ELAINE DE KOONING (American, 1919-1989)
    Portrait of John F. Kennedy, 1963
    Oil on canvas
    96 x 48 inches (243.8 x 121.9 cm)
    Initialed lower right: E de K

    Estate of the artist;
    Conrad Fried, New York;
    Private collection, New York.

    Elaine de Kooning, student and later wife of Willem de Kooning (1904-1997), was an accomplished painter, teacher, and critic in her own right. Although her abstract series and her bull and cave paintings were widely exhibited during her lifetime, portraiture remained a continual source of inspiration. Her sitters were close friends and today serve as a yearbook of the postwar school of poets, artists, musicians, dancers, and composers active in New York during the 1950s and 1960s. Unlike her female predecessors, Elaine preferred to paint men. In open admiration of masculinity, Elaine's sitters included artists Jim Bohery and Aristodimos Kaldis, composer Merce Cunningham, and art dealer Leo Castelli.

    In late 1962, Elaine spent two weeks in the Winter White House in Palm Beach, Florida, to paint John F. Kennedy. Elaine was the only artist to sketch the president from life. Intending to make a single portrait, Elaine was fascinated by the changeability of Kennedy's features, resulting in hundreds of sketches and some two dozen canvases. When the president was assassinated on November 22, 1963, Elaine was so distraught that she ceased to paint for nearly a year. She even declined an offer to reproduce the portrait she had made of him on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post, explaining that she never wanted to profit from that or any other portrait. Today, one of the finished canvases hangs in the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, Missouri, and another in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, Massachusetts.

    The loose and furious brushstrokes of this portrait of John F. Kennedy are consistent with Abstract Expressionist paintings of the period. Elaine, like her contemporaries Willem de Kooning and Arshile Gorky, combines figurative and abstract elements within the same composition.

    Condition Report*:

    Original canvas, three approximately 1/4 inch vertical scratches with minor losses along the center bottom edge, unframed, bright colors and overall good condition, ready to hang.

    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    November, 2008
    20th-21st Thursday-Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 3
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
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