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Artists Lee Krasner
Lee Krasner Photo

Lee Krasner

American Painter

Movement: Abstract Expressionism

Born: October 27, 1908 - Brooklyn, New York

Died: June 19, 1984 - Queens, New York

Lee Krasner Timeline

Quotes

"My painting is so autobiographical, if anyone can take the trouble to read it."
Lee Krasner
"I like a canvas to breathe and be alive. Be alive is the point. And, as the limitations are something called pigment and canvas, let's see if I can do it."
Lee Krasner
"All my work keeps going like a pendulum. It seems to swing back to something I was involved with earlier, or it moves between horizontality and verticality, circularity, or a composite of them. For me, I suppose, that change is the only constant."
Lee Krasner
"...With relation to the group, if you are going to call them a group, there was not room for a woman."
Lee Krasner

"I happened to be Mrs. Jackson Pollock and that's a mouthful.. I was a woman, Jewish, a widow, a damn good painter, thank you, and a little too independent."

Lee Krasner Signature

Synopsis

An ambitious and important artist in New York City during Abstract Expressionism's heyday, Lee Krasner's own career often was compromised by her role as supportive wife to Jackson Pollock, arguably the most significant postwar American painter, as well as by the male-dominated art world. Krasner was intimately involved in the synthesis of abstract form and psychological content, which announced the advent of Abstract Expressionism. Her desire to revise her aesthetic or what she called "breaks," led to her innovative Little Imageseries of the late 1940s, her bold collages of the 1950s, and, later, her large canvases, brilliant with color, of the 1960s. Krasner was "rediscovered" by feminist art historians during the 1970s and lived to see a greater recognition of her art and career, which continues to grow to this day.

Key Ideas

Krasner was a key transitional figure within abstraction, who connected early-20th-century art with the new ideas of postwar America. Inspired by artist Piet Mondrian's "grid," Krasner helped devise the "all-over" technique, which in turn influenced Pollock's revolutionary "drip paintings."
Krasner was remarkable for her artistic versatility and advanced skill, which, coupled with her intensive training in art theory, enabled her to revise her style and technique multiple times over the course of her career. Krasner purposefully initiated these "breaks" in order to distance herself from such artists as Mark Rothko and Barnett Newman, whose work she found too "rigid" and repetitive, and also to express herself more fully.
Krasner's incredibly high standards led her to cut up her older canvases that she found lacking. She recycled and reconfigured these scraps and pieces as collages, a practice that suggests that she was inspired by the work of Henri Matisse, whose work also inspired her colorful, decorative, large paintings of the 1960s. Because she reused her earlier canvases in this way, only a small body of Krasner's early work remains.

Biography

Lee Krasner Photo

Childhood

Lee Krasner was the sixth of seven children born to Russian-Jewish immigrants on October 27, 1908, who emigrated from Bessarabia. Growing up in immigrant, Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn, New York, Krasner was born Lena Krassner, but changed her name several times in the early portion of her life, eventually settling on Lee Krasner by the late 1940s. Art historians have pondered if Krasner used the abbreviated "Lee" as an attempt to disguise her gender.

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Lee Krasner Biography Continues

Important Art by Lee Krasner

The below artworks are the most important by Lee Krasner - that both overview the major creative periods, and highlight the greatest achievements by the artist.

Self Portrait (1930)
Artwork Images

Self Portrait (1930)

Artwork description & Analysis: Painted in 1930 when she was just 22 years old, Self-Portrait illustrates Krasner's early traditional training in realism, her strong technical skill, and her self-assuredness in the role of an artist. Such training and control were the foundations from which her abstraction would take off, leading to her signature Little Image series of the late 1940s. Situated outdoors, which creates an air of 19th-century naturalism, Krasner painted Self-Portrait in order to advance as a student within the National Academy of Design. Krasner chose to paint herself in the garb of a working artist who confidently holds her paintbrushes firmly in hand. To capture her own reflection, she nailed a mirror to a tree and worked on the painting throughout the summer. Krasner has frozen the act of painting as she works on the canvas. Although initially her teachers under-appreciated Krasner and doubted the veracity of her painting outdoors, they did promote her into the life drawing class.

