New York, 1908 - 1984

Lee Krasner

Lee Krasner is considered one of the most critical figures in the evolution of American art in the second half of the 20th century. Emerging from the first generation of Abstract Expressionist painters, Krasner committed to a sixdecade persistent exploration of novel approaches to painting and collage.

Born in New York, to a Russian Orthodox Jewish family, Krasner pursued a formal art education at several institutions in New York, including the Women's Art School of Cooper Union, the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League. In 1937, Krasner began taking classes with Hans Hofmann, who would radically influence her mature, abstract style. Throughout the 1930s and 40s, Krasner became fully engaged in the New York art scene and integrated herself into contemporary circles that included Jackson Pollock, whom...

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Biography

Lee Krasner is considered one of the most critical figures in the evolution of American art in the second half of the 20th century. Emerging from the first generation of Abstract Expressionist painters, Krasner committed to a sixdecade persistent exploration of novel approaches to painting and collage.

Born in New York, to a Russian Orthodox Jewish family, Krasner pursued a formal art education at several institutions in New York, including the Women's Art School of Cooper Union, the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League. In 1937, Krasner began taking classes with Hans Hofmann, who would radically influence her mature, abstract style. Throughout the 1930s and 40s, Krasner became fully engaged in the New York art scene and integrated herself into contemporary circles that included Jackson Pollock, whom she married in 1945. Though an established artist already before she met Pollock, Krasner’s relationship with the talented, yet troubled painter long overshadowed her own artistic vocation.

Arguably the most crucial proponent of Pollock, Krasner was instrumental in propelling his career and cementing his reputation as the most influential living American artist, having introduced him to Willem de Kooning, Clement Greenberg and Peggy Guggenheim, as well as other key figures. Living with Pollock at their home near The Springs, Long Island, Krasner developed some of her most compelling series, including her Little Image paintings. Defined by thick impasto and repetitive abstract symbols, these works are recognized as among her most noteworthy contributions to Abstract Expressionism.

Following Pollock’s death from an automobile accident in 1956, Krasner dedicated the remainder of her life to solidifying Pollock’s legacy, while continuing her own artistic endeavors. During this time of newfound solitude, Krasner realized her iconic Umber Paintings, which convey a distinctive rawness and intensity that was unprecedented in her oeuvre until this point. Fiercely composed of abstract forms through explosive brushwork in a parsed-down palette of primarily umber, cream and white, this series is considered among Krasner’s most psychoanalytically evocative work.

With paintings from the 1960s, Krasner embraced Pollock’s artistic achievements in size, all-over composition, gestural method and engagement with Jungian psychology, which emphasized the importance of the individual psyche and personal quest for wholeness. From time to time, Krasner incorporated staring eyes, a motif that harkened back to her own earlier work. Other repeated marks suggest foliage, wind, feathers and wings. It is with these works that Krasner further delved into ideas about self-knowledge.

Reflecting on work from this period, in 1973, Krasner remarked: “My painting is so biographical, if anyone can take the trouble to read it.” This assertion is evident especially in works from the 1960s, which stand as vehicles by which the artist confronted her turbulent 11-year relationship with Pollock and the effects of his death in a particularly poignant and personal mode of expression. At once unruly and lyrical, each canvas becomes animated by Krasner’s individual and newly powerful backhand gesture, advancing in a rhythmic motion from right to left in vast, curvilinear sweeps. Vigorously thrusting and stabbing with her brush and body, these works present Krasner’s sophisticated integration of sprays and arcs with nodules of paint. Accordingly, Krasner’s works from the 1960s signal her emergence from behind her husband’s shadow and the beginning of Krasner’s critical recognition of her own unique and noteworthy artistic impulses.

In 1978, the exhibition Abstract Expressionism: The Formative Years positioned Krasner in her rightful place alongside Pollock, de Kooning, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Robert Motherwell and Adolph Gottlieb. Shortly after Krasner’s death, the Museum of Modern Art presented a major retrospective of her work. Today, Krasner’s work has been exhibited worldwide and is included in the permanent collections of major institutions, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; toish Museum, New York; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Brooklyn Museum, New York; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Hishhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Tate, London; Cleveland Museum of Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Wallraf-Richartz Museum, Cologne; National Gallery of Australia, Sydney; among many others.

