Elaine de Kooning

American, 1918 – 1989

Veronica, c. 1959

Oil on Masonite, 13 3/8 x 15 1/2 inches

Signed lower right: E. de K.

Graham Gallery label verso:

#3239 / Elaine de Kooning / Veronica

From the fall of 1958 to the spring of 1959, Elaine de Kooning held a teaching position as visiting professor at the University of New Mexico. She used this opportunity to immerse herself in the southwestern landscape and culture. She often traveled to Juarez, Mexico to watch many Sunday afternoon bullfights, and de Kooning’s friend, photographer Margaret Randall, remembered that “Elaine would spend the entire afternoon sketching the dramatic movements of the bejeweled fighter and angry animal.” These sketches inspired a series of paintings through the early 1960s.

One of these works, Veronica (c. 1959), had three inspirations: the bullfighting pass called Veronica in which the cape is slowly swung away from the charging bull as the matador remains stationary; the Veronica flower of a deep reddish-violet resembling the color of a matador’s cape; and Saint Veronica, the woman who offered Jesus a cloth to wipe his face on the way to the crucifixion. The piece captures the vivid and untamed yet graceful and fluid energy of the bullfight, as well as the connection between the matador and bull in the midst of the inherent violence of the fight.

*This artwork was recently placed in a distinguished private collection.


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