THE ARTISTS, POETS and PROFESSORS of BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE (the college featured in the film THE LONGEST RIDE) Part 14 Willem de Kooning (Part A)


This is the 14th post in this series on the amazing artists, poets and professors associated with Black Mountain College (the college that was featured in the recent film THE LONGEST RIDE.

Sparks Adaptation The Longest Ride Works for Both ‘Rom’ and ‘Com’

  • Susan Contributing Writer
  • 201510 Apr

Sparks Adaptation <i>The Longest Ride</i> Works for Both 'Rom' and 'Com'

Release Date: April 10, 2015
Rating: PG-13 for some sexuality, partial nudity, and some war and sports action
Genre: Drama, Romance
Run Time: 139 minutes
Director: George Tillman Jr.
Cast: Scott Eastwood, Britt Robertson, Alan Alda, Jack Huston, Oona Chaplin

It’s Spring, and when a young movie-goer’s fancy turns to love, best-selling author Nicholas Sparks is ready to take her there. Based on the Sparks novel of the same name, The Longest Ride is a sweetheart of a movie that may not break new ground but is almost certain to please.

Sophia (Britt Robertson, Dan in Real Life and the upcoming Tomorrowland) is an art lover on the cusp of a brilliant career at a Manhattan gallery, just as soon as she finishes her last semester of college. Luke (Scott Eastwood, son of Clint) is a professional bull rider, a cowboy who has already had a spectacular rise and fall and is desperately trying to make a comeback. The two have little in common and almost no time to be together. Clearly, they’re meant for each other.

They do make an adorable couple. Sophia is cute and intense with a sweet, lively face that crinkles into any number of interested expressions. Luke is charming and a little old-fashioned with plenty of the smoldering appeal that made Eastwood’s movie star dad a favorite for an earlier generation of female fans. Their budding romance is delightfully awkward, but it’s all for naught as these two are clearly going their separate ways (or are they?). As if the glorious North Carolina scenery, romantic candlelight, etc. were not enough, their first date takes an intense turn when they happen upon a car accident and rescue the elderly driver and his box of mementos. Ira (Alan Alda, Tower Heist) is banged up but not so much that he loses his gift of good-natured, crotchety banter. When Sophia befriends Ira and gradually comes to know his story—mostly through the letters in his box—one tale becomes two as the relationship between young Ira and his beloved Ruth (Oona Chaplin) is woven into that of the modern couple.

While Sophia and Luke’s romance is sweet and all, when they were onscreen I found myself waiting for the next chapters of Ira and Ruth’s far more interesting love story. Set against the backdrop of WWII, and covering a span of many years, there’s a depth to the older couple’s love that is (naturally) missing in the newly-connected modern-day couple. The two couples have so many parallels it strains belief a bit, but this is a starry-eyed fantasy, after all. Sometimes reality is overrated.

In addition to all the sweetness, there are enough funny moments to justify both the ‘rom’ and ‘com’ labels. Both male and female viewers in my audience burst into laughter on several occasions, several confessed to a tear or two, and a good time was had by all… except maybe Rango, the bull who is Luke’s nemesis. All that bull riding—and there is a fair amount—is shown from a variety of interesting angles, including the rider’s. The film features a number of real-life cowboys from the PBR (Professional Bull Riders) circuit, adding a nice touch of gritty reality.

The soundtrack is more than just background music; it provides commentary on the action. Like the dulcet tones of the Pistol Annies singing “I feel a sin comin’ on; please Jesus don’t hold me back” or Ryan Adams crooning about “Desire.” As those titles suggest, Sophia and Luke’s is a modern relationship, which means they don’t bother with anything so quaint as waiting for marriage; they consummate their love in several scenes that are steamy in more ways than one. To director George Tillman Jr.’s credit, those scenes are, at least, artfully filmed and have a dreamy romantic feel. This is a true love story, not just a relationship movie.

The Longest Ride is the is the tenth Sparks book to be made into a movie, and at almost 2 hours, 20 minutes is the longest of them, but the time passes quickly. While the big “surprise” ending may not be much of a surprise to those familiar with the inspirational stories that populate Facebook (it’s a variation on a tale that made the rounds a year or so ago), it’s satisfying nonetheless. All ends as it should, making this an enjoyable girls’-night-out movie that, thanks to all the bull riding action, guys may actually enjoy, too.

  • Drugs/Alcohol: Drinking at bars, wine with dinner, occasional drunkenness.
  • Language/Profanity: A couple of muttered “Shhhhhht” one d-word and one exclamation of “Jesus.”
  • Sex/Nudity: Sophia’s friend pulls down Sophia’s t-shirt to expose more cleavage for her date with Luke and tells her “You’re the only girl I know who wouldn’t have a fling with a cowboy.” Teasing comment about not wearing underwear (more funny than sultry). Several kisses, some artistically-filmed sex scenes that show relatively discreet side and back nudity. We see a good amount of Luke’s muscular backside and hands caressing. Some slow stripping scenes and semi-skinny dipping (swimming in underwear).
  • Violent/Frightening/Intense: Bull riding is an intense, competitive, dangerous sport and we see it from a variety of angles. Some war scenes show troops under fire. Men are injured in a variety of ways. A victim is pulled from a wrecked car.

Publication date: April 10, 2015

The Longest Ride Official Trailer #1 (2015) – Britt Robertson Movie HD

My first post in this series was on the composer John Cage and my second post was on Susan Weil and Robert Rauschenberg who were good friend of CageThe third post in this series was on Jorge Fick. Earlier we noted that  Fick was a student at Black Mountain College and an artist that lived in New York and he lent a suit to the famous poet Dylan Thomas and Thomas died in that suit.

The fourth post in this series is on the artist  Xanti Schawinsky and he had a great influence on John Cage who  later taught at Black Mountain College. Schawinsky taught at Black Mountain College from 1936-1938 and Cage right after World War II. In the fifth post I discuss David Weinrib and his wife Karen Karnes who were good friends with John Cage and they all lived in the same community. In the 6th post I focus on Vera B. William and she attended Black Mountain College where she met her first husband Paul and they later  co-founded the Gate Hill Cooperative Community and Vera served as a teacher for the community from 1953-70. John Cage and several others from Black Mountain College also lived in the Community with them during the 1950’s. In the 7th post I look at the life and work of M.C.Richards who also was part of the Gate Hill Cooperative Community and Black Mountain College.

