Painting: De Kooning's Derring-Do

For most critics, Willem de Kooning at 63 is the foremost living U.S. painter to emerge in the postwar period. But the reclusive white-locked dean of a bstract expressionism has not had a Manhattan exhibit of new work in five years, largely because the attendant bustle drives him to the brink of distraction. Thus, when 45 De Kooning oils and 50 drawings, mostly completed in the past four years, went on view at Manhattan's Knoedler & Co. this week, it was the most eagerly anticipated art gallery exhibit of the season.

For their wait,...

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