cover image A Way of Living: The Art of Willem de Kooning

A Way of Living: The Art of Willem de Kooning

Judith Zilczer. Phaidon, $100 hardcover in slipcase (288p) ISBN 978-0-7148-4581-4

This gorgeous monograph provides a remarkably detailed biography of de Kooning (1904–1997) that traces the artist’s aesthetic and political evolution. Former Smithsonian curator Zilczer describes the struggles the artist faced after emigrating from Rotterdam to New York, as well as his interest in artistic forms ranging from printmaking to sculpture to watchmaking. This extensively researched volume emphasizes de Kooning’s relationships and devises an artistic lineage for him that includes Matisse, Stuart Davis, Chaim Soutine, and others. While the causal chain of influence is at times tenuous, Zilczer is more convincing when describing de Kooning’s professional and personal relationship with his wife, Elaine, and the marriage’s influence on his best-known paintings, which feature women as subjects. If the book occasionally suffers from a surplus of detail, Zilczer unearths several gems for the reader, particularly when she pits snippets of reviews and critical opinions against images of the works and de Kooning’s responses. In addition to the book’s marvelous production values, fans will delight in the couple’s words, which are situated alongside beautiful reproductions, and a glimpse into the intense personality that produced them. 300 color illus. (June)