In the 8th post I look at book the life of   Anni Albers who is  perhaps the best known textile artist of the 20th century and at Paul Klee who was one  of her teachers at Bauhaus. In the 9th post the experience of Bill Treichler in the years of 1947-1949  is examined at Black Mountain College. In 1988, Martha and Bill started The Crooked Lake Review, a local history journal and Bill passed away in 2008 at age 84.

In the 10th post I look at the art of Irwin Kremen who studied at Black Mountain College in 1946-47 and there Kremen spent his time focused on writing and the literature classes given by the poet M. C. Richards. In the 11th post I discuss the fact that Josef Albers led the procession of dozens of Bauhaus faculty and students to Black Mountain.

In the 12th post I feature Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944) who was featured in the film THE LONGEST RIDE and the film showed Kandinsky teaching at BLACK MOUNTAIN COLLEGE which was not true according to my research. Evidently he was invited but he had to decline because of his busy schedule but many of his associates at BRAUHAUS did teach there. In the 13th post I look at the writings of the communist Charles Perrow. 

Willem de Kooning was such a major figure in the art world and because of that I have dedicated the 14th15th and 16th posts in this series on him. Paul McCartney got interested in art through his friendship with Willem because Linda’s father had him as a client. Willem was a  part of New York School of Abstract expressionism or Action painting, others included Jackson Pollock, Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Franz Kline, Arshile Gorky, Mark Rothko, Hans Hofmann, Adolph Gottlieb, Anne Ryan, Robert Motherwell, Philip Guston, Clyfford Still, and Richard Pousette-Dart.


Wild Intellectuals and Exotic Folks

By Rachel Galvin | HUMANITIES, July/August 2001 | Volume 22, Number 4

A small college in the mountains of North Carolina brought together some of the most innovative artists and thinkers of its time—Robert Motherwell and Buckminster Fuller and John Cage. Plagued by debts, the school sold off its land, cattle, and pianos until it eventually closed its doors in 1957.

The poet Charles Olson called Black Mountain a “little hotbox of education,” saying, “The place is overrun with talent for me to use, and learn by.” A crucible for artistic talent, Black Mountain College was founded in 1933 and for twenty-four years was a magnet for artists in a variety of media: John Cage, Robert Creeley, Merce Cunningham, Willem de Kooning, Robert Duncan, Buckminster Fuller, Franz Kline, Jacob Lawrence, Charles Olson, Robert Motherwell, Robert Rauschenberg, and Ben Shahn, among others.

Black Mountain was a progressive liberal arts college founded on the idea of complete academic freedom. But with the traditional parameters of the classroom nearly eradicated, was Black Mountain still an institution of higher learning?

“Most work in 1955-1956 was done in tutorial fashion, one member of the community asking another’s opinion on a painting, a piece of writing, a text, an idea,” Martin Duberman writes in his book, Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community. “And that might be exactly why so many who were in the community during 1955-1956 insist today that it was a learning environment—an occasional loony bin, a rest camp, a pressure cooker, a refuge, and a welfare agency—but nonetheless a learning environment.”

“Black Mountain is a legendary school in terms of art circles and in North Carolina,” says Dick Lankford, archivist at the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. Lankford is directing the department’s effort to preserve Black Mountain College materials. With an NEH grant, sixteen collections of audiotaped interviews, brittle records, and deteriorating photographs are being conserved, archived, and cata-loged in a searchable reference system that will be accessible on the Web. The Department hopes to digitize the materi-als and eventually make them available on the Internet.

Project archivist Barbara Cain says scholars and students are coming from all over the world to consult the collections. “We have a scholar working on neo-Dadaism coming from France, and a German scholar interested in the carry-over from Germany to the United States, particularly in the teaching of art.” Other projects include a book on the teaching methods of Josef Albers, who taught color and design at Black Mountain; a study of the Bauhaus movement in America; and a college course on poet Robert Creeley and other Black Mountain writers.

“There was a period of time when people looked down at Black Mountain as a failure because it closed its doors, but history provides a certain perspective,” Lankford says. “Black Mountain has been a pivotal institution since its founding in 1933 right up until its demise in 1957. Its educational philosophy was way ahead of its time.”

The college was founded by John Andrew Rice, Theodore Dreier, and other former faculty members from Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. The group envisioned a college that would be run democratically, owned and administered by the faculty and students themselves. No courses would be required, no grades given, and students would be free to direct their course of studies as they pleased. Everyone—students and faculty—would participate in the work program, preparing meals, maintaining the campus, and working on the school farm. And in contrast to the majority of colleges and universities of the time, Black Mountain would be a place where knowledge was put into action and the arts given equal importance with the rest of the curriculum.

“Now we take for granted that every college has an art department,” says Mary Emma Harris, art historian and project consultant. “Then, you could study art history, but not really get a degree in art—and when a degree did exist, it was given through the home economics department.”

Black Mountain’s founders looked to John Dewey, author of Democracy and Education, who wrote that to develop one’s creative abilities was “an inalienable right.” In Harper’s Magazine in May, 1937, Rice explained his theory that the arts ought to be an educational activity rather than simply a subject of study: “What you do with what you know is the important thing. To know is not enough.”

In its first year, the college offered courses in physics, mathematics, chemistry, music, English, psychology, economics, and Romance languages, as well as art classes. To lend credibility to the institution, the founders assembled a distinguished roster of advisers that included John Dewey, Walter Gropius, Carl Jung, Max Lerner, Franz Kline, and Albert Einstein. Despite the hesitation of many parents to send their children to an unaccredited college that would not offer a degree, the college managed to attract a sufficient number of students dissatisfied with traditional education, and in 1933 its doors opened.

“Black Mountain was a community, first and last—a company of people,” says Robert Creeley, poet and former faculty member. Creeley believes artist John Chamberlain put it most aptly: “At Black Mountain one found, as he said, people who were more interested in what they didn’t know than in what they did. It was an extraordinary sense of conduct and thinking, despite its small numbers. It had only faculty and students as its determinants—no overseers, no administration other than those so participating. That was its absolute virtue—the interactive condition of its faculty and students. No one was or could get ‘outside.’”

