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PRINT March 1984

DE KOONING

THE WILLEM DE KOONING retrospective at the Whitney Museum was, for some of us at least, a sentimental occasion. De Kooning, now nearly 80, is the “grand old man” of Modernist American art, if only because he is almost the only major artist of his generation to have lived long enough to attain this virtually irrelevant but nonetheless symbolic distinction. Arshile Gorky, whose influence de Kooning acknowledges and who would be de Kooning’s age had he lived, died, a suicide, in 1948. Jackson Pollock died in an accident in 1956, Franz Kline died from natural causes in 1962, David Smith was an accident victim in 1965. Mark Rothko, also a suicide, and Barnett Newman both died in 1970 and Clyfford Still, also de Kooning’s age, died in 1980. His life has been much like theirs were—difficult artistically and personally for many years, followed by a success that was not all roses. He has overcome

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