Willem de Kooning (1904 – 1997)

This figurative study work by de Kooning is a pencil drawing in paper measures 10×8 inches. It is part of the F.A.M collection of work on paper by the modern masters.

 

Willem De Kooning , Farhat Art Museum collection

 

 

Willem de Kooning was born in Rotterdam, Holland on April 24, 1904. His father, Leenert, was a wine and beer distributor who won custody of young Willem when his parents separated about five years after his birth. His mother, Cornelia Nobel de Kooning, ran a tough seamen’s bar, and snatched the boy back soon after. At the age of twelve, with elementary school behind him, de Kooning entered an informal apprenticeship with commercial artists and designers, Jan and Jaay Gidding, who also provided his art education. They enrolled him in night courses at the Rotterdam Akademie voor Beeldende Kunsten en Wettenschappen, where he studied academic art and crafts. His first jobs were in commercial art, including a year in Belgium during which he visited museums and studied.

He came to the United States illegally in 1926 and settled in Hoboken, New Jersey, which had a large Dutch community, while he learned English. He began his career as a house painter. When he saw an ad in a New York newspaper for someone to do commercial artwork, he went to New York and for many years he did lettering, sign painting and carpentry. In 1935 he was employed doing murals for the Federal Arts project; the same year he did his first easel painting and his first independent commission was for part of a mural for the New York World’s Fair of 1939 and 1940. A series of black and white abstractions in the late 1940s were the subject of his first one-man show. He chose black and white for the simple reason that the neutral paints were less expensive, but the works were considered his best by many experts. In 1943 he married Elaine Fried, who was one of his art students. In 1948 they visited East Hampton as weekend guests of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner.
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De Kooning’s pride and joy was his studio, built between 1963 and 1969 to his specifications. He spent most of his day there. Besides hard work, his other pleasures were seeing movies and bicycle riding. He designed the huge studio with 30-foot ceilings, white walls and large expanses of glass, allowing all available light to pour in.

Despite his quick American assimilation, de Kooning’s ties to Holland surfaced on occasion. It is significant that though in 1964 de Kooning was awarded America’s highest civilian award, the Medal of Freedom, he had remained a Dutch citizen for almost forty years after arriving here.

The whole myth of American life, the vulgarity, the bigness, the overstatements, appealed to De Kooning. He could find inspiration in aspects of American culture that Americans tend to be repulsed by. He repeatedly told visitors that he had gotten the idea of mixing his colors from the ice-cream counter at Howard Johnson’s, where twenty-eight variously colored flavors were shown off in buckets.

the artist

Like many artists, De Kooning had frequent periods of self-doubt while painting. A doctor friend told him to take a brandy in the morning; as a result, he became a drunk. His alcoholism contributed to the disintegration of his marriage and they separated in 1955. They never divorced and she remained his close friend and colleague. After the separation, DeKooning, who was always attractive to women, moved in with Joan Ward, a commercial artist. When De Kooning was fifty-two, their daughter, Lisa, was born. Three years later deKooning moved to Rome with Ruth Kligman, an artist’s model. But his alcoholic blackouts grew worse, interspersed with periods in drying-out wards, until 1978 when Elaine finally persuaded him to go to Alcoholics Anonymous. She secretly gave him a drug, Antabuse, that made him sick when he drank. By 1980 he was through the worst. The originator of a boisterous idea of painting-as-adventure, he had gotten lost in a haze of often violent alcoholism and was almost never able to paint. The period between 1978 and 1981 in a retrospective at the National Gallery of Art was represented by a single work. In the 1980s, however, a newly sober De Kooning suddenly became productive once again, although he also began to slide into what the doctors believe is Alzheimer’s disease.

De Kooning used a variety of tricks to pump up the sensuously inviting tactility of his surfaces, including his famous wet-on-wet technique of mixing salad oil in the pigment, in order to make it slithery, fluid and receptive to sustained periods of work. It didn’t dry out fast. As he worked he would repeatedly scrape down the surface, leaving layered smears and traces of underpaint to show through, like insistent memories of past encounters piling up one on top of the other. His paintings can look slatternly, as if they’ve been around. He rarely painted either males or reclining figures.

De Kooning’s circle of friends consisted either of old acquaintances of many years’ duration or people introduced to him by a trusted group of advisors who shielded him from exploitation. In this second category is former Beatle, Paul McCartney, whose wife, Linda Eastman, was the daughter of De Kooning’s lawyer, Lee Eastman. The McCartneys always came to visit when they were in East Hampton.

