Urgent Museum Notice

Image for 5 Fast Facts: Elaine De Kooning

5 Fast Facts: Elaine de Kooning

Blog Category:  Artist Spotlight

Impress your friends with five fast facts about Abstract Expressionist artist Elaine de Kooning (1918–1989), whose work is on view in NMWA’s collection galleries.
1. Speed Demon
Elaine de Kooning had the reputation of being able to paint a full-length portrait in less than two hours.
2. Not-So-Still Life
Though primarily known for her portraiture, de Kooning also experimented with still life. She combined careful depictions of everyday objects with loosely painted, sketchy areas—imbuing the works with a sense of movement contrary to the static feeling of more traditional still-life paintings.

Elaine de Kooning, Bacchus #3, 1978; Acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 78 in x 50 in x 2 1/4 in; NMWA, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay
Elaine de Kooning, Bacchus #3, 1978; Acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 78 in x 50 in x 2 1/4 in; NMWA, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

3. A Woman’s World
De Kooning first encountered art in reproductions by Rembrandt, Raphael, Rosa Bonheur, and Élisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun hung by her mother in de Kooning’s childhood home. This experience molded her artistic path. She said she “began life with the assumption that half the painters in the world were women.”

Visitors study Elaine de Kooning’s Bacchus #3; Photo: Dakota Fine
NMWA visitors study Elaine de Kooning’s Bacchus #3; Photo: Dakota Fine

4. Triple Threat
In addition to being a painter, de Kooning was also an esteemed writer and teacher. She became an editorial assistant for Art News in 1948 and taught at the University of New Mexico, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of California—Davis.
5. No Adjectives, Please
Not a fan of the term “woman artist,” de Kooning preferred to just be referred to as an artist. Once a man approached de Kooning and fellow abstract expressionist Joan Mitchell and asked, “What do you women artists think…” and they both walked away without responding.

Related Posts

  • Artist Spotlight: Interview with Maggie Foskett

    Posted: Sep 18, 2009 in Artist Spotlight
    Maggie Foskett (American, b.1919) would not have you call her a “nature artist;” nor is she a romantic about humanity’s relationship with the natural world. Rather, she is an artist...
    Blog Category:  Artist Spotlight
  • Artist Spotlight: Alma Thomas

    Posted: Oct 14, 2009 in Artist Spotlight
    NMWA is proud to have two works by Alma Thomas. The mesmerizing paintings—created when the artists was nearly eighty years old—have been visitor and staff favorites. Alma Woodsey Thomas was...
    Abstract painting composed of brightly colored, lozenge-shaped brushstrokes in vertical stripes of navy, purple, turqouise, yellow, orange and red.The overall effect is as if the painting was collaged out of torn pieces of paper, with the white of the canvas showing through.
    Blog Category:  Artist Spotlight
  • Artist Spotlight: Lynda Benglis

    Posted: Nov 06, 2009 in Artist Spotlight
    Among NMWA's new acquisitions this year is a sculpture by the innovative Lynda Benglis (American, b. 1940). Often billed as a feminist artist, Benglis is media oriented, as she works...
    Blog Category:  Artist Spotlight