Pencil on paper, 10 x 8 inches
Estate of the artist
De Kooning’s brothers Peter & Conrad Fried
Elaine de Kooning (American 1918-1991) was both student and wife of Willem de Kooning. She was an exemplary painter and draftsman in her own right, and her famed portrait work, significant for historical value, fresh and unpretentious attitude, and painterly bravura gives us a slice of postwar bohemian New York with sitters such as Frank O’Hara, Allen Ginsberg, Leo Castelli, and Merce Cunningham. She never intended that the portraits be shown in public; they were private and personal efforts despite the fact that she painted and drew them for much of her career. In the mid to late 1950s the portraits became more gestural, less particularized–faceless sitters set in expressionistic backgrounds. Like her teachers, de Kooning and Gorky, Elaine did not hesitate to combine figurative and abstract elements in a single work. As if in the Baroque period, she delighted in rendering the fold and drape of fabric that in many of her works becomes an expressive and lively subject itself. Preliminary drawings were always important to her final product. The influence of Willem de Kooning’s work is undeniable in the painted oeuvre as well as in the pencil drawings–agitated brushwork, bold mixing of contrasting color, and a restless, vibrating movement throughout.
Her work is included in the collections of most major American museums including the Guggenheim, MOMA, the Corcoran Gallery, and the Albright-Knox Gallery, among many other major American and international institutions.