Great artists have collided with mortality throughout history, but none has done it in quite the way that De Kooning has. His last paintings were those made between 1981 and 1990; then he laid down his brushes for good and became an invalid tended around the clock. He died on Wednesday, March 19, 1997.

Sources:
The Later Years by Christopher Knight, LA Times, October 9, 1995
New World Ardor by Christopher Knight, LA Times, May 29, 1994
Myrna Oliver , Obituary in the LA Times, March 20, 1997
ARTnews, February 1982
Dutch Master by Patrick Pacheco in Art & Antiques, September 1994 .
Article in ARTnews,Summer 1989 by Andrew Decker
Painted Women by Linda Nochlin in Art in America, November 1998

Written and compiled by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher of Laguna Woods, California.
This biography from the Archives of AskART

William Posey Silva (1859 – 1948)

The painting by W.P.Silva is oil on canvas board . It measures 12×14 inches and the painting is part of the F.A.M collection of American impressionist artists. the subject is a view of a Garden in the southern Savanna Cypress Swamp, Cypress Gardens North Charleston South Carolina.

William Posey Silva Farhat Art Museum collection

A landscape painter, William Silva was an important art world figure in Tennessee and also in California, where he moved in 1913 and for thirty-five years devoted himself to painting cypresses, eucalypti, dunes, and coasts.

He was born in Savannah, Georgia, and studied at Catham Academy and engineering at the University of Virginia. He inherited the family chinaware business, which he ran successfully for thirty years until he began painting at age 50.

In 1887, he moved to Chattanooga, Tennessee, and there became known as “the finest artist at the turn of the century” (Gerdts “Art Across America” v. III). He painted in an impressionist style and did many panoramic views of Chatatanooga as well as paintings of the pine forests near Savannah. Initially he pursued his chinaware business there but in 1894, began to take art instruction.

Encouraged by his wife, he retired from his business in 1907 and enrolled at the Academy Julian in Paris as a student of Jean Paul Laurens. He also painted with American artist Chauncey Ryder. Recognition came quickly, and he had his first solo exhibition in 1909 in Paris at the Georges Petit Gallery.

That same year he returned to Chattanooga and a moment of great fame was the winning of the silver medal in 1910 at the Appalachian Exposition in Knoxville where he displayed seventy canvases. He then moved to Washington D.C. where he was active in the Society of Washington Artists until he moved to California in 1913.

He built a studio off Carmelita Street in the sand dunes but continued to exhibit with the Southern States Art League and also maintained close ties with his birthplace, Savannah, where in 1917 a solo exhibition was held at the Telfair Academy. He was a member of numerous organizations including the California Art Club and the Salmagundi Club.

He died on February 10, 1948.
This biography from the Archives of AskART

Dorothy Sklar

The painting of a Mexican vendor by Dorothy Sklar is oil on canvas, it measures 36×24
 inches . It is part of the F.A.M collection of the American art.

 

Dorothy Sklar Farhat Art Museum collection متحف فرحات

 

In 1992 I was introduced to Dorothy Sklar through another art dealer friend. The art dealer said Dorothy’s work was very high quality and reasonably priced. After meeting with Dorothy we arranged for me to visit her home and studio in Fairfax , Los Angles, California . It was difficult for me to determine her age. She appeared to take very good care of her physical appearance and was wearing a black wig. I asked her out of curiosity about her age, and her answer was, “A woman who admits to her age will admit to anything.” What a clever way to avoid answering my question. Even though Dorothy settled in Los Angeles in the early 1930’s she still retained a heavy  New York- accent. During my initial and subsequent visits with Dorothy she was extremely hospitality.  She had food prepared for me to eat and expresses concern that I needed to take good care of myself after a six hour drive to her residence. I refer to Dorothy as Mother Sklar
Dorothy studied with Millard Sheets and Don Kingman, both important California  water-colorists in the 1930’s.
 
Her art speaks of urban life in East Los Angeles . Mother Sklar painted on location, sitting in the rear seat of her car while painting watercolors of genre scenes of people in public places. After studying at Chouinard Art Institute Dorothy, as many California artists at the time, worked for Walt Disney during her early artistic career. In her painting The Mexican Vendor Dorothy worked in the Latin American style of that period. This painting is different from any of her previous paintings. I personally found this painting to portray strong imagery and style that would compliment the art in the Farhat Art Museum collection.
 
Dorothy Sklar was a member of the Laguna Beach California Watercolor Society and Women Painters of the West. She exhibited at the Santa Cruz Art League, Alabama Watercolor Society, Delgado Museum 1944-1946, and the Butler Art Institute 1945 to 1955.