Willem de Kooning, a leading figure of the Abstract Expressionist School, was born April 24, 1904 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. De Kooning entered the Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts & Letters, Rotterdam, in 1916 where he studied until 1925. De Kooning immigrated to the United States in 1926 and worked as a house painter in Hoboken, New Jersey before relocating to New York City in 1927. Once in New York, de Kooning worked a variety of odd jobs until 1935 when he was employed by the mural and easel divisions of the WPA Federal Art Project. After this time, de Kooning painted full time and was influenced primarily by Cubism and Surrealism and artists such as Picasso and Gorky, with whom he shared a studio.
In mid 1938, De Kooning began his first celebrated Women series – a subject that he would consistently return to throughout the remainder of his career. De Kooning's first solo exhibition was held at the Egan Gallery, New York, in 1948, establishing the artists' reputation. The 1960's yielded works of abstract urban landscapes and a new group of Women. In 1968, the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, held a retrospective of De Kooning's work, for which the artists returned to the Netherlands for the first time since 1926. After beginning his first sculpture work in 1969 while in Rome, the Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, organized an exhibition of the artists' sculptures in 1974, which travelled throughout the United States. The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, followed in 1979 with an exhibition of the artists' recent works and in 1997 the Museum of Modern Art, New York, honored the artist with a retrospective, Willem de Kooning: The Late Paintings, The 1980's.
Willem de Kooning died on March 19, 1997 on Long Island.