Elaine never completely abandoned representation. A substantial part of her career had been devoted to portraiture, for which she was particularly known in the 1950s and 1960s. Her most famous portrait commission was of President John F. Kennedy, which she was trying to complete at the time of his assassination. During most of her career she had drawn and painted the male figure. She painted in series and she tended to work on a series for long periods and to work on many canvases within a series simultaneously. When the image was transferred to her canvases, it disintegrated into fragments of pattern and color as the dashes of greens, lavenders and yellows re-created the experience of sky, figure and forest dissolving into the fracturing sunlight.
Like Lee Krasner, wife of Jackson Pollock, Elaine spent much of her life making sure that her husband was the biggest success that she could make him. Whatever time was lost from her own career had been well spent in service to her husband’s genius. She followed him into a period of alcoholism. But their marriage was not always happy and Elaine was known to have affairs, although with two of the art world’s most famous opinion-makers, who helped make sure Bill de Kooning got good publicity.
Long interested in animal forms, de Kooning made several excursions in 1983 to see the pre-historic caves in southern France and northern Spain. She made sketches in her hotel room after visiting the sites and then translated this material into larger paintings back in the United States. She uses high-keyed colors and the vigorous brushwork of the Abstract Expressionism, declining to mimic the original cave drawings. The work is powerful, suggestive, and at the same time, delicate and painterly.
Eventually, Elaine stopped drinking and reestablished herself as Bill’s legal wife, again managing his career at the business end. But her luck didn’t hold and at the age of seventy in 1989 she died of lung cancer, having been a very heavy smoker.(askart.com)