“A Generous Vision” book 11.14.2019

I recently finished reading A Generous Vision: The Creative Life of Elaine de Kooning, written by Cathy Curtis. This author has written two other books, also about female painters – Nell Blaine and Grace Hartigan.

A Generous Vision is a biography about Elaine de Kooning, born in 1918, an abstract expressionist painter who was married to the more famous painter Willem de Kooning. Elaine was one of the artists shown in Women of Abstract Expressionism, a fantastic exhibit I saw at the Denver Art Museum in 2016. You can read reviews of A Generous Vision at several links online, including Goodreads and WSJ.

Although the author added lots of verbiage that I thought could have been edited out, I kept reading because I wanted to learn about Elaine de Kooning, a woman trying to make it and survive in the art world in a time when men were at the forefront of gallery shows and art earnings. De Kooning often attended artist groups and gathering as the only female in a group of men. Even so, she didn’t call herself a feminist. When she was asked about being a “woman artist” she replied “I am an artist, period.”

Along with painting, de Kooning wrote art reviews and taught painting. I laughed when I read that she told students to not waste time with gesso — that a gallon of Elmer’s glue would do just fine to prime the surface of a canvas prior to painting. It’s a great idea!

Elaine de Kooning, Bullfight, 1959. Oil on canvas; 77-5/8 x 130-1/4 x 1-1/8 in. Denver Art Museum: Vance H. Kirkland Acquisition Fund. © Elaine de Kooning Trust

De Kooning was an abstract and figurative expressionist painter, meaning she often incorporated figures into her gestural abstract paintings. I like her work – the colors and movement keep my eyes moving over the paintings. And I like the abstracted quality of her images. Like most women artists, Elaine de Kooning worked hard to achieve her success. I’m glad to know more about her.


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