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HISTORICAL BACKGROUND Willem De Kooning was born in 1904 in Rotterdem the Netherlands He enrolled in classes at the Rotterdem Academy of Fine Art which he was apprenticed to a commercial art and decorating firm and later working for an art director He visited museums in Belgium in 1924 and completed further studies in Brussels and Antwerp In 1926 Willem left Europe and arrived in New York City as a stowaway In 1927 he met Stuart Davis Arshile Gorky and John Graham who introduced him to Cubism particularly the work of Pablo Picasso He took various commercial art jobs as well as earning a wage as a house painted until 1935 when he was employed in the mural and easel divisions of the Federal Art Project However in 1937 he was forced to resign because he was not yet an American citizen From then on De Kooning painted full-time In the late 1930s his abstract and figurative work was mostly influenced by the Cubism and Surrealism of Picasso and by Gorky who he shared a studio with In 1938 de Kooning started creating works with a theme that would recur many times in his later life - Women He exhibited in many group shows during the 1940s with other artists who would form the New York School and became known as Abstract Expressionists The artists included Jackson Pollock Mark Rothko and Clyfford Still De Koonings first solo exhibition took place at the Egan Gallery New York in 1948 and established his reputation as an important and influential artist In 1950 de Kooning followed up his 1938 Women with a new series reintroducing the female form into large and garishly painted canvases In the following decade he fused landscape fragments with the figural and abstract elements in his paintings and drawings His wide-reaching influence was displayed by his impact upon younger artists Joan Mitchell James Brooks Phillip Guston and Robert Rauschenburg are
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