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Born this week, painter Elaine de Kooning was a rare female face in the abstract expressionist movement. The scene popularized in post WWII was majorly male-dominated by the likes of her husband of 46 years, Willem de Kooning, and also Jackson Pollack, Arshile Gorky, Franz Kline and more.
She opted to sign off her paintings with just her initials to remove the art world's prejudices against women in the abstract style, demanding for her work to be seen for its merit regardless of her gender. She fiercely considered her contributions as important as her counterparts.
Most prominently known for her portrait series of president, John F. Kennedy, de Kooning was first commissioned to produce one painting to be hung in the Truman library. However, due the restless, active nature of JFK, de Kooning's quick captures of the president resulted in 23 finished portraits and hundreds of sketches.
de Kooning painted at top speed finishing portraits in one sitting. A passionate dancer, painting was a vivid activity, using bold colours and larger than life canvases to depict landscapes and subjects.
Shining on her own, when pitted against her spouse's comparably monumental career, she said "I don't paint in his shadow, I paint in his light."
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