Lee Krasner

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Lee Krasner
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
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. On October 25, 1945, she married artist Jackson Pollock, who was also influential in the abstract expressionism movement.[1]

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.[2] Krasner was born to Russian Jewish immigrant parents from Bessarabia in Odessa.[3][4]

In 1926, she enrolled at The Cooper Union in New York to study art.[5] In 1928 she transferred to the National Academy of Design.[5] From 1935-1943 Krasner worked on the WPA Federal Art Project helping to make murals for the government art programs.[5] 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."[6]

In 1940, she started showing her works with the American Abstract Artists, a group of American painters.


Krasner would often cut apart her own drawings and paintings to create collages and, at times, revised or discarded an entire series. As a result, her surviving body of work is relatively small. Her catalogue raisonné, published in 1995 by Abrams, lists only 599 known pieces. She was rigorously self-critical, and her critical eye is believed to have been important to Pollock's work.

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.[7]

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.[8]


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."[9] 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).[10]

Her papers were donated to the Archives of American Art in 1985; they were digitized and posted on the web for researchers in 2009.[11]

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."[12] The U.S. copyright representative for the Pollock-Krasner Foundation is the Artists Rights Society.[13]

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.

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.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Naifeh, Steven and Smith, Gregory White, Jackson Pollock: an American saga, p. 503, Published by Clarkson N. Potter, Inc.1989, ISBN 0-517-56084-4
  2. ^ Brenson, Michael. "Lee Krasner Pollock is Dead - Painter of New York School", The New York Times, Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  3. ^ Naifeh, Steven and Smith, Gregory White, Jackson Pollock: an American saga, ibid., p. 366
  4. ^ Anne M Wagner. Three Artists (three Women) : Modernism and the Art of Hesse, Krasner, and O'Keeffe. (Berkeley: University of California, 1996.) p. 107
  5. ^ a b c Landau, Ellen. "Lee Krasner (American, 1908-1984), The Museum of Modern Art, Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  6. ^ Nemser, Cindy. Art Talk: Conversations with Twelve Women Artists (New York, 1975), pp.80-112.
  7. ^ Wagner, Anne. "Lee Krasner as L.K.," The Expanding Discourse: Feminism and Art History (New York: 1992), p. 427
  8. ^ Pollock and Krasner at Robert Miller, ARTINFO, June 28, 2006, retrieved 2008-04-22 
  10. ^ New York Times "A Visit With the Modern's First Grandmother" By CAROL KINO. Published: October 2, 2005.
  11. ^ The Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner Papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
  12. ^ The Pollock-Krasner Foundation website: Press Release page
  13. ^ Most frequently requested artists list of the Artists Rights Society
  14. ^ Souren Melikian (November 13, 2003), Auctions: Big art, monumental prices International Herald Tribune.


Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]