Lee Krasner

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Lee Krasner
Lee Krasner.jpg
Born Lena Krassner
(1908-10-27)October 27, 1908
Brooklyn, New York, US
Died June 19, 1984(1984-06-19) (aged 75)
New York City
Nationality American
Education Cooper Union,
National Academy of Design,
Hans Hofmann
Known for Painting,
Collage
Movement Abstract expressionism

Lee Krasner (October 27, 1908 – June 19, 1984) was an influential American abstract expressionist painter in the second half of the 20th century. She is one of the few women artists to have had a retrospective show at the Museum of Modern Art.

Early life and education[edit]

Krasner was born as Lena Krassner (outside the family she was known as Lenore Krasner) on October 27, 1908 in Brooklyn, New York.[1] Krasner was born to Russian Jewish immigrant parents, Joseph and Anna, from Bessarabia in Odessa.[2][3] She was the fourth of five children and the first which was born in America.[4]

From an early age, Krasner knew she wanted to pursue art as a career.[4] In order to receive artistic training as a teenager, she would commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan everyday to attend Washington Irving High School since they offered a studio art major for their students.[4] In 1926, she enrolled at The Cooper Union in New York to study art on an earned scholarship.[5] Here, she completed the course work required for a teaching certificate in art.[4] In 1928 she transferred to the National Academy of Design.[5] During this time period, Krasner independently supported herself mostly through waitressing during the evening.[6] From 1935-1943 Krasner worked on the WPA Federal Art Project helping to make murals for the government art programs.[5] She was responsible for enlarging other artists' sketches into large-scale murals. Starting in 1937, she took classes with the German émigré Hans Hofmann, who taught the principles of cubism, and his influence helped to direct Krasner's work toward neo-cubist abstraction. When commenting on her work, Hofmann stated, "This is so good you would not know it was painted by a woman."[7]

In 1940, she started showing her works with the American Abstract Artists, a group of American painters. Joining the AAA marks the ending of her educational career. Krasner participated in group activities from 1940 to 1943.[8]

Personal life[edit]

Relationship with Jackson Pollock[edit]

Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock established a relationship with one another in 1942 after they both exhibited at the McMillen Gallery. Krasner was intrigued by his work and the fact she did not know who he was since she knew many abstract painters in New York. She went straight to his apartment to meet him.[9] By 1945, they moved to The Springs on the outskirts of East Hampton. By the summer of that year, they got married in a church with two witnesses present.[10]

While the two lived in the farmhouse in The Springs, they both continued creating art. They worked in separate studio spaces on their property. Krasner worked in an upstairs bedroom in the house while Pollock worked in the barn in their backyard.[11] When they were not working, the two spent their time cooking, baking, gardening, keeping the house organized, and entertaining friends.[12]

Krasner and Pollock gave each other reassurance and support during a period when neither's work was well-appreciated. Like Picasso during the brief period of his interaction with Braque, the daily give-and-take of Pollock and Krasner stimulated both artists. Pollock and Krasner fought a battle for legitimacy, impulsiveness and individual expression. They opposed an old-fashioned, conformist, and repressed culture unreceptive to these values, which was put off by the intricacy of Modernism in general.[13]

By 1956, their relationship had become to face issues. Pollock had begun struggling with his alcoholism again and was partaking in an extramarital affair with Ruth Kligman.[14] Krasner left in the summertime to visit friends in Europe but had to quickly return since Pollock died in a car crash while she was away.[15]

Religion[edit]

Krasner was brought up in a orthodox Jewish home throughout her childhood and adolescence. They lived in Brownsville, Brooklyn which had a large population of poor Jewish immigrants.[16] Her father spent most of his time practicing his religion while her mother upheld the household and the family business.[17] Krasner appreciated aspects of Judaism like Hebrew script, prayers, and religious stories.

As a teenager, she grew critical of what she perceived as misogyny in orthodox Judaism. [18] In an interview later in her life, Krasner recalls reading a prayer translation and thinking it was "indeed a beautiful prayer in every sense except for the closing of it.. .if you are a male you say, 'Thank You, O Lord, for creating me in Your image'; and if you are a woman you say, 'Thank You, O Lord, for creating me as You saw fit.'"[19] She also began reading existentialist philosophies during this time period, causing her to turn away from Judaism even further.[20]

While she was married in a church to Pollock, Krasner continued to identify herself as Jewish but decided to not practice the religion.[21] Her identity as a Jewish woman has affected how scholars interpret the meaning of her art.

