Wednesday, November 5, 2003

A Dutchman, His Demons And America: Art Historian Examines De Kooning's “Woman I” At November 19th Lecture

Chestertown, MD, November 5, 2003 — The Washington College Department of Art and theC.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, as part of the American Pictures Lecture Series, present “DE KOONING'S ‘WOMAN I': A DUTCHMAN, HIS DEMONS AND AMERICA,” a talk by David Anfam, Henry Luce Visiting Scholar and Professor in American Art, Brandeis University, on Wednesday, November 19 at 8 p.m. in the College's Hynson Lounge. The event is free and the public is invited to attend.

Few American artists have encompassed a wider range of thought, emotions and sources than Willem de Kooning (1904-97). Born in Rotterdam, Holland, de Kooning retained a strong sense of his Dutch ethnicity throughout life while living and working as an abstract expressionist under the spell of American culture. As he once confessed, “I like to have my nose in everything.” His work, accordingly, spans diverse themes—from popular U.S. icons such as Marilyn Monroe and New York's Mayor Fiorella La Guardia, to the scenery of Long Island, which reminded him of his homeland. Likewise, de Kooning's approach mingled hilarity, luminous transcendence and lacerating violence in a quintessential American medley. These carnivalesque extremes of art and experience were caught in his dictum that “flesh was the reason why oil painting was invented.” De Kooning's many depictions of woman particularly embodied this erotic drive, culminating in the 1950s with the famous series of canvases that established him among the era's most controversial painters. At once idols and avengers, the Women paintings are both a homage to the American female and a nightmarish fugue evoking our darkest psychological drives. Dr. Anfam's lecture reveals de Kooning's complex relationship to both the Old Masters and to everyday American culture in the mid-twentieth century, tracing key links throughout his output between the body, vision and the human condition.

A Londoner by birth, Dr. Anfam holds a B.A. and Ph.D. from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. Since receiving his Ph.D. in 1984, he has worked as an author, lecturer, curator and consultant on numerous art exhibition and catalog projects. He is the recipient of the 2000 Mitchell Prize for the History of Art for his book Mark Rothko: The Works on Canvas; A Catalogue Raisonné (Yale University Press, 1998), and his articles have appeared in Artforum, The Burlington Magazine, Apollo, Royal Academy Magazine and Tate Magazine.

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