Students came from all over the U.S. to attend Black Mountain, but the majority con-sisted of northeasterners—many from New York City, according to Jonathan Williams, former Black Mountain student and publisher of Jargon Books. Potential students were most often reached by word of mouth. “M. C. Richards, who was there in the forties mostly as a writer—she became a potter as well—would go out in the spring and try to recruit people,” says Williams. “There wasn’t any money to do much of anything. They would put out the occasional bulletin or advertising brochure once a year, some very attractively designed by the graphic arts people there.”

At its inception, the college had only three rules. The first was formulated by Rice: “The constant admonition of a college should not be ‘Be intellectual’ or ‘Be muscular!’ (in both cases the dividing line is the neck) but ‘Be intelligent!’” The second was that firearms must be deposited with the administration; and the third rule was that women students must not hitchhike in the South. There was also a tacit agreement that a “Do Not Disturb” sign ought to be respected.

“The fact that there were no academic departments—there weren’t enough people for that—meant that the learning was interdisciplinary,” says Harris.

“Everybody was sharing ideas from their field. It wasn’t compartmentalized or departmentalized.” Composer John Cage believed the most important learning at Black Mountain took place at mealtime, because faculty and students sat together in the dining hall.

“The relationships between faculty and students were much less formal,” says Harris. “In the end it was a communal learning situation.”

The founders of the college had no illusions about creating a utopia, however, and focused on building an educational community with an emphasis on the arts. “Black Mountain College combined elements of the progressive schools, farm schools, religious sects, and summer camps,” Harris writes in her book, The Arts at Black Mountain College. “There was a strong sense of pioneering in the American tradition of building a ‘log cabin college’ out of nothing and of providing a good education without tremendous laboratories, expensive buildings, and stadiums.”

The college reaffirmed democratic government, individual freedom, and responsibility in a period of economic instability and rising totalitarianism, says Harris. In the same year the college was founded, Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor of Germany, the Bauhaus movement was closed down by the Nazis, and the persecution of Jews, artists, and intellectuals was beginning in Europe. The Depression held the United States in its grip, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt had just been elected president.

The addition of European artists to the Black Mountain faculty had a tremendous impact on the atmosphere of the college and the aesthetic taught there. Only a few months after the college opened, Josef and Anni Albers arrived from Germany, fleeing the rise of Nazism. Josef Albers, the first of the Bauhaus teachers to come to the United States, was an advocate of abstract art. “Abstracting is the essential function of the Human Spirit,” he wrote in 1936. He later said he wanted the same right as the composer to create abstract forms that “have life within themselves as music has.” Albers’s philosophy had a palpable impact on artists of all disciplines who studied with him at Black Mountain.

When the United States entered World War II, most young men were drafted or left to join the war effort. The student body remaining at Black Mountain consisted of women, men past the draft age, and European refugees. In 1941 Black Mountain College moved onto its own property at Lake Eden, where students and faculty constructed a number of buildings, expanded their farming activities, and set up a mica mine to prepare the mineral for sale as war material.

After the war, Black Mountain managed to get approved for GI bill benefits even though it was not an accredited college. “If that had not happened, the college would have closed after the war,” says Harris. “Instead, enrollment skyrocketed to more than ninety students.”

A number of as yet unrecognized artists came to Black Mountain in the late 1940s, either as visiting summer faculty or as students, furthering the college’s reigning spirit of interdisciplinary collaboration. Jacob Lawrence taught a course on “creative painting” in 1946, giving him the occasion to meet Josef Albers, who encouraged his newfound interest in abstraction. In the summer of 1948, John Cage gave the first performance ofSonatas and Interludes while Merce Cunningham danced. Both had received some atten-tion, though Cunningham had not yet left the Martha Graham Company to begin his own dance company. Willem de Kooning—who could not manage to sell any work from his first one-person exhibition in New York—came to teach art. Buckminster Fuller, an engineer and architect considered a “delightful nut,” had not yet developed his geo-desic dome, which he would do while at Black Mountain.

By the 1950s, Rice and the Albers had left Black Mountain, and in contrast to the period in which the college had been founded, America was experiencing an era of prosperity and conservatism. The college’s association with liberal causes brought it under suspicion of harboring communist sympathies. “The times then were quite hostile,” says Robert Creeley.

“The FBI had a person come check out Black Mountain College on a regular basis, ‘Frank,’ who was amiable enough, as it happens, and even gave us advice as to how we might have secured government grants.”

In 1951, poet and unorthodox scholar Charles Olson became rector of the college. Under Olson’s guidance, the college metamorphosed into a primarily arts-driven institution and the farmwork aspect of the program was all but terminated. In a letter to Creeley, Olson wrote that the college would focus on “painting, music, dance, writing, architecture, pots, cloth, wood, theatre, printing, sculpture & photography. . . . No academics.”

Olson’s personality and views on writing and art dominated the college during its remaining years. In his 1950 essay “Projective Verse,” published in Poetry New York, Olson had advocated open forms, describing the poem as a “field” and stressing that a line ought to be measured in terms of a person’s breath. These ideas distinguished him from the predominant movement in literature, New Criticism, and its proponents such as Allan Tate, Lionel Trilling, T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, Robert Lowell, and Elizabeth Bishop.

“Meeting Charles Olson was rather like meeting Ralph Waldo Emerson, I suspect. He was very much in that tradition of New England sages,” says Jonathan Williams. “He was enormous —about 6’9” and 275 pounds—he was a towering sort of person and also as a personality. Like Emerson, he was almost oracular in his writing and would just come bursting out with extraordinary remarks—practically three a minute.”

“My relation to Black Mountain had far more to do with Olson than with any fact of the institution,” says Creeley. “It was he who arranged, in effect, for the publication of the journal, Black Mountain Review, and also set up my being invited there to teach in the spring of 1954.”

Black Mountain floundered financially during Olson’s tenure. The faculty often went without pay, and the college periodically sold off its land, cattle, and pianos to raise funds.

