Retrospective: When Elaine de Kooning Painted JFK


The monthly press view was held at the Metropolitan Museum on Monday. The new accessions to the collections are of somewhat unusual importance, the chief being a “Pietà,” a beautiful group of three detto da Majano. Second in importance is the remarkably interesting marble relief by Agostino di Duccio with Christ returned to his mother after disputing with the doctors, lately illustrated in the ART NEWS. Then there is an interesting Florentine cassone or chest, dating from about 1475.

–“Exhibitions Now On: Metropolitan Museum,” June 3, 1914


Wassily Kandinsky's paintings as they appeared in an exhibition of "non-objective" art in 1943. COURTESY GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM.

Interior view, Museum of Non-Objective Painting, 24 East Fifty-fourth Street, New York, 1st floor gallery.

The handsome galleries which are to house the Solomon R. Guggenheim Collection of Non-Objective Art have opened with due solemnity, incantation and enough hocus-pocus to cloud over the real virtues of the exhibits. There is genuine importance in the contribution which Rudolf Bauer . . . and his richer and more subtle master, Kandinsky, have made to the art of our time, and if their style, which must be called “non-objective” for want of a better name, is not destined to be the dominating form of artistic expression in the future, it at least does not deserve to be killed with kindness by the faddist stigma now given to it.

–“Guggenheim Non-Objective Art,” by Doris Brian, June 10, 1939


After years of working on my portraits (mostly of friends) for months at a time, I found myself getting bogged down in overly conscious effort and discovered that by working swiftly I could enter into an almost passive relationship to the canvas and get closer to the essential gesture of the sitter. However, working at top speed this way, I require absolute immobility of the sitter. This was impossible with President Kennedy because of his extreme restlessness: he read papers, talked on the phone, jotted down notes, crossed and uncrossed his legs, shifted from one arm of the chair to the other, always in action at rest.

–“Painting a portrait of the President,” by Elaine de Kooning, June 1964


The [Impressionists’] notion of the quick and spontaneous rendering was an assertion of individual freedom and of the artist’s new role as one who bears witness to contemporary realities. It was also part of an ethical position in which the natural and the spontaneous were equated with the virtues of simplicity and innocence. . . . By showing us what appear to be unedited slices of contemporary life, the Impressionists also implied that any moment was potentially as important as any other—thus implying a breakdown in hierarchies that in itself was quite a revolutionary concept.

—“In a Different Light,” by Jack Flam, June 1989

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