I just purchased Stevens and Swan's "deKooning: an American Master. I'm afraid to start it. I've got so much reading I'm committed to, and I know that once I start the de Kooning biography, I'll be hooked.
Are you reading you gift copy, Miklos? If you are, can you tell us how it's going?
I, too, put off starting the book, because I found my preparation for leading discussions on "Four Films about Artists" to be unusually endless. Now that these meetings have begun, it's too late for me to study up anymore--thank goodness--and I am into the Stevens and Swan--with immense pleasure.
At first, I felt that S & S were going to bury me--and their subject--in minutiae. But, it is turning out that these myriad details are pertinent, and they are creating a vivid world in which deKooning and his friends, wives, lovers, art dealers, and "helpers" come to full life. A lot of the deeply illuminating atmosphere would, I believe, have been lost, had the authors focused more exclusively on de Kooning and let the other players recede. The other players are, many of them, major--not only in their relationships with the artist, but in their own right. I find the book a significant accomplishment--both as biography and art history. And it's not dry; it's a fascinating read. The art-history aspect follows no exterior agenda; it grows naturally from careful observation of deKooning and his world. The artist himself is allowed to make the history!
I highly recommend the book.
Thanks, Miklos. I'm delighted to hear it. What I want most of all in a biography is that it contextualizes the life of the subject. The revelation of deKooning's social environment is almost as important for a reading of his work as is the examination of his personality.
I'm afraid that de Kooning isn't an artist I'm fond of but the book sounds fascinating.