1908-1984 American painter associated with Abstract Expressionism. Between 1926 and 1932 she studied at the Cooper Union in New York. During the 1930’s her work was realistic, but by 1940 she was exhibiting with American Abstract Artists.

By 1945 she had assimilated Surrealism techniques of improvisation and adapted them to her basically style of Cubism, which placed her in the center of the avant-garde. She helped launch, and was the only female painter associated with the New York School of painting with her then husband Jackson Pollock.

In 1955, critic Clement Greenberg referred to a show of Krasner's as one of the most important exhibitions of the decade

Long time friends with Hans Hofmann, Willem de Kooning, Henri Matisse, Piet Mondrian, and Pablo Picasso.

"I have to change to remain the same."

Lee Krasner born Lenore Krasner, was the sixth child or Russian immigrants who settled in Brooklyn, New York.  In her early teens she had decided to become an artist.  Krasner enrolled at Cooper Union, then later at the Art Student's League in New York.  She also studied for many years with the famous painter Hans Hofmann, who taught her the principles of cubism, and under his tutelage she took her first steps towards abstract expressionism art.  Like many other young artists of the Depression, she supported herself by working for the government sponsored Federal Art Project. 

She had her first exhibition as part of a group show that took place in 1937 in New York.  In the early 1940s, Krasner heard about Jackson Pollock's work.  She went to his studio and introduced herself.  Soon after that, Krasner and Pollock were living together and married in 1945.  This proved to be a successful working partnership.  Wherever they lived, in New York city or at their house on Long Island, they would maintain joint studios.  While their painting styles remained separate, they always seemed to encourage each other's work.

Sadly, for Krasner, the climate of the times was not very receptive to any women who painted in the style of abstract expressionism.  She said of the New York School of Artists: "There were very few painters in that so-called circle who acknowledged I painted at all."  Krasner always seemed to be known as "Pollock's wife".  In 1956, she went from being "Pollock's wife", to being "Pollock's widow", when Jackson Pollock was tragically killed in a car crash.

Gradually, after her husband's death, the art critics started to take a fresh look at Krasner's work, and evaluated it for it's own sake.  Through it all, she continued painting and holding exhibits.  She remained faithful to the principles of abstract expressionism.  Other fashions would come and go, but Krasner continually sought the development of her own personalized style.  By the mid 1970s, she was no longer "Pollock's widow", but was finally known as Lee Krasner.

Krasner's ideas about painting were not that of Pollock's, but they were her own unique ideas.  She said,

"Painting, for me, when it really happens is as miraculous as any other natural phenomenon as, say, a lettuce leaf....One could go on forever as to whether the paint should be thick or thin, whether to paint the woman or the square, hard-edge or soft, but after a while such questions become a bore....The painting I have in mind...transcends technique, transcends subject and moves into the realm of the inevitable, then you have the lettuce leaf."

Her work, such as Easter Lilies, that she painted in 1956, displays the brilliant brushwork of a Willem de Kooning or Arshile Gorky with a certain degree of cubist influence, not so much of Picasso, but of Marcel Duchamp. There is a robust, angular movement to her modest sized (by Abstract Expressionist standards) canvases, usually in the range of four to five feet square. The paint is heavy, the colors subdued, with strong, linear blacks that threaten to burst the bounds of her dynamic, yet surprisingly stable compositions.

In October of 1983, the first major show of paintings by Krasner opened at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas.  The same exhibition toured the United States.  Sadly, Krasner did not live to see her work arrive in New York, which was once was a major center of abstract expressionism.  She died a mere eight months after the Houston opening, in June 1984 in a New York Hospital, where Krasner, in ill health for several years, succumbed to internal bleeding from diverticulitis.  This remarkable woman whom critics now consider a first rate artist, carried very little bitterness toward the fact that through most of her life she worked seemingly unknown under the shadow of her husband, Jackson Pollock.

More information on other lesser known female artists can be found here

Source: Female Artists of the Twentieth Century. 1st ed. : Arlington Publishing, 1983.

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