Yves Klein was born on April 28, 1928 in Nice, France. He had no formal art training though both of his parents were artists. Between 1948 and 1952, he traveled to Italy, Great Britain, Spain, and Japan where he became a master at judo, achieving a 4th degree black belt. In 1954, Klein settled in Paris and began his career as an artist.
Abstract Expressionist painter and sculptor Willem de Kooning was born on April 24, 1904 in Rotterdam, Netherlands. De Kooning worked for a commercial-art and decorating firm and studied at the Rotterdam Academy of Fine Arts at night. He immigrated to the United States (illegally) in 1926 and worked as a house painter in New Jersey before moving to New York in 1927. De Kooning worked in commercial-art and at the WPA Federal Art Project until 1937. In the late 1930’s, he began painting full-time and his abstract and figurative works were influenced by Cubism, Surrealism, and Arshile Gorky who shared his studio.
Born in Normandy, France on April 21, 1904, Jean Hélion is recognized as one of the leading abstract painters in Europe during the 1930’s. Hélion moved to Paris in 1921 where he worked as an architectural apprentice until deciding to become a painter in 1925. He became a member of the Groupe Art Concret in 1929 and co-founded Abstraction Creation in 1931 – an international association of artists who advocated pure abstration.