Paul McCartney And Willem de Kooning’s Relationship And Art

There was an unlikely relationship between the Beatles singer and songwriter Paul McCartney and the Abstract Expressionism artist Willem de Kooning.

Willem de Kooning and Paul McCartney met in the 1970s and formed an unlikely friendship; at that time, Kooning was in his 70s. The unique part of this friendship is that de Kooning inspired Paul McCartney with his unique and exciting painting style. Today Paul McCartney has had art exhibitions worldwide to showcase his artistic talents.

The Friendship Of Paul McCartney And Willem de Kooning

In 1963, De Kooning moved away from New York City to East Hamptons. It was there that he would build a studio and his home.

By 1971 he had permanently moved to this area, and De Kooning met many high-profiled celebrities who were known to frequent the site, including the Beatles singer Paul McCartney; the two became friends.

When they met, De Kooning was in his mid-70s, and Paul McCartney was still one of the Beatles who had just announced publically on April 10, 1970, that the Beatles group was permanently breaking up. This was also the date that Paul McCartney announced his debut solo album called McCartney.

Paul McCartney and Willem de Kooning

But the connection between these two men was not so unlikely as Linda McCartney’s father, Lee Eastman, had been Willem de Kooning’s lawyer, and De Kooning was also a close family friend. Lee Eastman would have introduced Paul and Linda McCartney to Willem de Kooning.

Paul McCartney And Willem De Kooning

In one of many of Paul McCartney’s visits to the De Kooning studio, McCartney was enthralled in De Kooning’s process of mixing colors and using paint. Unlike music filled with rules, abstract painting and especially the type of painting De Kooning did, had no set rules.

Pink (1945) By Willem De Kooning

Paul McCartney was known to say this about his relationship with Willem de Kooning:

“ I was lucky enough to know Willem de Kooning because Linda’s father, Lee Eastman Snr., was his lawyer. We would visit his studio in Springs, Long Island and admire his works in progress. I once asked him what one of his abstract pictures was and he said he didn’t know and that it was open to my interpretation. I thought it looked like a purple mountain, he thought it looked like a couch! The point was that his painting was more to do with composition, colour and style rather than anything of significant meaning. Once he’d said this it was a great inspiration to me to start painting, where as in the past I would have been too embarrassed to even buy a canvas and paints. Friends of mine had looked at de Kooning’s paintings and said, ‘I could do that,’ but in fact this is far from true and I consider him to be one of the greatest abstract painters ever.”

Paul McCartney

There was no doubt that the master painter William Decuney inspired Paul McCarthy. Paul McCartney, who had never thought about painting before, started to paint.

Paul McCartney Paintings Show Willem De Kooning’s Influence

After Paul McCartney and Willem de Kooning met, Paul did not start to paint immediately, but he felt inspired by De Kooning and his liberating style. It was not until the 1980s that he started painting seriously.

Yellow Linda With Piano (1988) By Paul McCartney

Willem, or ”Bill” as McCartney called De Kooning, would fire up Paul McCartney to take up the brush and canvas and paint. Linda and Paul would go to visit De Kooning at his art studio, and many times on the way home, Paul would insist on stopping on their way home at an art supply store so that they could stop to buy the same canvas and paints that they had seen De Kooning use in work.

Paul McCartney started painting in his 40s, and by the time he was 60 years old, he had been painting regularly for 20 years. But like many people, he acknowledges that he felt that you must have gone to art school to paint. Sir Paul McCartney said:

“I felt that only people who’d gone to art college were allowed to paint.”

Sir Paul McCartney

Like De Kooning, much of Paul McCartney’s process has to do with the paint and the process of applying the paint. It is about the colors and textures that help to evolve Abstract Expressionism. He readily acknowledges that many of his themes and title are accidental and inspired by what accurately happens as he is painting on the canvas.

In speaking of his art and artistic process, Paul McCartney said:

“Some of these faces might as well be landscapes because a lot of the time all I want to do is apply paint . Sometimes just putting on the paint is more interesting than actually thinking what it all means.”

Sir Paul McCartney

Willem de Kooning influenced Paul McCartney in his art. Speaking of one of the reasons why he paints abstracts, Paul McCartney said:

“You have to paint abstract after you’ve been seeing Bill (Willem) de Kooning.”

Sir Paul McCartney

I love the story of these two great men who became friends despite their age differences.

I love that Willem de Kooning inspires Paul McCartney and his art. It is an example to all of us that it’s never too old to start painting, you do not need to go to art school to become an artist, and we can all form lasting and inspiring friendships and relationships in some of the most unlikely places.

You can watch his video below to hear Paul McCartney’s words discussing his art and showing some of his art. This was recorded in Germany, where he had an exhibition for over 70 of his paintings.

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Anita Louise Hummel

Hi, I am Anita Louise Hummel. I am an artist and a blogger. I paint mainly oil paints. I love to paint women, animals (mainly dogs and cats), and abstracts. I use a lot of gold and silver leaf in my paintings. I also love to blog about anything to do with art, business, Procreate, and all the wonderful artists that inspire me.

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Paul McCartney And Willem de Kooning’s Relationship And Art