A letter from de Kooning

October 24, 2021 § Leave a comment

Elaine de Kooning | Bill Brown (1954)

THE GREAT Bay Area Figurative painter William Theophilus Brown recalled that one of his professors at UC Berkeley in the early 1950s was not impressed with the new student from New York — until a letter arrived.

He took a dim view of me. I remember he made fun of me the first semester. I was painting on a peel-off palette, and my brushes weren’t big enough. I don’t know. He laid it on me. And then I got a case of poison oak. Being an eastern boy, I knew ivy but not oak. And it started on my forehead and worked its way down non-stop to my feet. So I was out eight weeks. And I knew I would flunk the course. However, Elaine de Kooning wrote me a letter, and she didn’t have my address so it was just Bill Brown, Art Department, and it was pinned on the bulletin board in the hallway. And it just said de Kooning, it didn’t say Elaine. So when I came back, he came over right away to me and he said, “Do you really know de Kooning?”

— From an interview with Paul Karlstrom for the catalog of the 2011 exhibition, “Theophilus Brown: An Artful Life,” at the Thomas Reynolds Gallery in San Francisco.

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