Lot 34: Rare Autograph Letters Signed by Willem de Kooning, Dutch Abstract Expressionist Painter
Presidential Letters, Free Franks & Speeches: Washington to Bush + Important Autographs in History, Science & the Arts
26 October 2016
New York, NY, USALive Auction
Description: DE KOONING, WILLEM. (1904-1997). Dutch-American abstract expressionist painter. ALS. (“Bill de Kooning”). 1p. Small folio. (East Hampton), May 19, 1966. To Greenwich Village bohemian HELEN ELLIOTT (1925-1990), best known for her love affair with Lucien Carr and friendships with Jack Kerouac and Alan Ginsberg. She has been identified as the characters Ruth Erickson in Kerouac’s Desolation Angels and Eileen Weber in the expanded edition of his Book of Dreams. ********** “I did not see Hans Namuth this week-end… and I would not want to loose [sic] the chance… I mean not to be in your book, … I would certainly regret it alright…. With names, with people like Camus, Dostoyesky [sic], W.C. Fields… It is very nice of you to remember me, … and it will be nice to see you again. As you say, meaby [sic] this summer. Yours…” ********** Arriving in the United States as a stowaway and eventually settling in Manhattan, De Kooning started painting and became affiliated with other abstract expressionist including Arshile Gorky, Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. He developed his style during the 1930s and 1940s, and by the 1950s, he had established himself at the forefront of Abstract Expressionism, a uniquely American art movement that contributed to shifting the center of the art world away from Paris to New York City. ********** Elliott formed friendships with writers Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg while they were students at Columbia University. She became romantically involved with famous Beat personality Lucien Carr and, from 1956 to 1957, lived across from the famed White Horse Tavern with Helen Weaver, who became Jack Kerouac’s girlfriend. Weaver and Elliott were referred to as “The Two Helens” and they were the inspiration for “The Two Ruths” in Kerouac’s 1965 novel Desolation Angels. ********** German-born American photographer Hans Namuth (1915-1990) was known for his portraits of architects and artists, notably a series of photographs depicting Jackson Pollock at work in his Long Island studio, which are reputed to have precipitated a change in Pollock’s artistic style. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Namuth photographed de Kooning and his work, most notably, his Reclining Man, and chronicled his studio’s construction in Long Island’s East Hampton artist colony. ********** Our letter also mentions French writer Albert Camus (1913-1960), best known for his masterpiece The Stranger; Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821-1881); and, somewhat incongruously, American comedian and actor W.C. Fields (1880-1946). ********** Written in blue ink on a folded sheet of lined yellow legal notepaper; in very good condition and with the original envelope. Uncommon.