April Artist Birthdays: Klein, de Kooning, Twombly and More

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In 1961, Yves Klein began his famous series of paintings made with fire, the element he considered the “ultra-living element.” Fittingly, the dominant element on the artist’s horoscope was fire – at least according to one detailed reading of the planetary forces at work on his birthday, 28 April. Here we celebrate Klein along with Cy Twombly, Willem de Kooning and other famous artists who were born this month of renewal. 

April Artist Birthdays: Klein, de Kooning, Twombly and More

  • © The Estate of Victor Vasarely / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris 2018
    Victor Vasarely: 9 April 1906
    Born in Hungary in 1908 as Vásárely Gyözö, Victor Vasarely is widely considered the originator of Op art, a style based on optical illusion. Much of his work has also been in response to modern technological progress, as the artist often based his abstractions on mathematical calculations and scientific theories; he considered his work to have a direct, visually perceptible correlation to energy, space, matter, movement and time.

    Fun fact: In 1925, Vasarely began to study medicine in Budapest but left two years later to pursue painting.

    Learn more about this artist.
  • Photo by Dantelectrico [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
    Fernando Botero: 19 April 1932
    Born in Medellín, Colombia, Fernando Botero is perhaps the most famous contemporary Latin American artist alive. Creating figurative paintings, drawings and sculptures whose exaggerated proportions convey his feelings about their subject, Botero is best known for his situational portraiture, in which figures and animals appear bloated to signify either tenderness or political satire or critique.

    Fun fact: From the ages of twelve to fourteen, Botero's uncle sent him to a school for matadors – and indeed his first work of art was a watercolor of a matador.

    Learn more about this artist.
  • © Successió Miró / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris 2018
    Joan Miró: 20 April 1893
    Born on April 20, 1893 in Barcelona, Joan Miró’s œuvre embodies a charming sense of playfulness. Although his early work was influenced by several movements of the time, including Fauvism, Cubism and Dadaism, he became most well known among the Surrealists, whose first manifesto he signed in 1924. Throughout his career, despite occasional returns to figuration or full abstraction, Miró remained consistently true to the core tenet of Surrealism: working with the intention of liberating the creative powers of the unconscious from the constraints of logic and reason.

    Fun fact: Miró's work was mocked and vandalized during his first solo exhibition at the age of 25.

    Learn more about this artist.
  • © 2018 The William de Kooning Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris 2018 Photo by Jac. de Nijs / Anefo (Nationaal Archief) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
    Willem de Kooning: 24 April 1904
    A significant artist of the Abstract Expressionist movement, Willem de Kooning is perhaps most famous for his Woman painting series, characterized by a nearly violent breaking apart of the body, inspired in part by Picasso’s Cubism, but rendered with powerful, aggressive brushwork cutting through thickly impastoed paint. These depictions were inspired in part by de Kooning's wife, Elaine, a fellow painter whom he married in 1943.

    Fun fact: De Kooning was born in Rotterdam in 1904 and left the Netherlands as a stowaway on a British freighter bound for Argentina in 1926, when he jumped ship at Newport News, Virginia, making his way to New Jersey and then to Manhattan, where he worked odd jobs.

    Learn more about this artist.
  • Photo by David Lees/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images
    Cy Twombly: 25 April 1928
    Born in 1928 in Lexington, Virginia, Cy Twombly studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, as well as the Art Students League of New York, where he met Robert Rauschenberg. Upon Rauschenberg’s suggestion, Twombly attended Black Mountain College near Asheville, North Carolina, where he studied with Franz Kline and Robert Motherwell among other prominent abstract painters. The artist is best known for his seemingly arbitrary scribbles on white or black backgrounds, revealing Twombly’s rejection of traditional ideas of composition, and a particular affinity for the all-over style introduced by Jackson Pollock.

    Fun fact: After receiving a grant from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Twombly traveled to North Africa, Spain, Italy and France; by 1957 he had relocated permanently to Rome. At this stage of his career, Twombly was more heavily influenced by his interest in cryptology, and began moving away from illegible scrawls in favor of traditional letters and numbers.

    Learn more about this artist.
  • © The Estate of Yves Klein / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris 2018 Photograph by Dlefebure [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
    Yves Klein, 28 April 1928
    Raised in France in an artistic milieu, Yves Klein was a leading figure of Nouveau Réalisme, the movement created in 1960 by the art critic Pierre Restany that aspired to discover “new ways of perceiving the real.” For Klein, that dictum might be realized in a work such as Monotone-Silence Symphony, a 1960 performance during which a 20-minute sustained chord was followed by 20 minutes of silence. His most famous works are his Monochromes, which he executed in a range of colors including orange, yellow, and pink, eventually focusing on International Klein Blue (IKB), the ultramarine pigment suspended in synthetic resin that he developed, manufactured and patented as his own in 1960. The artist’s burgeoning career was cut short when he suffered a heart attack while at the Cannes Film Festival in May 1962 and died shortly afterward, at age 34.

    Fun fact: Klein studied judo in Japan between 1952 and 1954.

    Learn more about this artist.
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