“By the time I got to Black Mountain, its faculty and student body were very small indeed,” says Creeley. “The classes I taught were about six to eight people, period—the entire student body ranged from thirty to twenty as I recall. At that point the structure and operation of the college was all but derelict.”

While its administration was disintegrating, Black Mountain entered a period of flourishing productivity and artistic collaboration that continued to attract talented artists. Ben Shahn, Robert Motherwell, John Cage, Harry Callahan, Aaron Siskind, Robert Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Fielding Dawson, Joel Oppenheimer, and John Chamberlain taught at the college. In the summer of 1951, students witnessed Shahn debating the relative merits of figurative and abstract art with Motherwell; Shahn painted designs for Nick Cernovich’s dance; and writers who would become known as the “Black Mountain poets” collaborated with artists in magazines such as Black Mountain Review, Cid Corman’s Origin, and Jonathan Williams’s Jargon.

“I began Jargon only a few weeks before going to Black Mountain,” says Williams. “The first thing I did there was Jargon number two, which was a poem by Joel Oppenheimer dedicated to Kathryn Litz—a dancer who was at Black Mountain that summer—and I asked Bob Rauschenberg for a work to put in with the poem.” That summer, Litz had danced in a stage production called The Glyph, with a set designed by Ben Shahn and text by Olson.

Williams went on to publish Olson’s Maximus poems, as well as collections by Creeley, Kenneth Patchen, Robert Duncan, Louis Zukofsky, Michael McClure, Paul Metcalf, Mina Loy, and Lorine Niedecker. Jargon continues to publish new and innovative work and to encourage collaboration between writers and visual artists. “Jargon is very much as it was. I use a lot of photography in the design of the books,” says Williams. “I like the idea of two people working together in a book.”

“The support Jonathan Williams’s Jargon Press gave me was very, very helpful,” says Creeley. “Cid Corman is also an old friend indeed and Origin’s publication of my work as a feature in its second issue again let me take my writing seriously and found me a company I have never lost and forever value. That’s what magazines really are for, as Olson writes, ‘we who live our lives quite properly in print’—or words to that effect.”

Creeley’s endeavor to combine words and imagery, which preceded his association with Black Mountain, continues today. A current traveling exhibition entitled “In Company” showcases Creeley’s affiliation with visual artists, several of whom he worked with while at Black Mountain.

Black Mountain in the mid-fifties was a locus of artistic vitality. Robert Duncan wrote in the 1956 Black Mountain Review that “in American poetry the striding syllables show an aesthetic based on energies.” He also recognized the “bravura brushstroke” in abstract expressionist painting: “the power and movement of the arm itself . . . the involvement of the painter in the act.”

Donald Allen calls Olson, Creeley, Duncan, Williams, and their peers “our avant-garde, the true continuers of the modern movement in American poetry,” in his preface to the 1960 New American Poetry. “These poets have already created their own tradi-tion, their own press, and their public.”

The vision of experimental education delineated by Black Mountain’s founders in the early 1930s was dramatically revised by the time lack of funds caused the school to close its doors in 1957, yet the college continued to draw individuals interested in intellectual and artistic freedom and to nurture ground-breaking artists. One former student said that at any place on the campus, day or night, “there were always people arguing and talking. . . .  All kinds of people with completely different, associated interests and fields.”

“Black Mountain being so small and freewheeling, Olson’s class began after supper,” Jonathan Williams recalls. “It would go on until about 10:30 and then everybody would get in cars and race down to the local beer joint, Ma Peak’s Tavern, until that closed around twelve, and then people would bring cases of beer back to the college. I don’t know what those poor mountain folks thought of all those wild intellectuals and exotic folks from New York. A lot of interesting talk got talked down there— there were big booths, so you could get seven or eight people in one of those booths and jabber away. That’s what Dahlberg said, ‘Literature is the way we ripen ourselves by conversation.’”

“There was one occasion when Olson’s class ran for two days—it got so interesting at dawn of the first day that people said listen, we’re really getting somewhere, let’s just keep going. It went on all that day and all the next night.”

Friday, 29 September, 2000, 06:03 GMT 07:03 UK

Sir Paul McCartney

Abstract art: Sir Paul started painting when he was 40

The first UK exhibition of Sir Paul McCartney’s art work has opened in Bristol.The 58-year-old singer has been painting since he was 40, but he has only exhibited his work once before, in Germany last year.Featuring a selection of the 500 canvasses he has painted, the exhibition, at the Arnolfini Gallery, coincides with the publication of a book on his art.Speaking on the eve of the exhibition’s opening, Sir Paul said he had always wanted to be an artist, and felt he had missed out on formal training in his teenage years.”I always liked drawing as a kid and I liked the idea of painting but I felt there was some sort of reason why I shouldn’t, because I hadn’t been trained, because I hadn’t been to art college, because I was just a working class person,” he said.Abstract art

Sir Paul recounted how a conversation with US artist Willem de Kooning prompted him to pick up palette and brushes.

Willem de Koonig

Willem de Kooning, abstract artist who inspired Sir Paul, died in 1997

While looking at one of the late painter’s works Sir Paul asked de Kooning: “At the risk of appearing gauche, what is it, Bill?”De Kooning, an abstract expressionist, replied: “I dunno, looks like a couch, huh?”

“I thought his painting looked like a purple mountain and he thought it looked like a couch, but the fact that he said that it didn’t matter what it was just freed me,” Sir Paul said.

Spat with Lennon

The exhibition coincides with the recent re-publication of an interview fellow Beatle John Lennon gave to Rolling Stone magazine in 1970.

Lennon attacks Sir Paul in the interview, but the musician pointed out that it came when the band members were going through their worst crisis.

John Lennon

John Lennon: Interview ‘hurt a lot at the time’ according to Sir Paul

“It hurt a lot at the time but we got back together as friends and he is on record as saying a lot of that slagging off he gave me was really just him crying for help,” Sir Paul said.“He could have been boozed out of his head, as he was during that period, he could have been crazed on this, that or the other substance.

“But we did get very friendly, and he did tell me that a lot of those things he said he didn’t mean.

“I was very lucky in as much as before he got killed we were able to tell each other we loved each other,” he added.

