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A Generous VisionThe Creative Life of Elaine de Kooning$
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Cathy Curtis

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780190498474

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: August 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190498474.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 05 August 2021

Portraits as Moments and Memory

Portraits as Moments and Memory

(p.137) 8 Portraits as Moments and Memory
A Generous Vision

Cathy Curtis

Oxford University Press

While emphasizing a sympathetic view of her sitters’ individuality, Elaine often revealed personality-shaping forces of turmoil and discontent. Her subjects included Bill, Harold Rosenberg, Thomas Hess, Merce Cunningham, Edwin Denby, Donald Barthelme, Alex Katz, Frank O’Hara, Pelé, and, most famously, John F. Kennedy. She based her “gyroscope men” on a book by psychologist Rollo May about repressed men unable to change. Her “faceless” sitters included O’Hara, easily identifiable by his characteristic posture. Other portraits with missing facial features, all of men she knew well, may have been prompted by her unresolved feelings about them. While most of her sitters were male—she was intrigued by abstract elements of men’s suits and by men’s habitual seated postures—Elaine also painted sensitive portraits of women, including the daughters of friends. Her group portraits notably included The Burghers of Amsterdam Avenue, a group of young men undergoing treatment for drug addiction.

Keywords:   Harold Rosenberg, Thomas Hess, Merce Cunningham, Edwin Denby, Donald Barthelme, Alex Katz, Pelé, Frank O’Hara, The Burghers of Amsterdam Avenue, Rollo May

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