Lessons from a master: De Kooning at MoMA
A major retrospective exhibition of the works of Willem De Kooning is about to open at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. For aspiring artists, there’s a lot to be learned from a slow walk through this large show.
As a young teenager in his native Rotterdam, De Kooning worked in a commercial design firm, where he learned basic techniques of lettering, tracing, copying, and layering. This background in creating a whole from many disparate parts became the foundation of the art he would go on to produce. As a young artist, he studied and absorbed the work of many artists including Ingres, Rubens, Soutine, Picasso, and Gorky, as well as images from advertising and the Sunday comics. He strove to combine many elements to create something entirely new; every painting he made was a controlled experiment. According to an article in the New York Times, “typically, he would start with a drawing, add paint, draw on top of the paint, scrape the surface down, draw more images traced and transferred from elsewhere, add paint to them, and on and on.” This physical energy reaches out from each painting to grab the viewer’s attention.
For students of art, getting to know De Kooning feels like being given permission to try any crazy combination of elements that comes to mind. That’s what creativity is all about. De Kooning never stopped experimenting; neither should we.
Next entry: White House Displays Evocative Rockwell Painting
Previous entry: Small Changes Can Be Radical Shifts