Willem de Kooning chronology

de Kooning with painting, 1946. Photograph by Harry Bowden, 10x9in. Archives of American Art.

1904 April 24, Willem de Kooning is born in Port of Rotterdam, Holland, to Leendert de Kooning (b. February 10, 1876) and Cornelia Nobel de Kooning (b. March 3, 1877). He has one older sister, Marie (b. 1899). (His mother later gives birth to three more daughters, none of whom live past one year.)

1909 Parents divorce; court awards custody of five-year-old Willem to his father. His mother, however, kidnaps Willem and is later awarded full custody.

1916 Completes grammar school.

1916-1920 Begins training in commercial art under Jan and Jaap Giding, proprietors of a large commercial art firm, with whom he resides. Enrolls in the Academie voor Beeldende Kunsten en Technische Wetenschappen in Brussels, Belgium, attending night classes until 1924, when he graduates with certifications in both carpentry and art.

1920 Leaves the Giddings to begin training with Bernard Romein, noted art director of a large department store in Rotterdam.

1924-1926 Travels to Antwerp and enrolls in the Van Schelling School of Design, commuting to Brussels to study simultaneously at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts, supporting himself with commercial work.

The Kiss, 1925. Graphite on paper, 48.3×33.5cm. Allan Stone Gallery, New York City.

1926 Immigrates to United States as a stow-away on the SS Shelly, arriving in Newport News, Virginia on July 30. Takes ship to Boston, Massachusetts, then travels by train to Rhode Island. Settles in Hoboken, New Jersey, and finds lodging at the Dutch Seaman’s Home. Becomes acquainted with other artists and moves to New York City. Works as commercial artist and as a sign-painter, window dresser, and carpenter.

1927 Moves to Manhattan and begins working for Eastman Brothers, a design firm. Meets Misha Reznikoff, who is later instrumental in securing his 1948 summer teaching job at Black Mountain College.

1928 Spends the summer at the artists’ colony in Woodstock, New York.

1929 Becomes associated with modern artists John Graham and Stuart Davis. Buys Capehart hi-fi sound system, spending nearly six months’ salary. Frequents George’s in the Village and the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem with David Margoli and other artists.

1930 Meets David Smith and Arshile Gorky. Moves into studio apartment with Gorky. Works as a window dresser for A.S. Beck, a chain of shoe stores in New York. Meets Virginia “Nini” Diaz, with whom he goes to Woodstock, New York. in late May. Moves to 348 W. 55th Street with Diaz in the autumn; Diaz’s mother moves in. Diaz has first of three abortions, the last in 1935, which leaves her unable to conceive.

1932 Moves to Greenwich Village with Diaz.

1934 Joins Artist’s Union, which leads to attending John Reed Club (a pro- Communist group) meetings, despite his anti-Commuist leanings. Meets Julie Browner in May and begins relationship; Diaz moves out. Returns to Woodstock and rents home with Browner for the summer. Invites Diaz to join them, which she does, resulting in a ménage à trois. Invites Marie Marchowski and her friend to join them; they also move in. Returns to New York City, live at 40 Union Square, a home owned by friend and architect Mac Vogel. Browning returns from Woodstock; she and de Kooning move to 145 West 21st Street, then to 145 West 23rd Street.

1935 Meets Rudy Burckhardt and Edwin Denby, who become first collectors of de Kooning’s work. Begins full-time employment with the mural division of the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project, one of which is the Williamsburg Federal Housing Project in Brooklyn. Makes pivotal decision to devote his life to art, inspired by WPA director Burgoyne Diller. Leaves A.S. Beck to pursue art full time. Meets art critic, Harold Rosenberg. His mother comes to visit.

1936 Moves with Browner to commercially-zoned 156 West 22nd Street. Meets artist Mark Rothko. Unfinished work for the Williamsburg mural is included in group exhibition New Horizons in American Art at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, September 14-October 12; this is his first public recognition in America. Declines participation in the American Abstract Artists group.

1937 System and Dialectics of Art, by John Graham, is published, naming de Kooning one of eight painters he considered “outstanding.” Arshile Gorky paints Portrait of Master Bill, a painting of de Kooning. Resigns from the WPA in August when “American citizens only” policy is announced, effective post-July. Begins work on a mural, Medicine, for the World’s Fair on the Hall of Pharmacy building; work on this continues until early 1939.

1938 Browner moves in with Diaz. Meets Elaine Marie Fried, a fellow artist and teacher. Paints a series of male figures, including Two Men Standing, A Man, and Seated Figure. Begins abstractions Pink Landscape and Elegy.

1939 Becomes influenced by the Surrealist style of Gorky and Picasso and the Gestural style of Jackson Pollock and Franz Kline. Suffers financially; tutors local art students. Becomes engaged to Fried. Visits Balcomb Greene in Fishkill. With other artists, petitions the Museum of Modern Art to show the work of Earl Kerkam after his death.

The Glazier, 1940. Oil on canvas, 54×44 in. Metropolitan Museum. Figure.

1940 Alcoholism and poverty are both significant. Becomes identified with the Abstract Expressionist movement. Drawings appear in Harper’s Bazaar. On May 14, his birthplace, Rotterdam, is hit by Germans. Harper’s Bazaar commissions four hairstyle sketches, with Elaine as model, for $75 each.

1941 Attends Miro exhibition. Is influenced by Matta, with whom he and Gorky become friends.

1942 Work is featured in the January 20-February 6 John Graham exhibition at McMillan, Inc. Drawing of a sailor with pipe is used in advertisement for Model Tobacco in Life Magazine.

1943 George Keller promises a one-man show at his Bignou Gallery; de Kooning fails to send sufficient work to exhibit. A group show included Pink Landscape and Elegy; both were bought by Helena Rubenstein for $1,050. Moved to 156 West 22nd Street. In summer, meets Franz Kline at Conrad Marca Relli’s 148 West 4th Street studio. Marries Elaine Fried on December 9. Shortly thereafter, he discovers her in bed with ex-lover, Robert Jonas.

1944 Abstract and Surrealist Art in the United States features de Kooning’s work at the Cincinnati Art Museum, February 8 – March 12. After closing, the exhibition moves to the Mortimer Brandt Gallery. Sidney Janis publishes the book, Abstract and Surrealist Art in America.

