'De Kooning: An American Master' by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan (Knopf, 2004), has everything you need in the biography of an artist: lots of interesting detail about his early life (Holland, poverty, apprenticeship, emigration); glamorous bohemian poverty in the New York of the 1940s; making it as an artist, getting drunk and fighting in the Cedar tavern in the Greenwich Village of the 1950s; multiple marriages, infidelities, a final descent into dementia; and lots of great work.
The authors tell all this at great length, yet always at a level that sustains your interest. The following extract is part of their introductory summary to De Kooning's life:
Introduction, p. xvi
Surprisingly, this was the first major biography of De Kooning in English, even though it came out in 2004. I bought and read it then, and its glorious picture of the artistic milieu of post-war New York still stays with me. (Buy it here.)
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