When de Kooning Was King

Dekooning184 ‘When we get the chance to look at the whole life and work of Willem de Kooning, the upheaval in American art in the middle of the 20th century comes into clearer focus. That alone makes ”De Kooning: An American Master,” by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan, an important book. Several biographies in recent years — of Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Arshile Gorky, among them — brought parts of that history to life. But in this book an enormous picture develops.

Stevens, a critic, and Swan, a journalist, both with many years of experience in the art world, have done deep research, but they don’t push it in our faces. We hear arguments among painters and critics and the street buzz about the development of Abstract Expressionism. But de Kooning’s persistence as an outsider to almost any theory or definition — he called theory ”baloney” — sharpens our understanding of the era.’

Book review here in the New York Times.