Elaine de Kooning

Elaine Marie de Kooning ( born Elaine Marie Fried, born March 12, 1918 in Brooklyn, New York, † February 1, 1989 in Southampton, New York) was an American painter, graphic artist and art critic. She was a representative of the Abstract Expressionists, a member of the New York School and played as an author and professor of art an important role in the development of modern art in the United States after 1945.

Life and work

The young Elaine Marie Fried grew up in Brooklyn. The girl was brought by her mother at an early age the art that she took to visiting museums and taught her to draw there anything they saw. In 1936 she began studying at the Leonardo da Vinci Art School in New York, but soon moved to the American Artists School, where she began in 1938 to study with the emigrated to the USA Dutch artist Willem de Kooning. From the teacher - student ratio is a lifetime, just as passionate as destructive relationship should develop. On 9 December 1943, the two married.

The connection with de Kooning she brought with Arshile Gorky, John D. Graham, Franz Kline, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, Mark Tobey and other artists in the field of action painting and the " new American abstraction " and together they established to 1948 by numerous monographs of these artists for the magazine type news as an art critic. In the same year she started first own abstract works. Together with Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Ad Reinhardt and other painters and writers she became a founding member of the artist haunts The Club, the "first generation" New York School united. In 1951 she participated in the group exhibition Ninth Street Show, which should be a landmark show of abstract expressionists and was financially supported by the emerging gallerists Leo Castelli. In 1954 he her first solo exhibition at the Stable Gallery in New York. Mid-1950s, de Kooning painted mainly portraits of faceless men like Al Lazar ( Man in a Hotel Room ) or Peter (both 1954), while they mixed the figurative representation with an expressive abstract brush stroke.

Inspired by the impressions of a trip to the American West Coast and to Mexico, she changed towards the end of the 1950s, their imagery: they broke away from the strict, due to the so-called Black Paintings of its New York artist colleagues monochrome and replaced its range by lighter, brighter colors and figurative forms. In Mexican Ciudad Juarez came with pictures like Sunday Afternoon ( 1957), a series of bullfighting scenes. From the early 1960s, she worked as a portrait painter was preferred. In 1962 she was commissioned to paint a portrait of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy for the Harry S. Truman Library, but difficult shocked by his assassination in 1963 she interrupted her work as a painter for a year. At this time they began operating as an art teacher and was until 1972 a visiting professor at numerous universities such as Yale and Carnegie Mellon University. In 1974 she was a professor at the Parsons School of Design in New York and in the meantime, in 1975, Artist in Residence at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts. In the following years she supported young artists such as the Russian-American artist Alexander Ney.

Private resulted Elaine and Willem de Kooning a difficult marriage, which was characterized by latent poverty in the 1940s and years of heavy binge drinking, love affairs and constant discrepancies of the two opposite characters. Nevertheless, the unfortunate affair led to a high artistic productivity, which produced a large number of works by both artists. In the late 1950s, Elaine and Willem de Kooning parted, but did not divorce. It was not until the mid-1970s, when both their alcohol problems had been overcome, they got together again. From 1976 Elaine de Kooning painted with acrylics for the first time and developed new forms of expression in her paintings. In the 1980s, she traveled to Europe, where she was inspired by cave paintings in southern France, as well as China and Japan. Subsequently, she began with ink drawings and etchings to experiment, in which they transposed these impressions ( Ascending Wall 1988). In the late 1980s the diseased heavy smoker of lung cancer, which she died on 1 February 1989.

In the iconography is Elaine de Kooning's work from many different artistic styles influenced: it ranges from gloomy abstractions in the 1940s, portrait studies in the 1950s and 1960s, a liberated archaic expressionist and traditional objectivity in the 1980s, the critics as New York Figurative Expressionism was declared. In addition to Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell and Elaine de Kooning Hedda Sterne was one of the leading artists of Abstract Expressionism in the United States.


(Select external links )

  • Woman in Suit ( 1944) hackettfreedman.com
  • Portrait of Conrad (1947 ) hackettfreedman.com
  • Baseball Players (1953 ) telfairartyfacts.org
  • Al Lazar ( Man in a Hotel Room ) ( 1954) hackettfreedman.com
  • Peter (1954) hackettfreedman.com
  • Sunday Afternoon ( 1957) mystudios.com
  • John F. Kennedy ( 1963)
  • Betty Bivins Childers (1964 ) amarilloart.org
  • On the way to San Remo (1967 ) spaightwoodgalleries.com
  • Bacchus # 3 ( 1978) mystudios.com
  • Ascending Wall (1988 ) artnet.com

Exhibitions (selection)

  • Elaine De Kooning (2003) Hackett - Freedman Gallery, San Francisco
  • Abstract Expressionism (2001) Pfalzgalerie Kaiserslautern
  • Elaine de Kooning Portraits (1999) Salander - O'Reilly Galleries, New York
  • Art & Friendship: Selections from the Roland F. Pease Collection ( 1997) Tibor de Nagy Gallery, New York
  • Elaine de Kooning Paintings 1955-1965 (1996 ) Joan T. Washburn Gallery, New York
  • Major Paintings, Sculpture & Drawings (1996 ) Joan T. Washburn Gallery, New York


  • The Spirit of Abstract Expressionism Selected Writings. George Braziller Inc., New York 1994, ISBN 0-8076-1337-1
  • Elaine De Kooning: Essays by Lawrence Campbell, Helen A Harrison, Rose Slivka. University of Georgia Georgia Museum, 1992, ISBN 0-915977-09-5