Works[edit]

Krasner is identified with the abstract expressionists due to her abstract, expressive, and gestural works. She worked in painting, collage painting, charcoal drawing, and occasionally mosaics. She would often cut apart her own drawings and paintings to create her collage paintings. She also commonly revised or completely destroyed an entire series of works due to her critical nature. As a result, her surviving body of work is relatively small. Her catalogue raisonné, published in 1995 by Abrams, lists 599 known pieces.

Pollock's influence[edit]

Although many people believe that Krasner stopped working in the 1940s in order to nurture Jackson Pollock's home life and career, she never did stop painting. Throughout her career, she went through periods of struggle where she would experiment with new styles that would satisfy her means for expression and harshly critique, revise, or destroy the work she would produce. Because of her self-criticism, there are periods of time where little to none of her work exists, specifically the late 1940s and early 1950s.[22]

Krasner and Pollock both had an immense effect on each other's artistic styles and careers. Since Krasner had learned from Hans Hofmann while Pollock received training from Thomas Hart Benton, they both approached their work in different ways. Krasner learned from Hofmann the importance of the abstracting from nature and emphasizing the flat nature of the canvas while Pollock's training highlighted the importance of complex design from automatic drawing.[23] Krasner's extensive knowledge of modern art helped Pollock since she brought him up to date with what contemporary art should be. He was therefore able to make works that were more organized and cosmopolitan.[23] In turn, Pollock was able to help Krasner become less inhibited in her work. He inspired her to stop painting from still life models in order to free her interior emotions and become more spontaneous and gestural through her work.[23] Krasner was also responsible for introducing Pollock to many artists, collectors, and critics who appreciated abstract art such as Willem de Kooning, Peggy Guggenheim, and Clement Greenberg.[23]

Krasner struggled with the public's reception of her identity, both as a woman and as the wife of Pollock. Therefore she often signed her works with the genderless initials "L.K." instead of her more recognizable full name.[24]

Legacy[edit]

Pollock-Krasner house in Springs, New York

Lee Krasner died in 1984, age 75, from natural causes. She had been suffering from arthritis.

Six months after her death, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City held a retrospective exhibition of her work. A review of the exhibition in the New York Times noted that it "clearly defines Krasner's place in the New York School" and that she "is a major, independent artist of the pioneer Abstract Expressionist generation, whose stirring work ranks high among that produced here in the last half-century."[25] As of 2008, Krasner is one of only four women artists to have had a retrospective show at the Museum of Modern Art. The other three women artists are Louise Bourgeois (MoMA retrospective in 1982), Helen Frankenthaler (MoMA retrospective in 1989) and Elizabeth Murray (MoMA retrospective in 2004).[26]

Her papers were donated to the Archives of American Art in 1985; they were digitized and posted on the web for researchers in 2009.[27]

After her death, her East Hampton property became the Pollock-Krasner House and Studio, and is open to the public for tours. A separate organization, the Pollock-Krasner Foundation, was established in 1985. The Foundation functions as the official Estate for both Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock, and also, under the terms of her will, serves "to assist individual working artists of merit with financial need."[28] The U.S. copyright representative for the Pollock-Krasner Foundation is the Artists Rights Society.[29]

Lee Krasner's grave in front, with Jackson Pollock's grave in the rear, Green River Cemetery

Krasner was portrayed in an Academy Award-winning performance by Marcia Gay Harden in the 2000 film Pollock, a drama about the life of her husband Jackson Pollock, directed by Ed Harris. In John Updike's novel Seek My Face (2002), a significant portion of the main character's life is based on Krasner's.

List of major works[edit]

Art market[edit]

