942
Takes part in the exhibition American and French Painters at Macmillan Inc. in New York. Meets Jackson Pollock and Marcel Duchamp.
1946
Begins work on the series Black-and-White Abstractions.
1948
Has his first solo exhibition, at Charles Egan Gallery in New York. Teaches summer school at Black Mountain College near Asheville in North Carolina.
1950
Presents the painting Excavation at the XXV Biennale di Venezia.
1951
Writes the essay “What Abstract Art Means to Me.” The Art Institute of Chicago awards de Kooning the Logan Medal and Purchase Prize for his work Excavation.
1953
Holds a solo show at Sidney Janis Gallery in New York.
1954
Takes part in the XXVII Biennale di Venezia.
1959
Participates in Documenta 2 in Kassel, Germany.
1960
Creates his first lithographs.
1962
Becomes an American citizen. Holds a joint exhibition with Barnett Newman at Allan Stone Gallery in New York.
1963
Moves to East Hampton, New York.
1964
Receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civil award given by the U.S. government. Participates in Documenta 3 in Kassel, Germany.
1965
The first retrospective exhibition of de Kooning's work is held at the Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, Massachusetts.
1968
The Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam holds a retrospective of de Kooning's work, for which he travels to the Netherlands for the first time since 1926. The exhibition later travels to the Tate Gallery in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Meets Francis Bacon in London.
1969
Creates his first sculptures, formed of clay and cast in bronze, at a foundry in Rome.
1971
De Kooning's lithographs are displayed at M. Knoedler et Cie in Paris.
1972
The Baltimore Museum of Art organizes the first exhibition of de Kooning's sculptures.
1974
The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis presents a major exhibition of de Kooning's sculptures and drawings that later travels to other museums in the United States.
1975
The American Academy of Arts and Letters awards de Kooning a Gold Medal for his painting œuvre. 1978 The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York holds a major exhibition of de
Kooning's recent works.
1979
Awarded the Andrew W. Mellon Prize, accompanied by an exhibition of his work at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. Named officer of the Orde van Orange-Nassau by the Dutch government.
1982
Exhibits his latest work at the Xavier Fourcade Gallery in New York. Elected a member of the Akademie der Künste inBerlin.
1983
Willem de Kooning: The North Atlantic Light, 1960–1983 is presented at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and later travels to several other museums in Europe. The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York organizes an exhibition of de Kooning's drawings, paintings, and sculptures that travels to the Akademie der Künste in Berlin and the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris the following year.
1984
Anthony d'Offay Gallery in London holds an exhibition of de Kooning's paintings and sculptures. Receives the Kaiserring prize from the city of Goslar, Germany.
1986
Receives the National Medal of Arts from the U.S. government.
1987
Gagosian Gallery in New York exhibits a selection of de Kooning's Abstract Landscapes.
1993
The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., organizes a major retrospective of de Kooning's work that later travels to Barcelona, Atlanta, and Boston.
1994
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., mounts an exhibition of de Kooning's work that later travels to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Tate Gallery in London.
1995
The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art holds a retrospective of de Kooning's paintings from the 1980s that later travels to Minneapolis, Bonn, Rotterdam, and New York.
1997
Dies in his home in East Hampton on March 19.
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