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Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


De Kooning: An American Master by Mark Stevens, Annalyn Swan (Knopf) Willem de Kooning is one of the most important artists of the twentieth century, a true “painter’s painter” whose protean work continues to inspire many artists. In the thirties and forties, along with Arshile Gorky and Jackson Pollock, he became a key figure in the revolutionary American movement of abstract expressionism. Of all the painters in that group, he worked the longest and was the most prolific, creating powerful, startling images well into the 1980s.

The first major biography of de Kooning captures both the life and work of this complex, romantic figure in American culture. Ten years in the making, and based on previously unseen letters and documents as well as on hundreds of interviews, this is a fresh, richly detailed, and masterful portrait. The young de Kooning overcame an unstable, impoverished, and often violent early family life to enter the Academie in Rotterdam, where he learned both classic art and guild techniques. Arriving in New York as a stowaway from Holland in 1926, he underwent a long struggle to become a painter and an American, developing a passionate friendship with his fellow immigrant Arshile Gorky, who was both a mentor and an inspiration. During the Depression, de Kooning emerged as a central figure in the bohemian world of downtown New York, surviving by doing commercial work and painting murals for the WPA. His first show at the Egan Gallery in 1948 was a revelation. Soon, the critics Harold Rosenberg and Thomas Hess were championing his work, and de Kooning took his place as the charismatic leader of the New York school—just as American art began to dominate the international scene.

Dashingly handsome and treated like a movie star on the streets of downtown New York, de Kooning had a tumultuous marriage to Elaine de Kooning, herself a fascinating character of the period. At the height of his fame, he spent his days painting powerful abstractions and intense, disturbing pictures of the female figure—and his nights living on the edge, drinking, womanizing, and talking at the Cedar bar with such friends as Franz Kline and Frank O’Hara. By the 1960s, exhausted by the feverish art world, he retreated to the Springs on Long Island, where he painted an extraordinary series of lush pastorals. In the 1980s, as he slowly declined into what was almost certainly Alzheimer’s, he created a vast body of haunting and ethereal late work.

This is an authoritative and brilliant exploration of the art, life, and world of an American master.

From Publishers Weekly: This sweeping biography, 10 years in the making, chronicles in fastidious detail de Kooning's rise from his humble beginnings in Rotterdam to his fame as an abstract expressionist and his descent into alcoholism and Alzheimer's. Emigrating to New York in 1926, de Kooning (1904–1997) situated himself among fellow artists and role models like Arshile Gorky. In 1938, he met and later married painter Elaine Fried; the two remained married despite de Kooning's predilection for bed hopping. (An affair with Joan Ward resulted in a daughter, Lisa, and indeed, the authors spend more ink on de Kooning's womanizing than his art making.) In the early 1940s, de Kooning's work appeared in group shows; his first solo show was a commercial failure. The artist did not meet with real success until the 1950s, when his paintings Excavation and Woman 1 made him "first among equals" in the art world. Stevens, New York magazine's art critic, and Swan, a former senior arts editor at Newsweek, see in de Kooning's life the realization of classic stories—the triumph of the immigrant, the man consumed by his success, the nonexistence of life's second acts—and this comprehensive biography, which attempts to explain de Kooning's art through a careful catalogue of his personal life, is a must read for his admirers. Illus. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Great Masters of American Art by Jordi Vigue (Great Masters of Art: Watson-Guptill Publications) Great Masters of American Art brings to life the genius of 74 of the greatest masters of American painting, including Gilbert Stuart, Albert Bierstadt, James McNeill Whistler, Winslow Homer, Thomas Eakins, Mary Cassatt, John Singer Sargent, Edward Hopper, Georgia O'Keeffe, Willem de Kooning, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and Jasper Johns, and dozens of others. Artists both rightly celebrated and unjustly obscure are discussed here, in one convenient volume accessible to every art lover.

Each artist is represented by beautiful reproductions of his or her most significant works, alongside a biographical timeline and brief history placing the painter in context. Every painting is accompanied by a captivating discussion of the painter's inspiration, evolution, and technique.

Covering every significant movement in the history of American art, this entertaining, comprehensive, and easy-to-use guide is the perfect companion, whether you are visiting a museum or exploring the world of art at home.


