Piece Of The Week: Bacchus #3 // Elaine De Kooning

For this week’s Piece Of The Week, it’s a look back into history. The Denver Art Museum has recently announced a major exhibition of female Abstract Expressionists.

Abstract Expressionism was a movement that was almost wholly male dominated, with very few women achieving critical acclaim. Even today when we speak of Abstract Expressionism we tend to refer more so to Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, and Willem De Kooning.

In fact, Willem De Kooning is often cited as one of the key pioneers of Abstract Expressionism. A lesser known fact, however is that his wife, Elaine De Kooning was also an Abstract Expressionist painter. With this in mind, to celebrate the major exhibition, I want to introduce this week’s Piece Of The Week: Bacchus #3 by Elaine De Kooning.

Bacchus is the Roman God of wine, hedonism and intoxication, and it was when on a trip to Paris in 1976 that E. De Kooning visited the Jardin Du Luxembourg where she saw a Bacchus inspired sculpture. This sculpture would then inspire a series of monumental sized paintings.

Bacchus #3 is one in the series of paintings, the painting itself is full of movement, light and colour. All three are key aspects of Abstract Expressionism, but also of E. De Kooning’s signature style. What stands Bacchus #3 apart from many other key artworks of the movement is that there’s not a sole focus on colour and brush stroke, instead there is figuration within the piece. When looked at closer limbs, and form can be made out, the various fast, painterly strokes guide the eyes of the viewer to make out the form of the statue in the garden.

De Kooning is most known for her Abstract Expressionist figurative work. There’s a focus on light and movement, not an unknown idea for any Abstract Expressionist painters but De Kooning’s work has a softer, more tender feeling to it than perhaps some of her fellow Abstract Expressionists had.

If you happen to be in Denver around the summer of 2016, Women of Abstract Expressionism is not to be missed, it’s a groundbreaking exhibition for any fan of painting. Women of Abstract Expressionism will open 12th June 2016 and run up until 25th September 2016.

Words by Selene Mortimore

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