5 Fast Facts: Elaine de Kooning

Impress your friends with five fast facts about Abstract Expressionist artist Elaine de Kooning (1918–1989), whose work is on view in NMWA’s collection galleries.

1. Speed Demon

Elaine de Kooning had the reputation of being able to paint a full-length portrait in less than two hours.

2. Not-So-Still Life

Though primarily known for her portraiture, de Kooning also experimented with still life. She combined careful depictions of everyday objects with loosely painted, sketchy areas—imbuing the works with a sense of movement contrary to the static feeling of more traditional still-life paintings.

Elaine de Kooning, Bacchus #3, 1978; Acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 78 in x 50 in x 2 1/4 in; NMWA, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

Elaine de Kooning, Bacchus #3, 1978; Acrylic and charcoal on canvas, 78 in x 50 in x 2 1/4 in; NMWA, Gift of Wallace and Wilhelmina Holladay

3. A Woman’s World

De Kooning first encountered art in reproductions by Rembrandt, Raphael, Rosa Bonheur, and Élisabeth Louise Vigée-LeBrun hung by her mother in de Kooning’s childhood home. This experience molded her artistic path. She said she “began life with the assumption that half the painters in the world were women.”

Visitors study Elaine de Kooning’s Bacchus #3; Photo: Dakota Fine

NMWA visitors study Elaine de Kooning’s Bacchus #3; Photo: Dakota Fine

4. Triple Threat

In addition to being a painter, de Kooning was also an esteemed writer and teacher. She became an editorial assistant for Art News in 1948 and taught at the University of New Mexico, Carnegie Mellon, and the University of California—Davis.

5. No Adjectives, Please

Not a fan of the term “woman artist,” de Kooning preferred to just be referred to as an artist. Once a man approached de Kooning and fellow abstract expressionist Joan Mitchell and asked, “What do you women artists think…” and they both walked away without responding.

—Marina MacLatchie was the fall 2015 education and digital engagement intern at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.

Art Fix Friday: July 10, 2015

Films featuring female protagonists have made strides at the box office. The New York Times film critics ask, “Has feminism conquered Hollywood? Has Hollywood co-opted feminism?”

Movies featuring women are becoming popular and sexist films are called out. Critic A.O. Scott wonders if this represents a “shift in consciousness, or at least a moment of awareness.” Critic Manohla Dargis agrees there is a “rising activism or maybe newfound gutsiness in the industry.” Vulture discusses four forms of discrimination women filmmakers often face.

Front-Page Femmes

The women-only Murray Edwards College has a new 450-work collection of art by women—making it the second largest collection of art by women in the world.

The Independent explores how a new generation of women artists tackle painting. “It has never been that brilliant female painters didn’t exist, it’s just that they were blocked or hidden from public view.”

In celebration of Frida Kahlo’s (1907–1954) birthday on Monday, The Detroit Institute of Art offered discounted tickets to the Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo in Detroit exhibition. The Huffington Post gives advice on how to become like the Mexican painter. Latin Times shares the artist’s most memorable quotes, and CNN explores pictures of Kahlo’s private life.

“Stop Telling Women to Smile” artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh teamed up with King Texas to design t-shirts in remembrance of women lost to violence.

The Huffington Post has a list of ten more 19th-century American woman artists people should know. The list includes NMWA artists Lilly Martin Spencer, Bessie Potter Vonnoh, and Elizabeth Jane Gardner.

The first chapter of Harper Lee’s long-awaited but controversial Go Set A Watchman is available online.

Two new books about Agnes Martin explore the enigmatic artist’s life and work.

Beyoncé-inspired skyscraper will be built in Melbourne.

critique of the Amy Winehouse biopic says the film supports “clichés that plague women in art: that women can’t write their own music, or that they’re only famous because powerful male figures lifted them into the spotlight.”

NPR Music critic Ann Powers discusses the rise of the female pop stars.

The Guardian calls out a former Disney CEO for saying, “The hardest artist to find is a beautiful, funny woman.” The Washington Post goes on to ask “How widespread is this prejudice against the pretty?”

Feminist performers in “Tall Women in Clogs” comment on how height can shape a woman’s identity.

Following Misty Copeland’s history-making appointment as the American Ballet Theater’s first African American principal dancer, The Huffington Post compiled a list of 26 talented African American choreographers and dancers.

Shows We Want to See

The National Portrait Gallery highlights rarely-seen portraits by Elaine de Kooning.

Tate Modern holds a retrospective of painter Sonia Delaunay.

Jenny Holzer: Softer Targets opens this Sunday at Hauser & Wirth Somerset.

The Institute of Contemporary Art Boston features over 150 polymorphic sculptures by Arlene Shechet.

—Emily Haight is the digital editorial assistant at the National Museum of Women in the Arts.