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Bacchus #3

Close up of Bacchus #3

Large, vertical, abstract painting suggesting a central figure group in bachanalian revelry surrounded by nature. The expressively rendered figures are grey with outlines sketched in black, while the surrounding foliage and sky are a jumble of vibrant greens and turquoise blue.

Elaine De Kooning, Bacchus #3, 1978; Acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 78 x 50 x 2 1/4 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay; © Elaine de Kooning

Bacchus #3
Elaine de Kooning

Bacchus #3 appears at first glance to be a non-representational abstraction, but its black lines and broad swathes of grays and greens gradually resolve into a figure group.

This work is part of series of paintings and watercolors that Elaine de Kooning generated over seven years beginning in 1976. She was captivated by a 19th-century sculpture of the Roman god Bacchus, which she saw in the Luxembourg Gardens in Paris. She particularly admired the sculpture’s twisting, dynamic form, which portrays the commotion created by the drunken god and his equally inebriated attendants.

To capture that sense of energy, de Kooning drew upon her individual approach to Abstract Expressionism. She combined broad contour strokes and flat areas of color denoting the sculpture’s green patina. She framed the central figure group with bold, slashing strokes of vibrant greens and blues to indicate its tree-lined setting.

While the “Bacchus” series was not the artist’s first, it marked her first use of acrylic paint.

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Elaine de Kooning
  • Title

    Bacchus #3
  • Date

  • Medium

    Acrylic and charcoal on canvas
  • Dimensions

    Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay
  • Donor Credit

    Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay
  • Photo Credit

    © Elaine de Kooning
  • On Display