Last week I picked up de Kooning: An American Master, the new biography by Mark Stevens and Annalyn Swan. I'd read reviews here and there, and when a reader recommended it following my Joan Mitchell posts, I decided to splurge. I have not yet gotten far, as I'm still finishing up another book. My biggest worry has been one that keeps me away from many biographies of artists, which is that their lives are often not the most important thing about them in retrospect. They may be forgiven for not thinking so, but nevertheless, it's generally true. The review in Artforum (not online) expressed this misgiving and faulted the book for lacking dramatic incident. I don't think de Kooning's life necessarily was as uninteresting as that review maintained. If anything, the well-documented glory years could benefit from a retelling focused on the perspective of the artist instead of the numerous accounts from secondary figures. Then again, one also worries that the work will be reduced to biography, explained away or otherwise narrowed to fit life events.
Still, from what little I have seen, the authors work to mitigate these problems. It's quite well-written, and I'm especially eager to learn more about de Kooning's early years in Rotterdam as well as the post-1950's (but pre-dementia) years. No doubt I'll be writing more on the topic as I move along. Those who've read it should feel free to post their reactions.
UPDATE: I finally finished it. Some comments here, more sure to follow.