National Museum of Women in the Arts
Elaine de Kooning
March 12 1918 - February 01 1989
Photograph of Elaine de Kooning, 1980, by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, courtesy of the photographer. (c) Timothy Greenfield-Sanders.
Place of Birth:
New York
Phonetic Spelling:
ee-LAY-N deh KOON-ing
Minority status:
White non-Hispanic
Work Type/Media:
Drawings and prints, Painting, Sculpture
Artistic Role(s):
Draftsperson, Painter, Portraitist, Printmaker, Sculptor
Abstract Expressionism , Other
Artist's Biography:
Elaine Fried was born in New York, NY in 1918 and was introduced to art through her mother, who cultivated her interest with trips to museums, books on art, and encouragement to draw from life. De Kooning knew she wanted to be a painter at a young age, and studied at the Leonardo da Vinci Art School in Manhattan, where she met Willem de Kooning and became his student and later his wife in 1943. During the 1940s, both artists created and showed work associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement. De Kooning’s main artistic style was portraiture, different from the abstract compositions of her husband and peers, and she was also a sculptor, draftsperson, printmaker, writer, and art critic for the publication ARTnews.

Her writings for ARTnews reviewed the work of Franz Kline, David Smith, and Josef Albers. Her paintings were usually portraits commissioned by public figures, including the image of John F. Kennedy begun in 1962 shortly before his death that now hangs in the Harry S. Truman Library in Independence, MO. She also painted portraits of basketball and baseball players, based on magazine and newspaper photographs, and later traveled with the New York Yankees and the Baltimore Orioles and recorded the sport in a series of paintings in 1953 and 1954. Elaine de Kooning had her first one-person show at the Stable Gallery in New York in 1952.

Throughout her life she taught at numerous colleges including Yale and Carnegie Mellon Universities, the Parsons New School for Design, and the University of New Mexico. Her experiences with the southwestern landscape and the bullfights in Juárez, Mexico influenced her later works, as did the cave art of Lascaux, France, which she saw in a visit to the prehistoric site in 1983 and incorporated into her exhibit at the Fischbach Gallery in 1988.

Elaine de Kooning’s paintings are included in the collections of major American museums such as the Guggenheim Museum of Art, The Museum of Modern Art and the Albright-Knox Gallery.

Other Occupation(s):
Art Critic, Instructor, Model, Teacher, Writer
Place(s) of Residence:
New York
Where Trained/Schools:
Leonardo da Vinci Art School, New York, NY, USA (1937) American Artists School, New York, NY, USA (1937)
Related Visual Artists:
wife and student of Willem de Kooning friend of Ibram Lassaw friend of Ernestine Blumberg Lassaw friend of Helen Frankenthaler friend of John Graham friend of Franz Kline student of Conrad Marca-Relli student of Ben Wilson student of Milton Herbald student of Milton Resnick student of Naubaum Techachbsor
Fellowships, grants and awards:
Honorary Doctorate, Adelphi University, New York, NY, USA (1983) Milton and Sally Avery Chair, Bard College, New York, NY, USA (1982)
Earliest exhibition:
Elaine de Kooning, Stable Gallery, New York, NY, USA (1952)
NMWA exhibition(s):
Preserving the Past, Securing the Future: Donations of Art, 1987-1997
Four Centuries of Women's Art: The National Museum of Women in the Arts
Artist retrospective(s):
Elaine de Kooning: A Retrospective, Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, GA, USA (1992)
Related places
Southampton (died at)
Jardin du Luxembourg
Meg Randall