Texas Liberal

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The Artist de Kooning Would Have Had A Different View Of The Sea If He Had Grown Up In Galveston, Texas

I’m reading de Kooning—An American Master by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan. This book has told me things relevant to life in the Houston and Galveston area and has told me things relevant to the human experience. 

Willem de Kooning was an artist who lived between 1904 and 1997. I’m up to about 1935 in de Kooning’s life. 

Here are some things of note from the book so far—-

Growing up in Rotterdam, de Kooning saw the sea as a symbol of change and modernity. This was because of the ships at the port and the sailors from exotic places. 

This is in sharp contrast to the sea I know at Galveston, Texas. Galveston is a place that has seen its best days. The main change the ocean would bring to Galveston at this point is destruction in a hurricane.

The authors report that “de Kooning remembered his childhood as one of great loneliness.” 

A lonely childhood is a time when a strong creative imagination can be formed. I bet the time alone helped de Kooning in the long haul.

In 1919 de Kooning’s sister lived in a part of Amsterdam called the Jordaan. This area was known as “… a center of activism and social change in Holland.” I wish every big city in America had such a district. No such area exists in the two cities I know best—Cincinnati and Houston. Houston has many areas dedicated to consumption.

Here is a description of life in New York before air-conditioning—“In the 1920’s and 30’s, when virtually no buildings were air-conditioned, artists and craftsmen in New York often took off much of the summer. Even the regularly employed even took off much of the summer.” 

If it was that way in New York City in the summer, I can imagine how hot it must’ve been in Houston before air-conditioning. I wonder how anything got done in Houston in the summer. 

Any good book has many things to tell us. 

December 22, 2006 - Posted by | Art, Best Posts 2006, Books, Galveston, Houston


  1. I would say read the biography of Frida Kahlo next her and Diego were of the people and were very interesting as a couple as well are both amazing artist.

    Comment by bill brady | December 23, 2006

  2. just added to my amazon order. thanks! D

    Comment by diane | December 23, 2006

  3. Dear TexasLiberal:

    Thank you for the interesting blog on de Kooning. I admire artists particularly Michelangelo through Irving Stone’s magisterial The Agony and The Ecstasy. Creativity is generated I think in youth primarily though this may not be true. You may know me as a thinker in several areas-medicine, law, engineering (Bridge Over The River Kwai starring Sir Alec Guinness). I once quoted Thomas A. Edison at a Douglass Elementary graduation speech defining genius as ” two percent inspiration and ninety-eight per cent perspiration.” It is trite but probably true. How many times did Wilbur and Orville experiment with manned flight? How many times did Edison try to get the light filament fired up? What about Firestone before his plantations in Liberia ( I once landed in Liberia during the civil war at about midnight-what an eerily beautiful scene). I am reading books on political genius and literary genius just now-Somerset Maugham’s Cakes and Ale (trying to capture writing style) but also Samuel Flegg Bemis’s magisterial John Quincy Adams and The Union. I just went on line to buy the first volume to the set John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of Foreign Policy. I saw a line recently of genius- “Kings are made by politicians and newspapers”. How true in democracies. Is Barack Obama a genius or an imitation. Kennedy was the real thing. Lincoln was the real thing. Apparently so was George Washington. He got elected with unanimous votes in the Electoral College twice. He also learned as a member of the House of Burgesses that you had to serve a lot of Maderia and meats for the electors in order to boost popularity. Do read TexasLiberals readers The Price of Union by Herbert Agar..is there a better tome for describing the growth of the Republic and our political parties. He says that the American colonists created out of whole cloth the idea of independence in order that we might “push our own skiffs from the shore” not some high minded notion of escaping tyranny. Historians are genuises. Neil Aquino is a genius.

    The United States is a continental nation. It took real genius to pull it together. The gay marriage issue will be handled by our two parties. We will come to an answer in due course on the gay marriage question. The parties are fiddling just now in order to contain the environment. I like what New Jersey has done. I think that is the proper step. What do you think of Simon Leis in Hamilton County? Is he a genius for pusing a new jail? The Freedom Center has a great new proponent in Neil Anthony Aquino. He harkens to the view of great Democrats like Cleveland and FDR who were cheered to the banners of “We love him for the enemies he has made.” I am the President-Elect of the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus and it will take a lot of time and the best skills I have. Wish me luck. Laugh much. Take time for yourself. Think hard. Keep reading. Walk and get some exercise.

    What should we do on Iraq? How does Bush sleep? Bill Frist deserves to be sent home after his poor leadership on the Shaivo case. I was never more sickened. I was lucky on my bill to include county government in campaign finance limits.

    Friend of Aquino Tyrone Yates A Special Correspondent

    Comment by Representative Tyrone K. Yates | December 23, 2006

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