Elaine De Kooning Casts a Critical Eye Inside the Art World

Article excerpt

`THE big thing about Franz Kline's art is its inclusiveness." Elaine de Kooning's words, in 1962, come near the end of her essay about the artist, written for the posthumous retrospective of his work. Three decades later, her sensitive, carefully accurate tribute - to an artist who did not (as she reminds us) write or theorize much about his own work - remains informative. But better still, it captures the atmosphere of the artist and does so without sentimental hero-worship.

She continues: "Franz, laughing in front of one of his big black and white paintings, obviously making a wisecrack, in the wonderful photograph printed in Life after his death, has the open gesture of his own painting. It is not surprising that this photograph is tacked on the walls, coast to coast, of the studios of artists who never knew him."

Elaine de Kooning (who lived from 1918 to 1989, and was a painter herself as well as the wife of painter Willem de Kooning) chronicled and analyzed - usually in Art News magazine - the character and work of many of the artists of the Abstract Expressionist period.

Her writings are now published in book form. They make fascinating and rather heart-warming reading for anyone interested in "American-type painting" as Clement Greenberg had earlier dubbed it.

She is at her most illuminating when she is at her most sympathetic. …


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