Sunday, March 12, 2017

Happy Birthday Elaine de Kooning

March 12, 1918. Elaine de Kooning (March 12, 1918/1920 - February 1, 1989) was an Abstract Expressionist, Figurative Expressionist painter in the post-World War II era and editorial associate for Art News magazine. On December 9, 1943, she married artist Willem de Kooning, who was a highly influential artist in the Abstract Expressionism movement. In this image: Members of the media and Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum staff are surrounded by portraits of presidents including Warren Harding, left, by Margaret Lindsay Williams, Dwight D. Eisenhower, third from right, by Thomas Edgar Stephens, John F. Kennedy, second from right, by Elaine de Kooning, and photographs of Kennedy by George Thames, as they tour the exhibit at the Carter Museum Thursday, Feb. 13, 2003.

Elaine Fried was born in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, in 1918 and, by many accounts, inherited her mother’s fierce wit and independence of mind. She left the small town of Brooklyn and resettled in downtown Manhattan in the late 1930s, taking art classes at the Leonardo da Vinci School and earning money from odd jobs, including a stint as a fashion model. Before long, she was pretending to be rooming with longtime friend Ernestine Lassaw after she’d met, taken classes from, fallen in love and shacked up with a struggling Dutch immigrant artist named Willem.

Married in 1943, the couple survived most of that decade living hand-to-mouth. The marriage was rocky from the start. After a detour in Provincetown, two summertime stints at Black Mountain College and with neighbors and friends like George Balanchine, Tennessee Williams, Rudy Burckhardt, and Merce Cunningham, the couple were at the forefront of a massive cultural change.

She was drawn equally to portraying people and the new experimental form of Abstract Expressionism.

Elaine de Kooning, “Self-Portrait #1” (c. 1942), oil on Masonite. 23 × 17 3/8 inches. Frame: 31 7/8 × 26 1/4 inches.   )   

Elaine de Kooning, “Fairfield Porter #1” (1954), oil on canvas, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, Missouri. Collection Bebe and Crosby Kemper (© Elaine de Kooning Trust)     

In 1957, the couple separated. They were drinking too much, an addiction on de Kooning's part which would deepen as he got older. In 1962, Elaine got the prestigious commission to paint President Kennedy. In 1976, Elaine, now sober took up managing Willhem's life and his output, attempting to curb his addiction of alcohol.

Then, in the early 1980s, she lost one lung to cancer and subsequently suffered from severe emphysema. She died in 1989, right after the Fischbach Gallery did a show of her “cave paintings.” Willem de Kooning, stricken with dementia, continued to paint and outlived her another eight years.
Read more:

1 comment:

Carla Ives said...

I had never heard of her but I think I should have. Her portrait of Kennedy is impressive. Her self-portrait is interesting. I'm glad she had some recognition during her lifetime. Thank you for posting this.