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Art Index: Willem de Kooning

Woman I, 1950-52 by Willem de Kooning

“Every so often, a painter has to destroy painting. Cezanne did it, Picasso did it with Cubism. Then Pollock did it. He busted our idea of a picture all to hell. Then there could be new paintings again.”

De Kooning


Willem de Kooning (April 24, 1904 – March 19, 1997) was a Dutch-American abstract expressionist artist. He was born in Rotterdam and moved to the United States in 1926, becoming an American citizen in 1962.

He began his childhood career as an apprentice in a painters' workshop in Rotterdam, where he also attended the Academy of Fine Arts and then completed his training at art schools in Antwerp and Brussels.

He moved to the United States in 1926. He stayed at the Dutch Seamen's Home in Hoboken, New Jersey, and found work as a house painter. In 1927 he moved to Manhattan, where he had a studio on West Forty-fourth Street. He supported himself with jobs in carpentry, house painting and commercial art. During the Second World War he joined the group of abstract artists, formed around the numerous emigrant European painters. On December 9, 1943, he married the artist Elaine Marie Catherine Fried, known as Elaine de Kooning. In 1948, with his first solo show at the Egan Gallery, he established himself as one of the most prominent exponents of abstract expressionism.

A Tree in Naples, 1960 by Willem de Kooning

His very first works are of a realist matrix, but his artistic language matures in the sphere of abstract expressionism, becoming one of its most significant representatives. His canvases are the representation of a distorting and violent vision that abstracts the external reality. The adhesion to a realist matrix is ​​however also found in those works where the informal appears absolute.

In 1947 he held his first personal exhibition at the Egan Gallery, enjoying great success. His fame, however, is above all due to his performances at the Sydney Janis Gallery culminating in the exhibition on Women in 1953. Three years later he exposed his works at the Venice Biennale.

In the last years of his life he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. Art critics still debate until today how his works from the 1980s onwards should be evaluated considering his illness and lifestyle (for years he had suffered from alcohol addiction).

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.


According to De Kooning turnover in 2020 is $28,905,516 with the last peak in price dated 2018.

Most of his works were sold in the range of $1,000,000-$5,000,000.

Some of de Kooning's paintings have been sold in the 21st century for record prices.

Distribution by price (by Artprice)

The oldest auction result ever registered on the website for an artwork by this artist is a painting sold in 1984, at Christie's, and the most recent auction result is a multiple-print sold in 2021.'s price levels for this artist are based on 2,561 auction results. Especially: print-multiple, painting, drawing-watercolor, sculpture-volume.

Seven prints by the artist will soon be available in various auction rooms in the US and Europe, which include “Rainbow: Thelonious Monk, Devil at the Keyboard” (1972-1976) estimated at $ 800 - $ 1,000 with a starting price of $ 550 and “The Preacher” (1971) estimated at $ 4,000 - $ 6,000 with a starting price of $ 2,800 the 17th of feb 2021 at David Rago (333 North Main Street, Lambertville Auction Ctr, 08530 Lambertville NJ,United States).


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