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Elaine de Kooning
Baseball Players
oil on canvas mounted on board
Sight: 17 5/8 × 23 9/16 inches (44.8 × 59.8 cm)Framed: 24 9/16 × 30 9/16 × 1 3/4 inches (62.4 × 77.6 × 4.4 cm)
Credit Line
Gallery exchange.
Accession Number
“In baseball, it's the stance.”
–Elaine de Kooning to The New York Times, 1981

Elaine de Kooning was an influential writer, teacher, and painter concerned with the figure and portraiture. De Kooning embraced traditionally masculine themes such as sports in her work, and made a big impact in the male-dominated Abstract Expressionist era. She lived and studied in New York where, in the mid-1930s, she met fellow artist Willem de Kooning whom she married in 1943. Elaine helped to shape the debate about Abstract Expressionism through her relationship with art critics such as Harold Rosenberg, and was a correspondent for Art News.

During the 1950s, the subject matter of her abstracted paintings often depicted sports figures painted from newspaper photographs. De Kooning was highly conscious of the physical presence and dynamism of the male human figure. Baseball Players was painted in 1953, during a period when de Kooning had been invited to travel and paint two professional baseball teams, the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees. Her lively brushstrokes capture the dramatic movement and gestures of the players.

In the 1950s, television changed American lives in irreversible ways: people were able to watch sports, politics, and world news from the comfort of their own home. As one of the most popular sports of the time, baseball’s integration with the 1946 drafting of Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers entered the living room of most Americans. In this particular work, the catcher is believed to be Philadelphia Phillies catcher Stan Lopata, who wore #29 for the Phillies from 1948-59.