Local and Global: Kendal Hanna and William de Kooning

Within Kendal Hanna’s works there is great inspiration and reference to a particular abstract artist. Abstract art could not exist without the influential and prolific contributions of Williem de Kooning, born in Rotterdam, Netherlands on April 24th, 1904. The artist illegally moved to the United States in 1926. De Kooning was a visual mentor to Bahamian artist Kendal Hanna. De Kooning is renowned as the “leading figure of Abstract Expressionism whose painterly gesturalism transcended the conventional definitions of figuration and abstraction and had a substantial influence on art after World War II”, according to Jane Turner editor of The Dictionary of Art.

Similar to Kendal Hanna, de Kooning’s artistic talent was discovered at an early age and working within the art field was a provident career choice. Both artists visited and lived in New York City, NY and became influenced by the museums, culture, social, art and artists of their time. Established artists like Picasso, Miró and Mondrian among many others influenced de Kooning, which is sufficiently evident in his artwork during the 1930s and early 1940s. These influential artists became a foundation from which de Kooning was able to create his own abstract style and were the underlining bases in his famous women work series.

Another influential individual that effected de Kooning’s artwork was his wife, Elaine Fried. Before meeting his wife, de Kooning’s prominent painting figures were male nudes, which abruptly change after his marriage union. There is a lot of speculation whether Ms. de Kooning was the sole model for his woman series or if it was the combination of the popular female icons of the time. Either way there is great debate, interest, disguise, and controversy over one particular painting that will now be further addressed, Woman I.

Elephant Walk with de Kooning’s Woman I, Taylor’s full skirted dress portrays her breasts as pointy and coned in shape, are also evident in de Kooning’s painting. There is an emphasis on the exaggerated minuscule waistline, both seen in the film and in de Kooning’s painting. De Kooning brings attention to the ‘ugly’ truth about the 1950s depiction of women and the false sense of beauty that it projects.

Elephant Walk. Dir. William Dieterle. Paramount Pictures, 1954. Film.

Hanna and de Kooning technique styles are familiar in that both painters used photographs as inspiration and references, however, de Kooning takes the process one step further by placing the photographs onto the canvas, paints over them blurring the ability to separate the two. In Woman I, de Kooning uses a cut and paste a photograph of a woman smile instead of painting this image. Whereas, Hanna uses he grid pattern, discussed in the previous post, as a guide and blocking what areas will contain specific contents, while de Kooning uses the placement of the photographs as his ‘grid’.

In conclusion, both artists document their culture, surroundings and the influential subjects of the time. De Kooning documented women representation of the 1950s and in the same likeness Hanna documented Vincent D’Aguilar a prominent Bahamian art collector of our time. Visit The National Art Gallery of The Bahamas to view Kendal Hanna’s Portrait of Vincent D’Aguilar and Portrait of Vincent D’Aguilar After Death paintings.

A de Kooning retrospective exhibition is currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).


Works Cited
Turner, Jane, ed. The Dictionary of Art. London: MacMillan, 1998. Print.
This book is available at the NAGB Art Library.

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