Abstract Expressionists or The New York School

Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)
MMA's Timeline of Art History
Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center
Willem de Kooning Lecture
Hans Hofmann (official site)
Robert Motherwell, American Masters
Matisse's Red Studio
Matisse's Piano Lesson
Motherwell's Elegy to the Spanish Republic
The Guardian on Rothko's Seagram Murals
Elaine de Kooning, Painter
Lee Krasner, Painter
Helen Frankenthaler, Painter
Joan Mitchell Foundation
Joan Mitchell, Painter
Hans Hofmann on PBS.org
Hans Namuth's Photographs of Jackson Pollock at Work
Hans Namuth's Portraits
Namuth Interview through Archives of American Art (AAA)
Mark Rothko, NGA Feature
MoMA: Essay on Willem de Kooning

A Glimpse of Notre Dame in the Late Afternoon (Notre-Dame, une fin d'apres-midi), Henri Matisse (1869-1954), 1902.

The Piano Lesson, Henri Matisse, 1916.

Indian Summer, Hans Hofmann (American, born Germany. 1880-1966), 1959.

Tormented Bull, Hans Hofmann, 1961.

Golden Wall, Hans Hofmann, 1961.

Gloriamundi, Hans Hofmann, 1963.

Idolatress I, Hans Hofmann, 1963.

Pancho Villa, Dead and Alive, Robert Motherwell (1915-1991), 1943.

Still Life with Chair Caning, Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), 1912.

Elegy to the Spanish Republic, Robert Motherwell, 1957-1961.

The Blue Painting Lesson, Robert Motherwell, 1973.

View of Notre Dame, Henri Matisse, 1914.

Willem de Kooning in front of an early version of an untitled 1984 work in the artist's own collection.
Photograph ŠTom Ferrara, from MoMA

De Kooning's Women Series painted between 1950 and 1952, is probably his most famous and infamous body of work to the general public.

Trained in the Netherlands as a craftsman, with a hand for draughtsmanship that rival's Picasso's, de Kooning came to America and quickly became the artist on the scene that all the others sought out w/questions and problems. The last of the abstract expressionists to make it, de Kooning insisted on using the figure in his painting, despite the assertion of non-narrative/non-figurative art in his circle.  He was a man w/o a home for a little while b/c of this, but he said that while it seemed absurd to incorporate the figure, it seemed just as absurd not to.

De Kooning's also been under attack b/c of his depiction of women, which seem at once terrifying and erotic. However, he claimed to adore women, and his wife seems to have supported that idea, though their relationship was volatile.  Elaine de Kooning was a potent painter in her own right, but overshadowed, as Lee Krasner was by her husband Jackson Pollock.  More on them another day, as they're worthy of study.

De Kooning, like many Western artists in his day, was disillusioned w/a world that can have two world wars and a Depression. He was also tired of the whole idea that Hellenistic art (c 323-100 BCE) was the height of Western achievement, and like Picasso, Giacometti, Pollock, and so many others, de Kooning looked beyond Classical and Hellenistic Greece for inspiration. Western art had been a reiteration of these periods for centuries, and in essence merely an expression of one's virtuosity. That seemed vain and elitist and at the very least exclusionary to may modernists, who were interested in a sort of democratising of art. After all - how many people knew Homer or the Bible or history or mythology that well or could even relate to it? That's largely what subject matter had been before.

De Kooning looked at Stone Age figures like Woman of Willendorf (also called "Venus", which is a misnomer, but typical of the naming convention of the earlier archaeologists. Venus suggests religious connotations, and we don't know that for sure...) or ancient Sumerian figures like these, and finds his inspiration in the ferocity and fecundity of the goddess and the sensuality of his paint. He says that his paintings are never done. Therefore, they're in a process of becoming. Interesting idea, considering the goal these artists strived for was authenticity.  Being authentic in themselves and in their work...that they too were in a process of becoming.

Woman I, 1950-52
More info from MoMA

Sumerian figures, c. 1900 BCE.

Woman and Bicycle, Willem de Koooning, 1952-53.

Pink Angels, Willem de Kooning, 1942.

Woman, Willem de Kooning, 1944.

Excavation, Willem de Kooning, 1950.

de Kooning and his wife, the painter Elaine de Kooning in the studio, 1950s.

Rosy-Fingered Dawn at Louse Point, Willem de Kooning, 1963.

Clam Digger, Willem de Kooning, 1972.

Mary Magdalen, Donatello, 1455.

The following are some other images by de Kooning at different stages of his career. It's important to remember that artists like de Kooning or Picasso and the like didn't paint in abstraction, b/c they couldn't paint - they painted this way precisely b/c they could paint...they decided to redefine painting, and make it something authentic.

Legend and Fact, (detail), Willem de Kooning, 1940.

Legend and Fact, Willem de Kooning, 1940.

(Paul) Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) - by Hans Namuth (1915-1990), 1950.

Male Female, Jackson Pollock, 1942.

Navajo Sand Painting - part of a healing ceremony, greatly influenced Pollock's work in many ways.

Cathedral, Jackson Pollock, 1947.

Lavender Mist, Jackson Pollock, 1950.

Autumn Rhythm, Jackson Pollock, 1950. MMA for more info.

Blue Poles, Jackson Pollock, 1952.

Portrait and a Dream, Jackson Pollock, 1953.

Mark Rothko, American, born in Russia (1903-1970)

Red Rock Falls, Milton Avery (1893-1965), Rothko's teacher at The Art Student's League, 1947.

Subway Scene, Mark Rothko, 1938.

Orange and Yellow, Mark Rothko, 1956.

The Red Studio, Henri Matisse, 1911.

No. 13 (White, Red on Yellow), Mark Rothko, 1958. MMA.

Black on Maroon, Mark Rothko, 1959.
Part of the murals made originally for the Four Seasons restaurant, until Rothko desided that the restaurant too bourgeois for his liking. They're now at The Tate. See link above.

Onement I, Barnett Newman (1905-1970), 1948. MoMA

Woman of Venice, Alberto Giacometti (Swiss, 1901-1966), 1956.

Cat, Alberto Giacometti, 1954.

Dog, Alberto Giacometti, 1951.

Abraham, Barnett Newman, 1949. MoMA

Vir Heroicus Sumblimis (Man Heroic and Sublime), Barnett Newman, 1950-1951.

The above installed.

Broken Obelisk, Barnett Newman, 1963-1969. MoMA