The Music Party

Oil on paper mounted on canvas
23 5/8 x 35 5/8 inches
Work on loan: Columbus Museum, Columbus, Georgia

As exhibited in: Our Own Work, Our Own Way: Ascendant Women in the Johnson Collection, Columbia Museum of Art, 2023, Columbia, South Carolina

In The Music Party, Elaine de Kooning deftly marries the gestural brushstrokes of Abstract Expressionism with the representational nature of portraiture. The musicians depicted were noted New York artists and friends of Elaine and her husband, Willem. Soft-hued strokes of paint barely conceal the dark, angular outlines of the figures, producing a kinetic energy akin to musical vibrations. In 1948—the year this work was executed—Josef Albers invited the de Koonings to spend the summer at Black Mountain College. While Willem taught painting, Elaine took courses in dance, color theory, and physics from the college’s renowned faculty. Talented and independent, yet often relegated to the shadow of her more famous husband, Elaine de Kooning protested gender discrimination in the art world by signing her paintings with the androgynous monogram, E de K, visible in the lower right-hand corner of the canvas.

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