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Willem de Kooning at Home

On March 23, 1962, Village Voice photographer Fred McDarrah took a group of photos of Abstract Expressionist artist Willem de Kooning in his studio and home at 831 Broadway. De Kooning lived and worked here from 1958 to 1964, and McDarrah’s photos offer an intimate glimpse into this brilliant artist’s world when he was at the height of his career.

Photo © Estate of Fred W. McDarrah, from Village Preservation’s Historic Image Archive, www.archive.gvshp.org.

The Estate of Fred W. McDarrah generously allowed Village Preservation to share these previously never-before-seen photos of de Kooning working at his 831 Broadway studio. Today, we thought we would highlight a few, but to view the complete collection, click HERE.

827-831 Broadway, built in 1866 and designed by Griffith Thomas

De Kooning was born in 1904 in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. De Kooning came to America as a stowaway on a British freighter in 1926, and in 1927 he moved to Manhattan.

Originally he made his living as a commercial artist, house painter, and carpenter. During the late 1920s and early 1930s, he immersed himself in Manhattan’s art scene and worked on his own painting. He first exhibited in a group show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1936. In the early 1940s, de Kooning painted both figurative and abstract works. By the late 1940s, he began painting black and white abstractions and made a name for himself among the downtown artists and art critics.

Photo © Estate of Fred W. McDarrah, from Village Preservation’s Historic Image Archive, www.archive.gvshp.org.

In the fall of 1952, de Kooning moved into 88 East 10th Street within the Tenth Street artist enclave, which was central to the Abstract Expressionist school of the 1940s and 1950s. He had previously had a studio on Fourth Avenue but the space at 88 East 10th Street served as both art studio and home. Here, de Kooning turned his attention to his Woman series, including Woman I, which he had been working and re-working for two years prior. During his occupancy on East 10th Street, he also developed the theme of the “abstract urban landscape” in his works.

In 1958 de Kooning started seeking a new larger studio space and found it on the top floor of 831 Broadway, which thanks to the efforts of Village Preservation was made a New York City landmark in 2017 along with its sister building at No. 827. At the studio at 831 Broadway, de Kooning painted Rosy-Fingered Dawn at Louse Point, the first of his paintings acquired by a European museum, and Door to the River, which is now in the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Photo © Estate of Fred W. McDarrah, from Village Preservation’s Historic Image Archive, www.archive.gvshp.org.

De Kooning moved out No. 831 in 1963 and took up permanent residence on the eastern end of Long Island where he would live out his days until his death in 1997. In 2016, permits were filed for the demolition and replacement of 827-831 Broadway, the 1866 cast iron structures in which de Kooning’s studio was located, by a 300′ tall tower. We submitted to the LPC our extensive research on these buildings and their numerous significances (even beyond de Kooning’s association). In the 11th hour, our efforts saved them from the wrecking ball. To read more about this, click HERE and to learn more about the architecture and histories of these buildings, click HERE for the designation report. And of course, to seem more images from our historic image archive like the ones above, click HERE.

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