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de Kooning: An American Master Paperback – April 4, 2006
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Top Customer Reviews
One thing that struck me was how uniformly negative most of the reviews of de Kooning were. It seems as though he enjoyed a brief romance period with the critics early on, when his work was still entirely abstract. That was in 1950, after his work "Excavation." After that, the critics basically wrote him off, declaring that he was past his prime. There were, of course, some exceptions to this, including de Kooning himself.
It was also distressing to read in detail the gradual deterioration of the artist by alcohol and his destructive personal behavior. This was the only aspect of the book I had difficulty with, as at times I felt like a peeping tom, peering in on the lurid goings on in the de Kooning household. But I don't suppose there is any way to tell the story without telling that part of it. It is no big secret that many great artists, performers, poets, writers, etc., have had more than their fair share of demons to contend with, and this biography illuminates that point vividly.
The biography is extremely well written and the pages fall away with novelistic abandon. I did not feel weighed down by an over abundance of detail, but I also came away feeling very "satisfied" as a reader. Please go ahead and treat yourself to a powerful experience.Read more ›
It is a powerful tale of a childhood of poverty, neglect and abuse in Rotterdam, Holland, from which he escapes first by attending a traditional academy of art at night while working as a decorative artist, and second by stowing away on a freighter bound for America at the age of 22, where for years afterward he would be an illegal alien beset by the anxieties of that status. He spends a decade as a commercial artist in New York before deciding to devote himself entirely to his painting, a choice he makes in the depths of the Great Depression by quitting his day job. There follow two decades of obsessive and disciplined dedication to his painting in the face of self-doubt and grinding poverty with little recognition, capped by a year and a half struggle with just one painting, his disturbing and controversial Woman I. The following three decades of fame and fortune are overshadowed by more self-doubt, intermittent ridicule and dismissal at the hands of the art world, topped off with repeated bouts of catastrophic binge drinking.
Through it all, he remains stubbornly resistant to the siren call of the artistic fashions that he has created and repeatedly veers off track at the height of success to pursue yet another difficult vector. The tale is lubricated with a constant flow of beautiful and exotic women who are caught up in his spell but always (and often to their chagrin) remain subordinate to his painting.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Willem de Konning's sojourn is one that many artists should be so fortunate to experience. I was born in the same city and country as de Kooning - but 49 years later - 1953. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Holland1953
This is a great book about Willem. Alll the big moments of his life told in an easy to consume prose.Published 4 months ago by TechParent
I bought this to use for work, but I have genuinely enjoyed reading it. It's well written, easy to read, fully indexed, and full of footnotes, so you can start here and go on... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Janet
This is the BEST biography of de Kooning that I have read. He is THE definition of a tortured and creative genius who is the perfect example of a modern artist who was on of five... Read morePublished 8 months ago by EdB
Beautifully written and carefully researched. Every word a treasure.Published 16 months ago by turtle
I'm a painter. So I already knew about de Kooning. But I read this, every word, and thorougly enjoyed it.Published 19 months ago by PJ Brunet