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