Artworks

1

Untitled (Abstract), 1979

Related Categories

20th Century Art / Abstract Expressionism / Abstract Painting / Abstraction / American Abstract Expressionism / American Art / Art of the 1960s / Art of the 1970s / Artists of All Time / Collage / Contemporary American Art / Gouache on Paper / Gouache Paint / Impasto / New York / Oil on Paper / Oil Paint / Oil Painting / Painting / Paper / Sense/Sensibility / Symbolic Images / United States / Women Artists

Curriculum Vitae

Education

  • 1940

    Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts, New York, NY (1937-1940)

  • 1933

    City College and Greenwich House, New York, NY

  • 1932

    National Academy of Design, New York, NY (1929-1932)

Solo Exhibitions

  • 2018

    “Lee Krasner: Mural Studies,”Kasmin, New York, NY

  • “Lee Krasner: The Umber Paintings, 1959—1962,” Paul Kasmin Gallery, NY (2017-2018)

  • 2016

    “Lee Krasner,” Robert Miller Gallery, New York, NY

Selected Group Exhibitions

  • 2019

    “Painters of the East End,” Kasmin Gallery, New York, NY

  • 2017

    "The Enormity of the Possible,” curated by Priscilla Vail Caldwell, Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NY

  • “The WPA,” Washburn Gallery, New York, NY

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Curriculum Vitae

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Education

  • 1940

    Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts, New York, NY (1937-1940)

  • 1933

    City College and Greenwich House, New York, NY

  • 1932

    National Academy of Design, New York, NY (1929-1932)

  • 1928

    Art Students League of New York, NY

  • Women’s School of Design, The Cooper Union, New York City, NY (1926-1928)

Solo Exhibitions

  • 2018

    “Lee Krasner: Mural Studies,”Kasmin, New York, NY

  • “Lee Krasner: The Umber Paintings, 1959—1962,” Paul Kasmin Gallery, NY (2017-2018)

  • 2016

    “Lee Krasner,” Robert Miller Gallery, New York, NY

  • 2011

    “Lee Krasner: Paintings 1959-1965,” Robert Miller Gallery, New York, NY (2010-2011)

  • 2008

    “Lee Krasner: Little Image Paintings, 1946-1950,” Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, East Hampton, NY

  • 2007

    “Lee Krasner,” Robert Miller Gallery, New York, NY

  • 2003

    “Lee Krasner After Palingenesis,” Robert Miller Gallery, New York, NY

  • 2001

    “Lee Krasner: Mural Studies,” Robert Miller Gallery, New York, NY (2000-2001)

  • “Lee Krasner Retrospective,” Los Angeles County Museum of Art, CA; Des Moines Art Center, IA; Akron Art Museum, OH; Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY (1999-2001)

Selected Group Exhibitions

  • 2019

    “Painters of the East End,” Kasmin Gallery, New York, NY

  • 2017

    "The Enormity of the Possible,” curated by Priscilla Vail Caldwell, Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York, NY

  • “The WPA,” Washburn Gallery, New York, NY

  • “The Beginning of Everything: Drawings from the Janie C. Lee, Louisa Stude Sarofim, and David Whitney Collections,” The Menil Collection, Houston, TX

  • "Citys/Sightings,” Lennon, Weinburg, Inc, New York, NY

  • “The Time Is Now,” Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY

  • “Paint like I move,” Les Abattoirs Musée d'Art Moderne et Contemporain, Toulouse, France

  • “Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

  • “A BIT OF MATTER: The MoMA PS1 Archives, 1976-2000,” MoMA PS1, Long Island City, NY

  • “Abstract Expressionism,” Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK (2016-2017)

  • “Women of Abstract Expressionism,” Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO; Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC; Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA; Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK (2016-2017)

  • 2016

    “The Campaign for Art,” San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco, CA

  • “It’s Not Your Nature,” Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY

  • “Pathmakers: Women in Art, Craft, and Design, Midcentury and Today,” National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C. (2015-2016)