At a 2003 Christie's auction in New York, Lee Krasner's horizontal composition in oil on canvas, Celebration (1960), multiplied its presale estimate more than fourfold as it ended its upward course at $1.9 million.[44]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Brenson, Michael. "Lee Krasner Pollock is Dead - Painter of New York School", The New York Times, Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  2. ^ Naifeh, Steven and Smith, Gregory White, Jackson Pollock: an American saga, ibid., p. 366
  3. ^ Anne M Wagner. Three Artists (three Women) : Modernism and the Art of Hesse, Krasner, and O'Keeffe. (Berkeley: University of California, 1996.) p. 107
  4. ^ a b c d Rose, Barbara. Lee Krasner: A Retrospective. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1983. pg. 13.
  5. ^ a b c Landau, Ellen. "Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984), The Museum of Modern Art, Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  6. ^ Rose, Barbara. Lee Krasner: A Retrospective. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1983. pg. 14.
  7. ^ Nemser, Cindy. Art Talk: Conversations with Twelve Women Artists (New York, 1975), pp.80-112.
  8. ^ Hobbs, Robert. "Lee Krasner". New York: Abbeville Press, 1993. pg. 27
  9. ^ Rose, Barbara. "Lee Krasner: A Retrospective". New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1983. pg. 48.
  10. ^ Rose, Barbara. "Krasner|Pollock: A Working Relationship". New York: Grey Art Gallery and Study Center, 1981. pg. 4.
  11. ^ Rose, Barbara. "Krasner|Pollock: A Working Relationship". New York: Grey Art Gallery and Study Center, 1981. pg.8.
  12. ^ Rose, Barbara. "Krasner|Pollock: A Working Relationship". New York: Grey Art Gallery and Study Center, 1981. pg.8.
  13. ^ Pollock and Krasner at Robert Miller, ARTINFO, June 28, 2006, retrieved 2008-04-22 
  14. ^ Rose, Barbara. Lee Krasner: A Retrospective. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1983. pg.95.
  15. ^ Rose, Barbara. Lee Krasner: A Retrospective. New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1983. pg.95.
  16. ^ Levin, Gail. “Beyond the Pale: Lee Krasner and Jewish Culture”, Women’s Art Journal, Vol. 28, No.2 (Fall-Winter 2008): 28 – 44. JSTOR. Web. 17 March 2015. pg.28.
  17. ^ Levin, Gail. “Beyond the Pale: Lee Krasner and Jewish Culture”, Women’s Art Journal, Vol. 28, No.2 (Fall-Winter 2008): 28 – 44. JSTOR. Web. 17 March 2015. pg.28.
  18. ^ Levin, Gail. “Beyond the Pale: Lee Krasner and Jewish Culture”, Women’s Art Journal, Vol. 28, No.2 (Fall-Winter 2008): 28 – 44. JSTOR. Web. 17 March 2015. pg.29.
  19. ^ Levin, Gail. “Beyond the Pale: Lee Krasner and Jewish Culture”, Women’s Art Journal, Vol. 28, No.2 (Fall-Winter 2008): 28 – 44. JSTOR. Web. 17 March 2015. pg.29.
  20. ^ Levin, Gail. “Beyond the Pale: Lee Krasner and Jewish Culture”, Women’s Art Journal, Vol. 28, No.2 (Fall-Winter 2008): 28 – 44. JSTOR. Web. 17 March 2015. pg.30.
  21. ^ Levin, Gail. “Beyond the Pale: Lee Krasner and Jewish Culture”, Women’s Art Journal, Vol. 28, No.2 (Fall-Winter 2008): 28 – 44. JSTOR. Web. 17 March 2015. pg.30.
  22. ^ Rose, Barbara. "Lee Krasner: A Retrospective". New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 1983. pg. 14
  23. ^ a b c d Rose, Barbara. "Krasner|Pollock: A Working Relationship". New York: Grey Art Gallery and Study Center, 1981. pg. 6.
  24. ^ Wagner, Anne. "Lee Krasner as L.K.," The Expanding Discourse: Feminism and Art History (New York: 1992), p. 427
  25. ^ New York Times "ART: LEE KRASNER FINDS HER PLACE IN RETROSPECTIVE AT MODERN" By GRACE GLUECK. Published: December 21, 1984.
  26. ^ New York Times "A Visit With the Modern's First Grandmother" By CAROL KINO. Published: October 2, 2005.
  27. ^ The Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
  28. ^ The Pollock-Krasner Foundation website: Press Release page
  29. ^ Most frequently requested artists list of the Artists Rights Society
  30. ^ "Self-Portrait". 
  31. ^ "Gansevoort, Number 1". 
  32. ^ "Still Life". 
  33. ^ "Composition". 
  34. ^ "untitled". 
  35. ^ "Number 3 (Untitled)". 
  36. ^ http://nga.gov.au/exhibition/abstractexpress/Default.cfm?IRN=29510&BioArtistIRN=19386&MnuID=3&GalID=1&ViewID=2.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  37. ^ "Milkweed". 
  38. ^ "Polar Stampede". 
  39. ^ "Night Creatures". 
  40. ^ "Gaea". 
  41. ^ "Comet". 
  42. ^ "Rising Green". 
  43. ^ http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/artist-info.5761.html?artobj_artistId=5761&pageNumber=1.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  44. ^ Souren Melikian (November 13, 2003), Auctions: Big art, monumental prices International Herald Tribune.

Bibliography[edit]

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]