Willem de Kooning (1904 - 1997), one of the recognized masters of abstract expressionism, was a founder of the New York School of action painting. Born and raised in tidy, neat Holland, De Kooning created art that is the antithesis of calm. His paintings seem to retain the force of instantaneous creation, with images continuing to grow out of other images. Born in Rotterdam in 1904, De Kooning received a solid background in the applied arts as an apprentice, first for a commercial art firm and then for a display and sign painter. Through the latter, he was exposed to the de Stijl geometric design movement, led by Mondrian, and to the cubist revolutionaries of Paris. Working by day, he studied painting in evening classes at the Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts and Techniques. In 1924, he went to Belgium for further study; two years later, as a stowaway, he came to the United States.