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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375711163, Paperback)Gossipier than any tabloid, as scholarly as Vasari, luminously illustrated and illuminating as a lightning bolt, Stevens' and Swan's landmark biography is one of the most stunning art books I've seen in seven years of Amazon.com reviewing--a masterpiece that explains how the Dutchman de Kooning became the master painter of the American century. It's a page-turning tale: raised by a mom who beat him with wooden shoes, de Kooning escaped Rotterdam as a stowaway on a freighter and found a second family in New York's rampageous art bohemia. He subsisted on ketchup and booze, and broke through around 1950 with dazzling abstract expressionist canvases inspired by what was in the air: cubism, surrealism, jazz, and film noir. The careerist thing to do would've been to ride the Ab Ex tsunami, but de Kooning stubbornly defied purist abstraction with the startlingly quasi-figurative Woman paintings. Stevens and Swan artfully show how much went into these notorious works. De Kooning's Woman is "part vamp, part tramp," a Hollywood pinup girl with push-up bazooms, a dirty joke and a scary goddess based on a Mexican deity to whom hearts were sacrificed. She is also part Mom and part Elaine de Kooning, his artist/muse wife, and the numberless women he juggled. He called himself a "slipping glimpser," and this book helps us see what he saw. Nobody has ever made de Kooning's slippery meanings and painstaking techniques clearer, in every phase, even the mysterious late paintings evincing the artist's advancing Alzheimer's-like illness. Now I finally get what essentially distinguished de Kooning from his rivalrous pals Gorky and Pollock, and more. I also know what de Kooning was like in bed (loud), how he managed to cheat on five steady lovers at a time(different doorbell codes), why he slept drunk in gutters even after he got rich, and how deeply he loved and how coldly he used women. Stevens and Swan manage to do what no dame ever did: they pin down his oblique soul. --Tim Appelo
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:54 -0400)
Traces the career of abstract expressionist Willem De Kooning, discussing his personal life with wife Elaine Fried, and his battle with alcoholism and Alzheimer's disease.
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