Wednesday, February 17th, 2021 at 1 PM Eastern

A conversation with Cathy Curtis, author of A Generous Vision: The Creative Life of Elaine de Kooning (Oxford University Press, 2017). Based on painstaking research and dozens of interviews, A Generous Vision brings to life a leading figure of twentieth-century art who lived a full and fascinating life on her own terms.

Elaine de Kooning grew up in Brooklyn, NY, where she began her lifelong love of art. She dropped out of Hunter College to attend the first of two art schools in Manhattan, including the avant-garde American Artists School. She married abstract expressionist painter Willem de Kooning, who worked with her to develop her painting style. The duo came for Black Mountain College’s Summer Session of 1948, with Willem acting as a last-minute substitute for painter Mark Tobey. Though Elaine did not teach that summer, she was highly involved in the community activities of the college, like the famous production of Erik Satie’s The Ruse of Medusa. She spent her time at BMC working on a series of paintings titled “Black Mountain Abstractions” and building relationships with others there that summer, including Buckminster Fuller, Josef Albers, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Arthur Penn. When Willem returned to New York in the fall, Elaine remained at the college for some time.

Cathy Curtis is a former Los Angeles Times staff writer. She majored in philosophy at Smith College and earned a master’s degree in art history from the University of California, Berkeley. A past president of Biographers International Organization, she is now working on a book about the life and work of Edna O’Brien, the great Irish novelist, short story writer, and playwright. Additional biographies by Curtis include A Splendid Intelligence: The Life of Elizabeth Hardwick (W.W. Norton, 2021), Alive Still: Nell Blaine, American Painter (Oxford University Press, 2019), and Restless Ambition: Grace Hartigan, Painter (Oxford University Press, 2015).

Images: A Generous Vision: The Creative Life of Elaine de Kooning (Oxford University Press, 2017). | Elaine de Kooning (center), R. Buckminster Fuller, Ray Johnson, Albert Lanier, and others with the Supine Dome, 1948. | Cathy Curtis, courtesy of the author.