Elaine and Bill, Portrait of a Marriage: The Lives of Willem and Elaine de Kooning

Lee Hall, Author
Lee Hall, Author HarperCollins Publishers $25 (340p) ISBN 978-0-06-018305-9
Reviewed on: 05/31/1993
Release date: 06/01/1993
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The 46-year marriage of solitary, depressive Willem de Kooning, the Dutch-born American abstract expressionist, and gregarious, ebullient painter-critic Elaine Fried was a spiral of competition marked by sexual infidelities, fights and squalid alcoholism on both sides. Hall ( Betty Parsons ) claims the union, strained by an 18-year separation, nurtured the development of their personalities and art, but there is not much evidence for that in this intimate, engaging narrative based on the author's friendship with Elaine (who died in 1989) and on interviews with the couple's friends (Willem, now 89 and afflicted with Alzheimer's disease, was incapable of being interviewed). Hall portrays Elaine as a smart operator who helped establish her husband's reputation by having strategic sexual affairs with art critics Harold Rosenberg and Tom Hess. She limns a high-energy bohemian world of art, booze and talk. Photos. (June)
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