"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Elaine de Kooning

This 1968 self-portrait by Elaine de Kooning (1918-1989) hangs in an exhibition on self-portraiture in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.
Elaine de Kooning was best known for her expressive, gestural portraits and for her ability to capture the individuality of her subject's entire body. For her, “the pose is the person.” She often did multiple drawings in graphite or charcoal while creating paintings of the same subject.

Here, in a drawing inscribed with the date, March 18, 1968 (just six days after her fiftieth birthday), de Kooning created a severe and introspective portrait of herself in charcoal. Although she delineated the slight effects of age, her features and hair approximate her appearance as captured in painted self-portraits from more than twenty years before. At this time, still separated from her husband, Willem de Kooning, she purchased a small house in Springs, East Hampton, that was close to her friends Ibram and Ernestine Lassaw, and near Willem's home and studio. She may have been taking stock of her life and charting a new course.

Charcoal on paper, 1968 The Ruth Bowman and Harry Kahn Twentieth Century American Self-Portrait Collection Conserved with funds from the Smithsonian Women's Committee  -- National Portrait Gallery

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