Lee Krasner (1908-1984)
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Lee Krasner was an influential abstract expressionist painter in the second half of the 20th Century. In 1945, Krasner married artist Jackson Pollock, who was also influential in the Abstract Expressionism movement.
Krasner was born in Brooklyn, New York to Russian Jewish immigrant parents. She studied at The Cooper Union and the National Academy of Design and worked on the WPA Federal Art Project from 1935 to 1943. Starting in 1937, she took classes with 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.”
In 1940, Krasner started showing with the American Abstract Artists, a group of American painters. She would often cut apart her own drawings and paintings to create collages and sometimes revised or discarded whole 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 to her identity as both a woman and the wife of Pollock. In dealing with audiences, Krasner often signed her works with the genderless initials “L.K.” instead of her more recognizable full name.
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.
She died at age 75 in 1984. 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 under the terms of her will to make monetary grants to artists who demonstrate financial need and artistic merit.
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