THE WORK AND THE ARTIST
Artist: de Kooning, Elaine
Title/Date: Taurus IV, 1973
Description of the work:
The figurative black-and-white body of the bull, arching and leaping into the air, dominates the central picture plane in a flurry of representational abstraction. Three long picador lances pierce the shoulders of the animal and the horns drag the cape to the ground. Under a blazing sun, de Kooning’s broad, gestural brushstrokes set the powerful animal into motion. Sweeping streaks across the sky and frenetic black flourishes brings both, the action and the sound of the bullfight, to the viewer.
Elaine de Kooning was a visiting professor at the University of New Mexico and the Tamarind Institute, a premier institute for the art of lithography in 1957, where this work was produced. While in the Southwest, she traveled to Mexican border city of Juárez where she first witnessed bullfights. The experience had a profound effect on her artistic style and that is reflected in this print of a bull, one in a series of ten.
Elaine de Kooning was a prolific artist, art critic, portraitist, and art teacher during the height of the Abstract Expressionists era and well beyond. Born March 12, 1918 in Brooklyn, NY, her work is often overshadowed by her more famous husband, Willem de Kooning, with whom she had a long and tumultuous partnership.
She attended art school at the Leonardo da Vinci Art School in New York in 1936, where she benefitted from a relationship with the artist Robert Jonas and was introduced to, and became active in the Communist Party. Elaine met Willem (Bill) de Kooning, who offered to give her drawing lessons in the fall of 1938. They married in 1943 and remained together off and on until her death from lung cancer in February 1989. A striking couple, each artist influenced the other’s work, but their marriage was one of constant infidelity, long separations and alcoholism.
Elaine traveled extensively and with an open-ended approach to life and art; the wide variety of artistry she witnessed influenced her own diverse style. She experimented with a number of mediums beyond painting, including sculpture, etchings, and watercolor. Though associated with abstract expressionism of the time, she painted in a range of styles from Realism to Abstraction. Elaine rejection of categorizing boundaries also kept her work from being treated with the seriousness it deserved until more recently. As the only artist to sketch the president in person, her 1964 John F. Kennedy oil on canvas, hangs in the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.
Beginning in the mid-1960s, de Kooning taught at universities all over the country, including the University of New Mexico, Yale, Pratt Institute, Carnegie Mellon, UC Davis, Parsons School of Design in both, New York City and Paris. Along with the accolades for her works of art, Elaine de Kooning became recognized as one of the most important art teachers of the twentieth century.
Signed: Signed Elaine de Kooning, in graphite at bottom center of print, Roman Numerals V/V, Tamarind stamped in lower left corner
Dates and Dimension: 1973; Image 26” x 37”, Framed 33 ½” x 44”
Medium: Single Color Lithograph, wide crayon and washes.
Accession and Acquisition: # 1985.1.10 Date: 1985 Edition: 5/5
Provenance and Exhibitions: UNK, National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington DC, July 2011. The exhibition entitled, “Pressing Ideas: Fifty Years of Women’s Lithographs from Tamarind.”
Framed or Flat: Metal frame
Current Location: Piece is part of the University Art Gallery’s permanent collections at New Mexico State University.
–Pressing Ideas: Fifty Years of Women’s Lithographs from Tamarind, retrieved from http://broadstrokes.org/2011/07/12/pressing-ideas-fifty-years-of-womens-lithographs-from-tamarind-artist-spotlight-elaine-de-kooning/
-Hutcheson, John. A Bull in a Print Shop, retrieved from http://mocajacksonville.unf.edu/blog/?Tag=6442451220
-Sawin, Martica, reviewer. Elaine de Kooning: The Spirit of Abstract Expressionism, Selected Writings by Rose Slivka 1994; Woman’s Art Journal, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Autumn, 1997 – Winter, 1998), pp. 31-33. Published by: Woman’s Art Inc. accessed November 9, 2016.
Reproductions: The Tamarind Archive Collection, University of New Mexico; location of remaining three in the series is unknown.
Researched by: Carleen Cirillo, 8 November 2016,