I pulled these remarks from an Art News article in 1958. We can get a sense of De Kooning’s immense knowledge of art and also his ability to encapsulate that knowledge in brief, oddly humorous remarks. These were taken from an interviewer accompanying him around the Metropolitan Museum (I believe it was the Met anyway):
De Kooning that Rembrandt and Rodin are near each other and though separated by centuries they seem part of the same world.
The idea that art can come from nowhere is typically American–I call it painting made out of John Brown’s body–like Frank Lloyd Wright–and you can quote me.
Being anti-traditional is just as corny as being traditional. What’s so wrong with being eclectic? A man does a painting and they jump on him for being ‘eclectic’ as if it was a terrible crime–a moral sin.
There’s nothing impossible for art. Of course certain great figures–Rubens or Velazquez–closed off their own pictures. But nothing is done.
Interviewer: What do you think of M (a magic realist painter who works in a tight 19th century style.)?
Well, I don’t think he understands what he’s doing so very well. I was reading Kierkegaard and I came across the phrase “to be purified is to will one thing.” It made me sick.
Art shouldn’t be fanatical. People forget how young the dadaists were when they were saying “to hell with art.” They were just in their twenties. And it was a belated age of reason, an eighteenth century idea that just caught up with painting at the end of the first World War. Painters are bound to be involved in painting. Old and new we are just one thing.
Interviewer: What about Duchamp and his painting of the Mona Lisa with the mustache on it. (Note: Actually it wasn’t a painting, but a reproduction.)
Maybe Duchamp’s just not an art lover.
I used to make imaginary portraits from Ingres and Le Nain. I never did copies.
We get a wonderful example of De Kooning’s laconic wit when he does in Duchamp with that simple sentence.