Willem de Kooning (1904-1997), one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, is coming back to Rotterdam, the city of his birth. In its imposing daylit gallery, the Kunsthal is staging a retrospective of over fifty paintings and drawings by the King of Canvas. The exhibition includes examples of De Kooning's work from various periods of his career - the black and white paintings, the Woman series and the famous monumental canvasses dating from the 60s and 70s.
De Kooning left for New York as a stowaway in 1926, aged just 22, leaving behind a life of adversity and abject poverty. It was there that he paved the way for modern art in America. New York succeeded Paris as the centre of the world and by 1945, America was ready for its own home-grown artist: from then on, De Kooning was considered an American Master. De Kooning never renounced his Rotterdam birthplace despite his international fame. This retrospective staged to mark the hundredth anniversary of Willem de Kooning's birth in 2004. Among the top paintings at this exhibition are Woman (Blue Eyes) (1953) from the Heyman collection in New York, and Door to the River (1960) from the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, both on show for the first time in the Netherlands.
De Kooning is a typical painter's painter. This is also true of artists in the early days of American modernism, but De Kooning continues to have a profound effect on contemporary painting. The Kunsthal aimed to demonstrate De Kooning's influence on today's art by displaying works by Gerhard Richter, Andy Warhol, Brice Marden, Sue Williams, Robert Zandvliet and others. This exhibition was organised in collaboration with the Willem de Kooning Foundation in New York, Kunstforum Wien, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, as well as private collectors and galleries.