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Willem de Kooning

WHEN I HEARD THE NEWS of Willem de Kooning’s death, I was speeding down a highway in New Mexico. I had just left New York where an exhibition of his late paintings at the Museum of Modern Art was still on view. The artist had been in fragile health for years and had recently taken a turn for the worse, but I was still jolted by the irrevocability of the event. De Kooning had not been “with” the world for a long time, but suddenly he was gone from it. Needing to gather my thoughts about an artist whose work had been the focus of my thinking for the past three years and whose example dominated my imagination in early adulthood, I was glad to be away when the announcement came, and thus undisturbed by reporters eager for expert opinions or anecdotes. I too have a de Kooning story but, as is true of many in my generation who missed The Club and Cedar Bar, that story is based on a lucky encounter

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