Elaine de Kooning

Born 1918. Died 1989.
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Elaine de Kooning Biography

Elaine de Kooning was a prominent American painter known for her experimentation with Abstract Expressionist and Figurative Expressionist. Elaine’’s style was solely her own, however, and the artist painted in a wide range of styles, from realism to abstraction. Active in the post-WWII New York art work, Elaine was also a prolific teacher and writer, serving on the editorial team of Artnews magazine and teaching at institutions including Yale University, Pratt Institute, the University of Pennsylvania and the Parsons School of Design. In addition to her outstanding professional achievements, de Kooning is known for her marriage to painter Willem de Kooning.

Elaine Marie Catherine Fried was born in Flatbush, New York in 1918. From an early age, Elaine showed an interest in and aptitude for art; in grade school, she drew portraits of her classmates for commission. Following high school graduation, Elaine briefly attended Hunter College, followed by the Leonardo da Vinci Art School and the American Artists School.

Elaine gained notoriety early in her career due to her membership with the Eighth Street Club (the Club), alongside other notable artists including Franz Kline, Clyfford Still and Hans Hofmann. Additionally, Elaine was associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement in New York, though she experimented with a further range of styles and subjects, including landscapes and portraits.

In 1938, when she was 20 years old, Elaine met artist Willem de Kooning (who was 34 at the time) through her teacher, Robert Jones. Elaine and Willem married in 1943 and remained married, despite a nearly 20-year period of separation, until Elaine’s death in 1989.

Elaine served several brief stints as an instructor at multiple renowned institutions beginning in 1957, prompted by her initial separation from Willem. In 1985, Elaine was elected to the National Academy of Design as an associate member, before becoming a full academician in 1988.

During her lifetime, Elaine was included in several prominent group exhibitions, including the 1956 “Young American Painters” at the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the 1961 Whitney Museum of American Art Annuals and Biennials, and well as solo exhibitions at the Stable Gallery, New York, and the Graham Gallery, New York. Today, work by Elaine de Kooning is held in the public collections of such institutions as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the Denver Art Museum, Denver; and the National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., among others.

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