1945 Painting The Netherlands wins competition sponsored by the Container Corporation of America in January. The Wave is shown in the Autumn Salon at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century exhibition in the fall. Elaine sails to Provincetown with physicist Bill Hardy; de Kooning disapproves. Paints Pink Angels.

1946 Inspired by Pollock and Kline, begins first black-and-white abstracts. Charles Egan opens gallery at 63 East 57th Street. Marie Marchowsky commissions backdrop for a dance performance at New York Times Hall; de Kooning and Resnick collaborate on the project. Rents a studio with Jack Tworkov. Contacts father by letter in November requesting to see him. His father encourages him to seek more stable employment.

Valentine, 1947. Oil and enamel. Museum of Modern Art, New York. Abstract.

1947 Creates the black-and-white painting, Orestes, entitled by Tiger’s Eye magazine.

1948 Charles Egan Gallery arranges first one-man show on April 12, consisting of black-and-white enamels includingPainting, Village, Square & Dark Pond; reviews are favorable. Museum of Modern Art purchases Painting for $700; it is the only sale of the exhibition. Teaches summer session at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Returns with student Pat Passlof.. Arshile Gorky hangs himself July 21. Elaine has affairs with Charles Egan, a brief fling with Harold Rosenburg, and then an affair withThomas Hess; the latter relationship lasts until the early 1950s. Willem has numerous trysts and involvements.Mailbox is shown at the Whitney’s annual show of American art the fall. Life magazine names de Kooning one of the five “young extremists.”

1949 Meets Mary Abbott; begins affair which extends intermittently until the mid-1950s. Is introduced to projector by Franz Kline; begins series of large canvas abstractions. Gives first public statement at The Subjects of the Artist School. Drinking increases. Rents cottage with Elaine in Provincetown. PaintsSailcloth and Two Women on a Wharf. Sidney Janis Gallery features portrait of de Kooning with Elaine in exhibition.Intrasubjectives exhibition at Samuel M. Kootz Gallery, September 4 – October 3, includes de Kooning. Opens restaurant, The Club, with other artists.

1950 Begins Woman I; at nearly seven feet in height, it is his largest, completes in 1952. Participates with Alfred Barr in the Venice Biennale exhibition of younger American Painters in the U.S. Pavilion, June 8-October 15. Young Painters in the U.S. and France exhibits Woman (1949-1950) at the Sidney Janis Gallery. Joins symposium which writes letter of protest to New York Herald Tribune regarding the national jury of selection for the Metropolitan Museum of Art; group pickets the Museum and refuses to submit work. New York Herald Tribune calls the group “The Irascible Eighteen.” Protest is covered in numerous national magazines. Teaches at Yale School of Art until 1952. Helps title Franz Kline’s first one-man show.

1951 Excavation is exhibited in Abstract Painting and Sculpture in America at the Museum of Modern Art, January 23 – March 25. Speaks at symposium organized by the Museum of Modern Art. Holds one-man show at Egan Gallery in April, with limited sales and no proceeds after expenses. Participates inNinth Street Exhibition. Receives financial support from Sidney Janis, contingent upon agreement to call his studio the Janis Gallery. Excavation wins $4,000 first prize in the 60th Annual American Exhibition: Paint and Sculpture at the Art Institute of Chicago. One of 20 artists exhibited in the American Vanguard Art for Paris exhibition at Sidney Janis Gallery, December 26 – January 5, 1952.

1952 Abandons Woman I, but revisits at the urging of art historian Meyer Sharpiro in June; completes in mid-June, but begins reworking in December. Starts several new “Woman” works. Elaine accompanies him to the Hamptons. Moves to 88 East 10th Street; spends much time with Harold Rosenberg. Meets art student Joan Ward, who becomes pregnant; the pregnancy is aborted.

Woman I, 1950. Oil on canvas, 192.7×147.3. Museum of Modern Art, New York.

1953 Officially changes studio name to Janis Gallery. Exhibits small retrospective at the Workshop Center for the Arts in Washington and School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. First show at Sidney Janis Gallery opens in March. Drinking increases, as does continual reworking of paintings.

1954 Participates in Venice Biennale with Excavation; becomes famous as leading Abstract Expressionism artist. Has affair with Marisol Escobar. Rents house in Bridgehampton in the summer with Elaine, Ward, Ludwig Sander, and Franz Kline. Sells pictures to Martha Jackson and uses money for fare for his mother to visit. Begins painting abstract landscapes, using bright “circus colors.”

1955 Joan Ward becomes pregnant.

1956 Ward gives birth to Johanna Lisbeth (Lisa) de Kooning on January 29. Has second one-man show at Sidney Janis Gallery, April 3; the show is a sell-out. Jackson Pollock and Edith Metzger die in car crash August 11. Elaine returns from Europe and joins de Kooning, Ward and Lisa at Martha’s Vineyard.

1957 Has affair with Pollock’s widow, Ruth Kligman. Later has affair with actress Shirley Stoler; allegedly offers her painting, which she refuses. Creates abstract landscapes, continues “Woman” art from 1957- 1961.

Two figures in landscape. Oil. National Galleyr of Australia. Painting.

1958 Takes Ruth Kligman to Cuba in February; they drift apart but reunite and spend early summer at Martha’s Vineyard together. Meets attorney Lee Eastman. Travels to Europe to meet Kligman. Hires Bernard Reis as accountant in May.

1959 Moves studio to 831 Broadway. Monograph on de Kooning by Thomas B. Hess is published by Braziller in New York. Sidney Janis Gallery opens exhibition of new large abstractions on May 4; all pieces sell. Woman series and some urban landscapes are shown at The New American Painting as shown in 8 European Countries 1958-1959 exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, May 28 – September 8. Buys 4.2 acres in the Springs of Long Island on June 23. Stays with Kligman in Rome from July 28 until January 1960, where he begins working with black enamel mixed with pumice, also produces several collages. Ward moves to San Francisco with Lisa. Work is featured in Sixteen Americans exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art, December 16 – February 17, 1960.

