Slashed with color amd formed with eloquent brushstrokes, de Kooning's often huge canvases are improvisationally executed and charged with great energy; many are widely considered masterpieces of the abstract expressionist movement. His late work (1980-1990) has been the subject of some controversy. Although increasingly affected by Alzheimer's disease during this decade, he produced an impressive body of work, hundreds of large canvases in elegantly composed configurations, their elements pared down, their limited colors forming sinuously intertwining ribbons. In some sense, de Kooning's art had outlived his conscious mind as he continued to create beautifully simplified works of art. He finally stopped painting in mid-1990. He was married to the painter Elaine Fried de Kooning (1920-1989).
See biographies by H. F. Gaugh (1983), L. Hall (1993, repr. 2000), and M. Stevens and A. Swan (2004); studies by H. Rosenberg (1974), D. Waldman (1978 and 1988), D. Cateforis (1994), D. Sylvester et al. (1994), G. Garrels and R. Storr (1995), S. Yard (1997), K. Kertess et al. (1998), C. Morris (1999), and Edvard Liever (2000).
The Academy, in the past Academie van Beeldende Kunsten (Academy of Visual Arts), carries the name of alumni Willem de Kooning (1904-1997) since 1998 in honour of the artist. Willem de Kooning was born in north Rotterdam and graduated in Decoration Art (now Styling). He left to New York at the age of 22, and there developed himself as a frontman of the Abstract Expressionism painting movement of the 1940's and 1950's.
Part of the Academy is the Piet Zwart Institute, which houses the postgraduate programmes. That part is named after faculty alumnus Piet Zwart (1885-1977), who in the 1920 designed all kinds of things: stamps, print advertising, books, interiors, furniture (including the Bruynzeel kitchen) and also spent a huge amount of time photographing and painting. He has been officially awarded the title Dutch Designer of the 20th Century.
The Academy is proud of De Kooning and Zwart, two artists who were far ahead of time and broke through the boundaries of fine art and styling, and inspires every artist at the Academy, both students and faculty.
Although the namechanges the Academy is widely known as the Rotterdamse Academie till 1998.
In the 5th and 6th semester (3rd year) students choose their minor, which can be a specialization or differentiation depending on the major. Student can choose a minor offered by the entire university, or choose one of the Academy minors, which are: Art and the City, 3D Computer Graphics, Copywriting, Forecast and Creative Marketing, Photography, Identity, Art Education in Practice, Art Theory, Brands and Packaging, Motion Graphics, Digital Media Design, Open Project Atelier, Products and Concepts, Editorial Design, Painting, Collection, Graphics, Internet Documentary, Presentation, Environmental Communication and Textiles.
The Piet Zwart Institute consist of 3 fulltime postgraduate programmes leading to an MA degree: Fine Art, Interior Design and Media Design. These programmes are regarded as rigorous and the Institute is highly selective with each of the programmes only admitting 10-12 student annually.
Since 1999, Academy students received Honorary Notices in all years. And with the exception of 2005, Willem de Kooning Academy students have won Jong Talent Awards every year, often more than 1 prize. In 2003 it claimed all 3 prizes.