Connect with us – Art History Stories

Lee Krasner and the Art of Starting Over

Lee Krasner Gaea

Women Artists

Lee Krasner and the Art of Starting Over

Lee Krasner’s name has become much more widely known in recent years. Often referred to as the wife of Jackson Pollock, she was, of course, a great artist in her own right.

The Barbican Gallery in London is currently holding the biggest presentation of her work in Europe for over 50 years, with pieces from all over the globe.

Lee Krasner

Lee Krasner, Gothic Landscape, 1961, Tate Modern, London, UK,

A complicated duality started in her early years, with a desire to be part of her cultural family community whilst also being modern and international. Born to Orthodox Russian Jews in 1908, she was named Lena Krassner, but in 1922 she adopted the more American ‘Lenore’, later changing to ‘Lee’ and also dropping the second ‘s’ from her surname.

She found herself in a male dominated group of Abstract Expressionists where macho individuality and ego over-shadowed her desire to explore the duality and ambivalence of the human experience laid bare on canvas.

Lee Krasner

Lee Krasner, Combat, 1965, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia.

  There is no doubt that her influences are sometimes too obvious and intrusive – from Pollock himself to Picasso, Klee and Mondrian. But these works seem to me a conversation she is having with the artists she knew and admired. She is getting inside their work, revivifying it and replying to it. Perhaps not outstanding works of art, but a fascinating insight into the relationships and discourses between artists and their peers.

Lee Krasner

Lee Krasner, Untitled, 1953, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia

Some complain that Krasner didn’t have her own one style. But this stylistic impatience and desire to change direction was intentional. Krasner said: “I change medium to re-stimulate myself. It gets me working and that’s the important thing.”

She worked with paint and canvas, collage and mosaic. She did self-portraits, still life, and abstract works. Krasner couldn’t accept that one style could express all the dimensions of her authentic self. She would re-cast, re-think, re-make.

Lee Krasner

Lee Krasner, September 23rd 1980, Fenimore Art Museum, New York, USA

Krasner’s work may be described as following natural cycles. Light and dark, stillness and movement, chaos and control, rest and productivity. She only worked when inspired – long periods of inactivity were followed closely by furious activity. And when she was ready, anything was up for grabs and open for exploration. Eleanor Nairne, Barbican Gallery curator said: “She believed art was an expression of the inner self. To have a signature image would be to suggest there was no contingency in life.”

Lee Krasner

Lee Krasner, Still LIfe, 1938, Museum of Modern Art, New York, USA,

Krasner said her subject matter was herself – her work was the place where she investigated ideas around selfhood, dependence and independence and intelligence. She is brave enough to be inconsistent, to contradict herself and to bare that dichotomy to us, the viewer.

Krasner’s friends describe her as complex. That at times she was terribly thin-skinned about criticism of her work, at other times having the hide of a rhino and caring little for critical success. Whilst seeming to know her own great worth as a painter, and stating that to paint was to live, she curiously gave up long periods of her life to promote and support Pollock, putting her own needs aside.

Lee Krasner

Lee Krasner, Birth, 1956, Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Winston Salem, USA

Many critics and art lovers view Krasner’s work through Pollock-tinted lenses, but if you can view a Krasner with an open mind, and open heart, you will be moved and inspired by what you find. Art historian Barbara Rose said of the works: “they are direct, vigorous, demanding encounters between the psyche of the artist and that of the viewer.” Are you prepared to be interrogated by the mind of Lee Krasner?!

Candy’s remote, rain soaked farmhouse clings to a steep-sided valley in rural Wales. She raises sheep, chickens and children with varying degrees of success. Art, literature and Lakrids licorice save her sanity on a daily basis.


More in Women Artists

  • 20th century

    Dame Ethel Walker – A Sensitive Portrait


    Summer is on her way out the door, signalled by darker nights and chilly mornings. But before we bid her farewell, let’s take a look at one more beach painting. The image above is Decoration: The Excursion of Nausicaa by Dame Ethel Walker. “The biggest Sapphic...

  • 21st century

    An Introduction to Lee Ufan


    Lee Ufan is a Korean born international artist, whose work is key to the Mono-ha movement. If you have ever been lucky enough to encounter a Lee Ufan in real life you will appreciate its power to bring calm and refresh your view of an object....

  • Foret Lumineuse Foret Lumineuse

    20th century

    TAKIS: the Greek Genius that Altered the Course of Post-war Sculpture


    After Takis’ passing away on 9 August 2019, and with his largest exhibition yet in the UK at Tate, it is important to know about the great Greek artist who changed everything about the way we conceive the sculpture of the second half of the 20th...

  • TheBeach_1998_Botero_MuseoBotero_Bogota TheBeach_1998_Botero_MuseoBotero_Bogota

    20th century

    Beautiful and Beach-Ready: Botero at Home


    Botero’s works are probably among the most recognisable in art history. It is enough to look once at one of his plump, “voluminous” characters and objects to recognise in any other work the style of this Colombian figurative artist. So if you like his creations and...

  • dailyart

    Painting of the Week: Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, Madame Thadée Natanson at the Theater


    Henri Toulouse Lautrec is famous for the portrayals of Paris nightlife: cabarets, theatres and brothels. He showed us the world of decadence and escape from the urban malaise where his friends, muses, patrons collided. In this sketch, he pictures in one set Misia Natanson and an...

To Top

Just to let you know, DailyArt Magazine’s website uses cookies to personalise content and adverts, to provide social media features and to analyse traffic. Read cookies policy