de Kooning’s Greenwich Village

827-831 Broadway, the former home and studio of Willem and Elaine de Kooning. Saved from the wrecking ball!

While much has been said lately about the 11th hour salvation of 827-831 Broadway, two critically important buildings in the life and work of artists Willem de Kooning and Elaine de Kooning, we thought it would be interesting to explore other spots in our neighborhoods that were also particularly meaningful to the de Koonings, and indeed to the entire Abstract Expressionist movement.  It just so happens that the sites that meant so much to the lives of these artists fall directly within the University Place, Broadway, 3rd and 4th Avenue corridors – the areas on which we have focused our efforts of late and are working diligently to protect.

63 Carmine Street, a pre-old law tenement.

Willem and Elaine de Kooning lived and worked in several places in the Village. In 1944, after having been evicted from a large loft on West 22nd Street, for which they paid $35 per month, the artists moved into a tiny cold-water flat on Carmine, just off 6th Ave. The de Koonings were living in virtual poverty during this time. Rent on Carmine Street was a whopping $17 a month.

Working in the small Carmine Street apartment was impossible for two artists, so in 1946 de Kooning took a space at 85 Fourth Ave, (near 11th St) in which to work. He did very little to fix up the space, having learned a lesson from his experience with the 22nd St. loft. The rent was $35 per month, so de Kooning split it with fellow artist Jack Tworkov. It was during this time that he became very good friends with Franz Kline.  This building has since been demolished.

88 East Tenth St (between 3rd and 4th Ave)

88 East Tenth St , Copyright the Estate of Fred W. McDarrah, used by permission.  de Kooning is standing on the stair to the right.

In the fall of 1952 de Kooning moved to 88 East 10th Street.  He was starting to gain acceptance in the art world by this time and accomplished much of his painting here.

The Cedar Tavern then and now

The famous Cedar Tavern was a legendary boite for New York School artists like de Kooning, Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Mark Rothko, and Franz Kline, just to name a few. They gathered here at least every other night to drink, socialize, and discuss art. In fact, it is often said that it was here that Abstract Expressionism was born and bred. The tavern changed locations several times, but in 1945 it moved to 24 University Place, where it experienced its heyday. Pollock and the like were fond of the Cedar for its cheap drinks (15 cents a beer, to be exact) and unpretentious location on then off-the-beaten-track University Place.

Around 1948 this group of Village artists began to hold weekly meetings at 35 East 8th Street (it would later move to number 39) that included panel discussions and lectures. This became known as “The Club” and was extremely influential in the lives and careers of the New York School artists. Members included most of the painters who came to be known as Abstract Expressionists, including Franz Kline, Willem de Kooning, Barnett Newman, Ad Reinhardt, Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollock. Franz Kline had an apartment at 242 West 14th Street.

A public hearing on the proposed landmark designation of 827-831 Broadway will be held by the Commission.  GVSHP fought long and hard for this hearing and we are proud to say that, once again, we have persuaded those at the LPC to rethink their prior decision. More information can be found here, and you can send a letter in support of designation here.

If you want to find out more about the battle to save this part of the Village and East Village, click here.  To help, send a letter to the Mayor (who opposes landmark and zoning protections for the area) here, and to Borough President Brewer here.

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lannyl