February 01, 2006

De Kooning In London

"[In London de Kooning] met the painter Francis Bacon [...]. De Kooning admired Bacon, who was five years younger than he was, [...]" — Stevens and Swan describing de Kooning in London (in the late 1960's), in "De Kooning: An American Master".

Reading that pulled me up with a jolt. For me it was like reading about a meeting between (say) Oscar Wilde and John Cleese. I have a lot of trouble thinking of Bacon and de Kooning as contemporaries. I mentally place de Kooning in the same era as (say) Pollock or Rothko, a creature of the 40's, 50's, and 60's; Bacon, on the other hand, was a live and very active presence in the London I inhabited in the mid 1980's, still visible holding court in Soho (if you knew where to look), still at the height of his powers. De Kooning was alive too, I guess, out there on Long Island, in the twilight of his mind, but until I'd read this biography, I though he'd been dead for years by then.

(Of the two, Bacon seems to me much the stronger artist, much more driven, more interestingly sui generis in comparison to de Kooning... (which doesn't make him the better artist, but never mind)).


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