Elaine de Kooning
(American, March 12, 1918–February 1, 1989) was a painter, teacher, and editor. She is known for her work both as an Abstract Expressionist and Figurative Expressionist painter. De Kooning was born in Brooklyn, NY, as the oldest of four children. At a young age, de Kooning''s mother taught her how to draw, and frequently took her to museums. De Kooning attended Erasmus Hall High School, and upon graduation briefly attended Hunter College in New York City. In 1937, she studied at the Leonardo da Vinci Art School in Hoboken, NJ, and in 1938, she went back to New York City to attend the American Artists School.
In her mid-20s, de Kooning married fellow artist Willem de Kooning
(Dutch/American, April 24, 1904–March 19, 1997). During her marriage, de Kooning continued painting; however, much of her time was devoted to ensuring the success of her husband. In the summer of 1948, de Kooning and her husband left New York for North Carolina so that he could teach at Black Mountain College. At the end of the summer, her husband left North Carolina, and de Kooning stayed behind. During that period at Black Mountain, she created a series of paintings entitled Black Mountain Abstractions
. The following year, de Kooning and her husband were part of an exhibition entitled Artists: Man and Wife
at the Sidney Janis Gallery, which featured several artist couples. She had her first solo exhibit at the Stable Gallery in 1954. Shortly after, de Kooning and her husband separated until 1975.
De Kooning was highly noted for her ability as a portraitist, even by the White House, who commissioned a portrait of President John F. Kennedy. This resulted in her John F. Kennedy
series of paintings, and her most popular Portrait of JFK
. In 1983, she went to Northern Spain and Southern France to visit pre-historic caves. De Kooning always had a fascination with the animal form and was interested in seeing what inspiration she could find in the caves. After her excursions, she made several sketches. Upon returning to the United States, de Kooning transferred these sketches into large paintings such as Cave #49, Morning Horses
and Cave #54, Sand Wall
. De Kooning continued to travel extensively and gain international inspiration. During her artistic career, she also worked as an editorial associate and art critic of Art News
magazine, and taught at many universities, including the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, the University of California, Davis, Yale University, the Pratt Institute, Carnegie Mellon University, Wagner College, and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. In the 1980s, de Kooning was diagnosed with lung cancer. Following a surgery to remove one of her lungs, her health began to deteriorate until she succumbed to the disease in 1989.