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Artist's Quotes: Willem de Kooning

A collection quotes from the American expressionist Willem de Kooning.


De Kooning Biography

De Kooning Biography

Willem de Kooning is regarded as one of the 20th century’s most important painters. In the 1930s and 40s he was a key figure in the abstract expressionist art movement in America, together with the likes of Arshile Gorky and Jackson Pollock.

De Kooning quote on painting:
“I might work on a painting for a month, but it has too look like I painted it in a minute.”

De Kooning quote on a successful painting:
”I am always in the picture somewhere. The amount of space I use I am always in, I seem to move around in it, and there seems to be a time when I lose sight of what I wanted to did, and then I am out of it. If the picture has a countenance, I keep it. If it hasn’t, I throw it away.”

De Kooning quote on viewing paintings in the Metropolitan Museum in New York:
“If you go from picture to picture you get all mixed up. So you say to yourself, ‘What am I interested in?’ and go look at that painting.”

De Kooning quote on destroying his early works:
“I wish I hadn’t. I was so modest then that I was vain. Some of them were good, a part of the real me. Just as Van Gogh’s Potato Eaters is good, as good as anything he painted later in the ‘true’ Van gogh style.”

De Kooning quote on Jackson Pollock:
”A couple of times he told me: ‘You know more, but I feel more.’ I was jealous of him -- his talent.”

De Kooning quote on Mondrian:
”I thought Mondian was phenomenal. he made paintings that were wholly new, that didn’t exist.”

Gorky and De Kooning quote:
”’Aha, so you have ideas of your own,’ Gorky told De Kooning when he first looked at his work. “Somehow,” said De Kooning, ‘that didn’t seem so good.’”
From De Kooning biography by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan

Art Critic Harold Rosenberg quote on De Kooning:
“If you had your own idea, that was it, you were stuck with it. The history of painting, however, contained endless inventions which the living painter could make his own. Even inventing a thing that had already been invented was an act of creation. De Kooning likes to call this ‘inventing the harpsichord’ -- the fact that we have the harpsichord, and even the piano that superseded it, does not prevent the invention that brought it into being from being legitimately repeated.” .

De Kooning quote on New York:
“New York is a great city, but in the long run I got kind of dried out by everything happening there day and night. I was less and less able to work regularly.

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