1960 Michael Sonnabend and Robert Snyder make film documentary which features Sketchbook No. 1: Three Americans. Returns from Italy and hires young California artist Dane Dixon as assistant. Grove Press publishes De Kooning, by Harriet Janis and Rudi Blesh. Spends summer in Southhampton. Visits Joan Ward and Lisa in San Francisco; visits galleries and does lithographs in Berkelely. Convinces Ward to return to New York. Drinking escalates.

Waves, 1960. Lithograph, 109x73cm, Yale University Gallery. Print.

1961 Buys more land in the Springs. Has affair with Marina Ospina.

1962 Becomes American citizen. March exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery fails. Meets Mera McAlister in March; affair lasts until winter. Sidney Janis allows Allan Stone to handle some small works; Newman- De Kooning, an exhibition of two founding fathers opens at the Allan Stone Gallery at 48 East 86th Street, October 23. The New Realists group show runs October 31 – December 1 at the Sidney Janis Gallery. Elaine paints portrait of President Kennedy for the Harry S. Truman Library.

1963 Moves back to the Springs in March, resides with Ward and Lisa. Later moves to East Hampton, Long Island. PaintsClam Diggers. Begins affair with neighbor Susan Brockman in the summer; moves in with Brockman and her friend, Clare Hooten. Later moves with Brockman to cottage on Barnes Landing, then to house owned by Bernice D’Vorazon. Later stays with John and Rae Ferren, then rents home near studio on Woodbine Drive. Splits from Brockman, but reunites in winter. Is hospitalized for alcoholism, but drinks again after release. Produces only one painting, Two Standing Women.

1964 Plans 1968 retrospective with Eduard de Wilde from the Stedelijk Museum in Holland. Ward and Lisa move to 3rd Avenue apartment. Receives the Presidential Medal of Freedom in September. Becomes friends with art collector Joseph Hirshhorn. Harold Rosenberg writes profile for Vogue magazine.

1965 The Institute of Contemporary Art features de Kooning inThe Decisive Years, 1943 to 1953, exhibiting January 13 – February 19. Ends relationship with Sidney Janis, resulting in multiple lawsuits. Rents cottage with Brockman in the spring; relationship ends shortly thereafter. Accepts retrospective at Smith College, April 8 – May 2. Gives paintings to Ward and Lisa; draws up will, leaving most of his money to Lisa. Personal assistant John McMahon becomes part-time employee; Michael Wright is hired. Intermittent hospitalizations for alcoholism. Has affair with Molly Barnes. Police Gazette sells for $37,000, October 13.

1966 Enters Southampton Hospital for alcoholism in January. Attends Lisa’s birthday party in New York. Becomes involved with anti-war protests, grows hair. Draws Women Singing I,Women Singing II, and Screaming Girls.

1967 Walker and Company publishes 24 charcoal drawings produced in 1966. Joins prestigious New York gallery M. Knoedler and Company to start contemporary art department. Eastman negotiates $100,000 annual guarantee for first refusal of work. Provides 22 additional paintings on August 4, including several of the Women on the Sign series. Ward and Lisa return to the Springs. First exhibition at M. Knoedler and Company opens November 10; works include Woman Sag Harbour, Woman Accobanac, Woman Springs, and Woman, Montaulk. Despite negative reviews, some sell. Enters Southampton Hospital for alcoholism in December.

1968 Michael Wright resigns. Visits Europe, returns to Holland for major retrospective at Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, accompanied by Ward, Lisa, and Leo Cohan. (Exhibition begins there September 18, travels to London on December 8, then New York, March 5 – April 26, 1969.) Sees sister, Marie, and step-brother, Koos Lassoy; they visit their mother September 19, who dies October 8. Has car crash on Thanksgiving after drinking, he and Ward survive.

1969 Retrospect of 147 paintings, pastels, collages and drawings is held at the Museum of Modern Art, March 5 – April 26, to mixed reviews. Begins renovations of home with Ward in spring. Takes Brockman to Italy in summer; upon return, stays with her and visits Ward and Lisa. Begins sculpting in bronze. Hires David Christian to make enlarged experimental version of previous small work, Seated Woman.

1970 Visits Japan. Works on lithography; produces Love to Wakako and Mr. and Mrs. Krishner. Has affair with Emilie (Mimi) Kilgore in August; proclaims true love.

Minnie Mouse, 1971. Lithograph, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. Print.

Landscape at Stanton Street, 1971. Lithograph, 75.8x56cm. Art Gallery of New South Wales. Print.

1971 Sculpts Clam Digger. Moves back into studio in August. Exhibits Seven by de Kooning at the Museum of Modern Art in December.

1972 Takes Mimi to attend the Venice Bienne in June. Has final exhibition at the Sidney Janis Gallery (part of legal settlement) in October. Lisa moves to New York, residing with de Kooning before taking apartment at 3rd Avenue and 10th Street.

1973 Enters Southampton Hospital with liver and pancreas damage in February. Undergoes rehabilitation in October and November.

1974 Traveling exhibition is organized by Fourcade, Droll. Inc., which runs until early 1977. Woman V sells for $850,000 in September, a record price for a living American artist. Dane Dixon becomes full-time assistant after McMahon leaves.

1975 Exhibits in Japan and Paris. Proposes to Kilgore, who declines. Completes 24 works in six months. Exhibits at Fourcade, Droll, Inc. in October.

Two Trees, 1975. Oil on canvas. Thought Factory. Painting.

1976 Hirshhorn Museum and the U.S. Information Agency organize major traveling exhibition to tour eleven cities in Europe. Xavier Fourcade becomes exclusive art dealer of de Kooning; mounts show of 12 new works, to favorable reviews.

1977 Attends Alcoholics Anonymous with Elaine.

1978 Willem de Kooning in East Hampton exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, February 10 – April 23, is successful. American Art at Mid-Century: The Subjects of the Artist exhibit features de Kooning at the opening of the new East Building of the National Gallery in Washington in May. Goes on binge in June after several friends, including Harold Rosenberg and Thomas Hess, die.

1979 Stops painting. Drinking continues.

1980 Works becomes graphic. From 1980 to 1987, Tom Ferrarra is assistant.

1981 Lisa begins building house on studio grounds. Revises will to include Elaine as equal beneficiary with Lisa. Begins painting again in spring.