  • 2015

    “Night Vision: Nocturnes in American Art, 1860-1960,” Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME

  • “America Is Hard To See,” Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY

  • “Abstraction,” Robert Miller Gallery, New York, NY

  • 2014

    “From the Margins: Lee Krasner and Norman Lewis, 1945-1952,” Jewish Museum, New York, NY

  • 2013

    “Untitled (HYBRID),” Robert Miller Gallery, New York, NY

  • “Abstract Expressionism In Context: Seymour Lipton,” Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY

  • “INsite/INchelsea,” Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY (2012-2013)

  • 2012

    “…On Paper,” Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY

  • 2011

    “Evolution in Action,” Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY

  • “Abstract Expressionism: Reloading the Canon,” Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY

  • “On to Pop,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (2010-2011)

  • “Painting and Sculpture II,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY (2004-2011)

  • 2010

    “Group Exhibition,” Robert Miller Gallery, New York, NY

  • “Abstract Expressionist New York,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

  • 2009

    “Abstract Expressionism: Further Evidence (Part One: Painting),” Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY

  • “Painting and Sculpture Changes 2009,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

  • “Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art, 1940-1976,” Jewish Museum, New York, NY; Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis, MO; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY (2008-2009)

  • 2008

    “Painting and Sculpture Changes 2008,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

  • 2007

    “Painting and Sculpture Changes 2007,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

  • 2006

    “Black & Blue,” Robert Miller Gallery, New York, NY

  • “Dialogue: Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock,” Robert Miller Gallery, New York, NY (2005-2006)

  • 2005

    “Organic New York, 1941-1949,” Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY

  • 2004

    “Ground - Field - Surface,” Robert Miller Gallery, New York, NY

  • “1930s: Modern American Art & Design,” Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY

  • “Mood Indigo: The Legacy of Duke Ellington–A Look at Jazz and Improvisation in American Art,” Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY

  • 2002

    “Free Lemonade,” Robert Miller Gallery, New York, NY

  • “Pollock’s America: The “Irascibles” and the New York School,” Centro Culturale Candiani, Mestre, Italy

  • 2001

    “1950-1965: Abstraction on Paper,” Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, NY

  • 2000

    “Making Choices,” Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY

Collections

  • Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY

  • Arkansas Arts Center Foundation, Little Rock, AK

  • Art Institute of Chicago, IL

  • Brooklyn Museum, New York, NY

  • Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, PA

  • Cleveland Museum of Art, OH

  • Dallas Museum of Art, TX

  • Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley, MA

  • Des Moines Art Center, Des Moines, IA

  • Figge Art Museum, Davenport, IA

Bibliography

  • 2016

    “Women of Abstract Expressionism,” Denver Art Museum, Denver, CO; Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC; Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, CA; Whitechapel Gallery, London, UK. Exhibition Catalogue by Joan M. Marter, Gwen F. Chanzit

  • 2014

    Painting from the Collection of the Sheldon Museum of Art. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. Edited by Brandon K. Ruud and Gregory Nosan.

  • 2011

    Lee Krasner: A Biography. New York: William Monrow and Company. By Gail Levin.

  • 2009

    Abstract Expressionism. New York: Taschen. By Barbara Hess.

  • 2008

    “Action/Abstraction: Pollock, de Kooning, and American Art, 1940-1976,” Jewish Museum, New York, NY. Exhibition Catalogue edited by Norman L. Kleeblat.

  • 2007

    Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner. New York: Pestel. By Ines Engelmann.

  • 2005

    Movements in Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism. New York: Harry N. Abrams. By Debra Bricker Balken.

  • Reading Abstract Expressionism: Context and Critique. New Haven: Yale University Press. By Ellen G. Landau.

  • 2004 Varieties of Modernism. New Haven: Yale University Press. By Paul Wood.

  • 2003 Jack Pollock. New York: Taschen. By Leonhard Emmerling.

  • 2001

    “Brooklyn: Lee Krasner,” The Burlington Magazine. Article by David Anfam. Women Artists in the 20th and 2st Century. New York: Taschen. By Uta Grosenick et al.

  • 2000

    “Lee Krasner,” The New Criterion. Article edited by Hilton Kramer.