Oil on linen - The Jewish Museum, New York

Seated Nude (1940)
Artwork Images

Seated Nude (1940)

Artwork description & Analysis: Showing her indebtedness to Picasso, Seated Nude displays Cubist elements such as Krasner's non-realist command of geometrical, cube-like forms and her experiments with space. The drawing's structure becomes the armature for Krasner's energetic and expressive application of line, a marker of the more pure abstractions to come. Her use of charcoal on paper gives the work a sense of immediacy and vibrancy rather than artistic finish. Her dark application of charcoal line, vigorously worked over the surface, testifies to her assured hand and growing talent.

Charcoal on paper - The Museum of Modern Art, New York

Composition (1949)
Artwork Images

Composition (1949)

Artwork description & Analysis: During the mid to late 1940s, Krasner worked hard to undo her Cubist orientation and to more fully express her inner self. This work is part of the Little Image series of 31 paintings (1946-50) that represent her first all-over abstractions. With these paintings, Krasner expanded the visual vocabulary of Abstract Expressionism. Taking her start from Pollock, she worked more directly from instinct, but painted in a state of "controlled chaos." The series' title most likely came from her new small studio, out in the Springs, located in a small bedroom in the upstairs of the home she shared with Pollock; he commanded the large barn on their property. Krasner's painting demonstrates the expressive power of small, intricate lines and gestures as opposed to the mural-sized paintings of Newman and Pollock. This series was unique in her career since this was the only time she worked looking down on her canvas, dripping paint, rather than situated on an upright easel. Brightly colored with thickly textured surfaces, Krasner tightly controlled the drips she applied, which is evident in the white lines and drawings that cover the underlying support. The painting's overlapping skeins of white paint form tightly controlled small units that shimmer on the painting's surface. These small forms echo ancient picture-writing systems, and may relate to Jewish mysticism and the Kabalah. This deep connection to her inner-self and all-over covering of the canvas stand as key turning points in her career.

Oil on canvas - Philadelphia Museum of Art

More Lee Krasner Artwork and Analysis:



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Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Lee Krasner
Interactive chart with Lee Krasner's main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Pablo PicassoPablo Picasso
Henri MatisseHenri Matisse
Piet MondrianPiet Mondrian
Hans HofmannHans Hofmann
Willem de KooningWillem de Kooning

Personal Contacts

Barbara RoseBarbara Rose
Clement GreenbergClement Greenberg
Jackson PollockJackson Pollock
Harold RosenbergHarold Rosenberg

Movements

RealismRealism
SurrealismSurrealism
CubismCubism

Influences on Artist
Lee Krasner
Lee Krasner
Years Worked: 1930 - 1981
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Jasper JohnsJasper Johns
Meyer SchapiroMeyer Schapiro

Personal Contacts

Jackson PollockJackson Pollock
Barbara RoseBarbara Rose

Movements

Abstract ExpressionismAbstract Expressionism
MinimalismMinimalism
FemmageFemmage
Feminist ArtFeminist Art

Useful Resources on Lee Krasner

Books

Websites

Articles

Audio

Videos

More

The books and articles below constitute a bibliography of the sources used in the writing of this page. These also suggest some accessible resources for further research, especially ones that can be found and purchased via the internet.

biography

Lee Krasner Recomended resource

By Robert Carleton Hobbs, Lee Krasner

Lee Krasner Recomended resource

By Gail Levin

Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner

By Ines Janet Engelmann

More Interesting Books about Lee Krasner
Seeking a Constant in the Many Styles of Lee Krasner

By Ken Johnson
The New York Times
October 6, 2000

The Lee Krasner Who Was Herself And Only Herself

By Amei Wallach
The New York Times
October 3, 1999

Lee Krasner Revealed, By Her House and Work

By John Russell
The New York Times
September 1, 1995

Lee Krasner Finds Her Place in Retrospective Art Modern

By Grace Glueck
The New York Times
December 21, 1984

Lee Krasner Exhibit

Sarah Spitz reports on a 1999 exhibition of paintings by Lee Krasner
NPR
December 30, 1999

transcripts

Lee Krasner Interviews

Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution
November 2, 1964 - April 11, 1968

in pop culture

Pollock Recomended resource

Although the focus is mainly on Jackson Pollock, this film also explores Krasner and Pollock's relationship and marriage

The Lee Krasner Skirt

Circle skirt inspired by Krasner

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Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Jessica Shaffer

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Jessica Shaffer
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
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