Contents: Introduction John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) Ralph Earl (1751-1801) Gilbert Stuart (1755-1827) John Trumbull (1756-1843) Raphaelle Peale (1774-1825) John Vanderlyn (1775-1852) Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860) Washington Allston (1779-1843) Thomas Birch (1779-1851) Thomas Sully (1783-1872) John James Audubon (1785-1851) Charles Bird King (1785-1862) George Catlin (1796-1872) .. Asher Brown Durand (1796-1886) Thomas Cole (1801-1848) Fitz Hugh Lane (1804-1865) Seth Eastman (1808-1875) Alfred Jacob Miller (1810-1874) Severin Roesen (1815-1870)  John Frederick Kensett (1816-1872) George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879) Charles Deas (1818-1867) Martin Johnson Heade (1819-1904) Thomas Worthington Whittredge (1820-1910) Lilly Martin Spencer (1822-1902) Robert Duncanson (1823-1872) Sanford Robinson Gifford (1823-1880) Jasper Francis Cropsey (1823-1900) Thomas Waterman Wood (1823-1903) . Eastman Johnson (1824-1906) George Inness (1825-1894) Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900) Edward Mitchell Bannister (1828-1901) Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902) Samuel Colman (1832-1920) William Trost Richards (1833-1905) James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903) John La Farge (1835-1910)   Homer Dodge Martin (1836-1897) Winslow Homer (1836-1910) Elihu Vedder (1836-1923) Alfred Thompson Bricher (1837-1908) Thomas Eakins (1844-1916) Mary Cassatt (1844-1926) Henry Farny (1847-1916) Albert Pinkham Ryder (1847-1917) Ralph Albert Blakelock (1847-1919) William Harnett (1848-1892) William Merritt Chase (1849-1916) Abbott Handerson Thayer (1849-1921) Thomas Anshutz (1851-1912) Thomas Dewing (1851-1938) Theodore Robinson (1852-1896) Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911) Julian Alden Weir (1852-1919) John Henry Twachtman (1853-1902) John Singer Sargent (1856-1925) Edward Potthast (1857-1927) Childe Hassam (1859-1935) Frederic Remington (1861-1909) Robert Henri (1865-1929) Edward Hopper (1882-1967) Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) Grant Wood (1892-1942) Charles Burchfield (1893-1967) Mark Rothko (1903-1970) Willem de Kooning (1904-1997) Andrew Wyeth (born 1917) Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993) Roy Lichtenstein (1923-1997) Robert Rauschenberg (born 1925) Andy Warhol (1928-1987) Jasper Johns (born 1930)

Inuit Stories/Legendes Inuit: Povungnituk by Zebedee Nungak, Eugene Arima (University of Washington Press) includes 48 stories from the village of Povungnituk, one of the main centers for contemporary Inuit carving in Canada. Striking photographs of 72 soapstone carvings are accompanied by vivid myths and legends as told by the sculptors themselves. The stories are recorded in French and English. They have an unencumbered directness of natural language and dream. These stories provide folktale context to the carvings amply illustrated in b/w photos.

Visions of Adventure: N. C. Wyeth and the Brandywine Artists edited by John Edward Dell (Watson Guptill) As famous in their day as the authors whose stories they illustrated, the six artists profiled in this nostalgic collection-N.C. Wyeth, Howard Pyle, Harvey Dunn, Frank Schoonover, Philip R. Goodwin and Dean Cornwell-used their unique talents at narrative depiction to bring to life places and times in ways no modern medium has surpassed. Vividly reproduced directly from the original paintings that illustrated the pages of popular books and magazines of up to a century ago, many of the pictures are seen here for the first time, just as the artists painted them. The paintings presented in this handsome volume lured readers to the exciting adventure tales of buccaneers and cowboys, hunters and outlaws, pirate fiction and historical romance written by Robert Louis Stevenson, Arthur Conan Doyle, James Branch Cabell, and other favored writers of the day. Although commissioned to illustrate the written word, these storytelling works of art can stand alone. No text is needed to understand the drama of Howard Pyle's Dead Men Tell No Tales, N. C. Wyeth's The Magic Pool, Frank Schoonover's A Northern Mist, and the dozens of other captivating paintings presented here.

 Karen Kilimnik: Paintings: Oil paintings 1992 – 2000 (Scalo Verlag) Karen Kilimnik explores a new approach, both glamorous and subversive, to her signature motifs in paintings, after Karen Kilimnik Drawings (1997) ‑ her second book published by Edition Patrick Frey. Karen Kilimnik Paintings presents 70 delicate miniature paintings from the last five years.

A romantic and melodramatic yearning colors her views of English manor houses and cursed fairy‑tale castles. Empathetically, she portrays three angora cats as if they were the three Graces. Her exotic ducks remind us of Gericault's hens. Her painting of a falcon looks like a commission by the emir of Quatar. Passionately, she paints butterflies, swirling through the night. A moon, v eiled by clouds, is shining behind decoratively barren trees. Candles burning in the park at night: Was it cheerful birthday party, or rather a dark ritual? 

The American artist Karen Kilimnik (born:1962 in Philadelphia) lives and works in Philadelphia. Her works are on display in major European and American museums, among others at Museum of Modern Art, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; ICA, London; Kunsthalle, Wien; Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt; Kunsthalle, Zurich. Solo shows of Karen Kilimnik's oil paintings are scheduled for 2001 at Kunstverein Wolfsburg, South London Gallery, and Kunstverein Bonn.


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