1982 February issue of Art News features Willem de Kooning: I Am Only Halfway Through, by Avis Berman; cover photograph of de Kooning ` and Paul McCartney taken by Linda Eastman, wife of McCartney and daughter of Lee Eastman. Dustin Hoffman films documentary, De Kooning on de Kooning forStrokes of Genius series in March. Attends premier. Also attends White House dinner to honor Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in April. New work is exhibited as New Paintings: 1981- 1982 at the Fourcade, Droll Gallery, March 17 – May 1.

1983 Finishes 54 paintings with the help of staff assistants. Is encouraged by Fourcade and Eastman to authorize enlarged photographs of sculptures. Untitled #2 is cast in a sterling silver, limited edition by Gemini Foundry in California. Allan Stone buys Two Women for $1.2 million in May. Willem de Kooning: Drawing, Paintings, Sculpture opens at the Whitney Museum of Art on December 15.

1984 Finishes 51 paintings. Receives commission to paint triptych for St. Peter’s Church in New York City; paintsHallelujah, which fails to receive hoped-for price of $900,000 and is taken down at the insistence of the congregation.

1985 Paints 63 pieces. Early signs of Alzheimer’s disease are apparent. Works with help from Elaine and assistants onUntitled XIII and Untitled XX. Last show at the Fourcade, Droll Gallery, Exhibition of de Kooning’s recent work from 1984-1985is held in October.

1986 Completes 43 works. Exhibition of Willem de Kooning’s work from 1983-1986 exhibits at the Anthony d’Offay Gallery in London.

1987 Does 26 paintings via projection of old sketches onto canvases by assistants. Pink Lady sells for $3.63 million. Xavier Fourcade dies of AIDS; de Kooning is not told. Elaine is diagnosed with lung cancer.

1988 Paints 27 paintings. Elaine authorizes a series of prints; encourages the changing of the will to make Lisa sole beneficiary. Attempt is blocked by Eastman, who remains executor. Elaine undergoes radiation treatments at Sloan-Kettering.

1989 Elaine dies at age 70; de Kooning is never told. Lisa and Eastman file petition declaring de Kooning incompetent. Eastman also attempts to become sole conservator, charging Lisa with mismanagement; court rules they remain co-conservators. Enters Southampton Hospital in May for a hernia operation, then in July for prostate surgery.

Untitled XXII, 1983. Oil on canvas, 70x80in. Saint Louis Museum of Art. Painting.

1990 Stops painting. Mini-retrospective, Willem de Kooning: An Exhibition of Paintings is held at the Salander-O’Reilly Galleries, September – October. De Kooning / Dubuffet: The Woman is shown at the Pace Gallery from December until January, 1991.

1993 Willem de Kooning from the Hirshhorn Museum Collection opens at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden on October 21. Jennifer McLaughlin resigns; she is his final assistant.

1994 The Naitonal Gallery of Art in Washington exhibitsWillem de Kooning: Paintings, May – September 5.

1996 The Academie Van Beeldende Kunsten en Technishche Wetenschappen, where de Kooning studied in Amsterdam, officially changes its name to the Willem de Kooning Academy.

1997 Dies March 19, 1997 in the Springs. Funeral is attended by some 300 friends and associates, including Ruth Kligman, Susan Brockman, Molly Barnes, and Emilie Kilgore. Lisa is guest speaker.


 Great article

WILLEM de KOONING (1904–1997)

Asheville, 1948
Willem de Kooning’s Asheville takes its name from the North Carolina town near Black Mountain College where de Kooning taught in the summer of 1948. A small but extremely complex work, it gathers together numerous, often oblique allusions, including references to the college and sections that recall de Kooning’s early training in crafts such as marbling, woodgraining, and lettering.De Kooning’s works often blur the distinctions between drawings, studies, and paintings. Rather than the traditional academic progression from study to finished painting, de Kooning creates a constant flow and exchange of ideas and forms across different media. Four other versions ofAsheville show shapes similar to those found in The Phillips Collection’s painting, suggesting that de Kooning consciously refined the seemingly random forms of the Phillips painting through his manipulations of form in the related works.Asheville is an important example of de Kooning’s intricate experiments in “collage painting” of the late 1940s in which he used collage procedures, combining different materials such as torn paper and drawings to create illusions that might be used as a source for visual ideas. These techniques assisted the artist in working out a final composition that was free from any actual collaged elements. In the completed work, de Kooning created jumps and visual ruptures between passages that mimic collage. Additional deceptions in Asheville include the illusion of a tack holding a cut-out form at the upper left and a depiction of paper peeling from the surface to the left of what appears to be a mouth at the picture’s center.De Kooning enhanced these effects by scraping down and building up the surface of the painting numerous times. This layering blends spontaneity and measured thought, giving Asheville a look of immediacy and chance, though de Kooning actually constructed the painting thoughtfully over a number of months. In addition, he interspersed sinuous black lines throughout the work with a liner’s brush, a tool with unusually long brush hairs traditionally used by sign painters. These gestures of black tracery resemble the spontaneous, unconscious marks of Surrealism’s psychic automatism, but upon closer inspection they reveal de Kooning’s technical mastery of the brush and reflect his fascination with precise line.Content in Asheville is suggested through momentary glimpses of reality. The skyline noted near the upper-center edge of the painting suggests the Blue Ridge Mountains looming over the grounds of Black Mountain College. Beneath this passage is an area of blue that may refer to Lake Eden, which was adjacent to the school. Additional fragments include eyes, hands, and a mouth, as well as a window of green, an effective foil for the interplay between indoor and outdoor space in the picture.Central to de Kooning’s art is the ambiguity and multiplicity of meanings through appropriations and transformations of reality. At the time de Kooning painted Asheville, the abstract expressionists struggled to come to terms with a multiplicity of ideas: the emotional legacy of World War II, the heritage of modernism, and the array of influences available to them in New York. De Kooning responded to this flux of ideas and experiences with an extraordinary degree of self-conscious control. His depictions of collage in Asheville are characteristic of a measured approach that allowed him to respect older traditions of figuration, illusion and craft, while simultaneously engaging more radical modern idioms.


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