Bill’s Unsalable Years
De Kooning went through a long period early on where he hardly sold anything, and then only to friends. He made his living painting houses, and for a little while he worked for the WPA. He was pretty far along before he bothered to show in a gallery. He was the most famous underground artist of his time, and his reputation was truly underground and well deserved, grounded in experience and respect. I don’t have all the dates on these paintings, but they all look like they’re from the thirties and forties, the war years, and before and after.
Even when he was imitating Joan Miró i Ferrà (as he and Arshile Gorky were wont to do in their early years together) de Kooning couldn’t help but display all the fruits of his good schooling. The painting above is called: the Cow jumped over the Moon. It’s not one of those that you get to see all that often (which is why it’s here.) The Still Life with Eggs and Masher comes from around the same time and seems to me more entirely his own. The Dutch Landscape looks almost like a Miguel Covarrubias Caricature of Willem’s native Land. All the rest of these drawings and paintings were likewise made in the thirties and forties, which were Bill's thirties and forties as well as the century's. De Kooning turned fifty in 1954, the same year my older brother was born.