Weekly artist series: Week 7 Part 3 ELAINE #deKooning. #husbandsandwives

Week 7 Part 3 Willem de Kooning

Artists do not work in a vacuum.  I am fascinated by artists in relationships.

Frida/ Diego

Camille/ Auguste

Lee/ Jackson

Sophie/ Hans

Elaine/ Willem

How did they feed each other’s art?  How did they harm each other?  Influence each other?  Who was more powerful?  Are they inseparable?

Self-portrait by Elaine de Kooning, 1946


In the autumn of 1938, Elaine’s art teacher introduced her to the 34-year-old Dutch emigre Willem (Bill) de Kooning, but there is little evidence to suggest any romantic connection at their initial meeting. Elaine was with Resnick at the time, who had supposedly commented once to her, “Bill is going to be the greatest painter in the country.” 

Shortly after their introduction, a friend of de Kooning’s took her to Willem’s studio. Later in life, Elaine recalled, “It was the cleanest place I ever saw in my life. It had painted gray floors, white walls, one table..one easel, one fantastically good phonograph that cost $800 when he was only making $22 a week, and one painting of a man on the easel.” 

Elaine and Willem de Kooning endured a long and, at times, very tumultuous marriage. As much as each artist benefited from one another’s paintings and teachings, they mutually suffered due to constant infidelities and struggles with alcoholism.

Photo of Elaine and Willem de Kooning in studio, Parrish Art Museum.

The paintings of both Elaine and Willem were exhibited at the Sidney Janis Gallery for the 1949 show Artists: Man and Wife, along with the works of couples like Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, and Hans Arp and Sophie Tauber-Arp. 

An Opening Egan Gallery (Portrait of Betsy Egan) by Elaine de Kooning

“There’s now way of looking at a work of art by itself.  It’s not self-evident- it needs a history, it needs a lot of talking aout; it’s part of a whole man’s life.” from de Kooning- an American Master, M. Stevens, A. Swan

Draw “the relationship”.  Where do you go with it?  Simple or complex?

Charcoal, oil pastel, olive oil, water
My interpretation of both my marriage and Frida and Diego's.

See also:

35 PART daily journal exercise

Weekly artist exploration/journaling series INTRO

Weekly artist series Week 1 parts 1-6 FRIDA KAHLO

Weekly artist series Week 2 parts 1-6 PICASSO

Weekly artist series Week 3 parts 1-5 LISA LARSON

Weekly artist series Week 4 parts 1-3 GEORGE GROSZ 

Weekly artist series Week 5 parts 1-4 FAITH RINGGOLD

Weekly artist series Week 6 Parts 1-3 BASQUIAT

Weekly artist series Week 7 part 1 deKOONING: A Woman’s Mouth

Weekly artist series Week 7 part 2 deKOONING: erasing

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