Lisa de Kooning, 56; sculptor, daughter of famed expressionist artist

Ms. De Kooning was able to preserve her the legacy of Willem de Kooning. She preserved his studio in East Hampton, N.Y., and helped museums prepare de Kooning exhibitions.

Bill Cunningham/New York Times/file 2005

Ms. De Kooning was able to preserve her the legacy of Willem de Kooning. She preserved his studio in East Hampton, N.Y., and helped museums prepare de Kooning exhibitions.

NEW YORK — Lisa de Kooning, the daughter of the abstract expressionist painter Willem de Kooning who overcame a chaotic youth to devote herself to burnishing her father’s fame as a giant of 20th-century art, died Nov. 23 on St. John in the US Virgin Islands. She was 56.

Her family announced the death, which was apparently caused by a fall.


A report by the Virgin Islands Police Department said an unidentified man called 911 at 2:30 a.m. to say that he had heard a loud noise in another room in her home after she had finished drinking wine, and entered to find her dead on the floor. An investigation continues.

Ms. de Kooning, a sculptor herself, was the product of a relationship between her father and Joan Ward, a commercial artist. At the time, de Kooning was separated from his wife, Elaine.

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Lisa de Kooning was his only child, and her mother said in interviews that he doted on her. She was the only beneficiary of his will, and the value of his paintings she owned grew with his escalating stature: In 2006, his “Woman III’’ was sold for $137.5 million.

Her mission was preserving his legacy, which she did through establishing a foundation in his name and a trust for her own collection of his art. She preserved his studio in East Hampton, N.Y., and she helped museums prepare de Kooning exhibitions.

Johanna Liesbeth de Kooning was born Jan. 29, 1956, in Manhattan, and grew up there and in the hamlet of Springs on Long Island. Her mother remained close to the artist, and mother and daughter later maintained separate homes near him in Springs. They were friendly with Elaine de Kooning.


Ms. de Kooning studied at Bernard Pfriem’s Lacoste School of the Arts in the south of France, and by her midteens was living in Manhattan’s East Village, where she spent time with Hell’s Angels.

She later taught in the Head Start program and helped the American Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals with pet adoptions, the book said.

By 1989, her father had Alzheimer’s disease and Elaine de Kooning had died, so Lisa petitioned to be made his conservator.

There was some concern about the money she told the court she regularly needed. ‘‘I have to practice being less generous to my friends,’’ she said. At the time, she was receiving an annual allowance of $375,000.

Ultimately, she and John L. Eastman, the family’s lawyer, were named coconservators.

Her marriage to Christian Villeneuve ended in divorce in 2002. She leaves her daughters Isabel, Emma, and Lucy de Kooning Villeneuve.

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