Elaine and Bill: Portrait of a Marriage : The Lives of Willem and Elaine De Kooning

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9780060183059: Elaine and Bill: Portrait of a Marriage : The Lives of Willem and Elaine De Kooning

An insider's intimate account of the marriage of American postwar art icons Willem and Elaine de Kooning offers readers a true tale of love, sex, obsession, and artistic genius. By the author of Betty Parsons. 15,000 first printing. National ad/promo.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

An unvarnished life of ``action painter'' Willem de Kooning and his artist-wife, by Hall (past president of the Rhode Island School of Design; Betty Parsons, 1991--not reviewed). While focusing on the deeply troubled relationship between the introverted Dutch-born Abstract Expressionist and the ebullient Brooklyn woman he married, Hall also presents an overview of the couple's art-world contemporaries: Jackson Pollock and his wife, Lee Krasner; Arshile Gorky; Robert Motherwell; David Smith; Franz Kline--in Hall's telling, a pretty unappealing lot of bed-hopping brawlers, blowhards, and bigots. The de Kooning marriage was an open one with each partner engaging in a seemingly endless series of affairs: As her husband's reputation as a leader of the emerging New York School of the 1950's gathered steam, Elaine, in order to further his career, embarked on affairs with art critics Thomas Hess and Harold Rosenberg. Even so, fellow action-painter Jackson Pollock's reputation outshone de Kooning's, at least in the popular press, and the two men became rivals, not only for artistic kudos but also for women. Who could best hold his liquor also became a point of contention, though both ended up as alcoholics. When Pollock was killed in a car crash while drunk, de Kooning's reputation as ``the greatest American painter'' soared. His works commanded higher and higher prices--but his drinking escalated as well. The de Koonings eventually separated after Willem fathered an illegitimate child and Elaine sank into dipsomania. But after 20 years, the couple reunited, and Elaine, recovering from alcoholism, devoted her final years to protecting the health and reputation of her husband, who became ever more reclusive and detached. In 1989, Elaine died of lung cancer; today, the ``American Picasso'' has been declared mentally incompetent, his daughter and a lawyer acting as his co-conservators. Written in pedestrian prose--but nonetheless a continually engrossing, if depressing, portrait of an American master. (Sixteen pages of b&w photographs--not seen) -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Publishers Weekly:

The 46-year marriage of solitary, depressive Willem de Kooning, the Dutch-born American abstract expressionist, and gregarious, ebullient painter-critic Elaine Fried was a spiral of competition marked by sexual infidelities, fights and squalid alcoholism on both sides. Hall ( Betty Parsons ) claims the union, strained by an 18-year separation, nurtured the development of their personalities and art, but there is not much evidence for that in this intimate, engaging narrative based on the author's friendship with Elaine (who died in 1989) and on interviews with the couple's friends (Willem, now 89 and afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, was incapable of being interviewed). Hall portrays Elaine as a smart operator who helped establish her husband's reputation by having strategic sexual affairs with art critics Harold Rosenberg and Tom Hess. She limns a high-energy bohemian world of art, booze and talk. Photos.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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