Lee Krasner 1908 —1984

Biography

LEE KRASNER  1908 - 1984

 

A major figure among 20th-century New York abstract painters, Lee Krasner became an acknowledged leader of the Abstract Expressionists. However, as the wife of Jackson Pollock, who emerged as the leading figure of that period, she was overshadowed by his accomplishments, and her reputation as an artist did not take hold until a decade after his death in 1956

Born into a strong matriarchal Russian Jewish family in Brooklyn, New York, Krasner was raised in a highly cultured environment. In the 1920s, she studied at Cooper Union, the Art Students League, and the National Academy of Design. From 1934 to 1943, she was a WPA mural painter and also became involved with radical art and politics. During much of this time, she was a mural assistant to Max Spivak, prominent abstract artist.

Krasner decided at an early stage to become an artist, and in 1926 she enrolled at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Art and Science in Manhattan. In 1928 she transferred to the National Academy of Design.  As a graduate during the Depression, worked at menial jobs by day and continued to attend art classes at night.

In the early 1930s she experimented with the prevalent style of social realism and the enigmatic imagery of Giorgio De Chirico and Joan Miro, but it was not until 1937, when she entered the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts, that she found an environment in which her art could flourish. She grasped the most radical tenets of Fauvism, Cubism and Hofmann's own theories and she began to create powerful abstract still-lifes (e.g. Still-life, oil on paper and diagrammatic figure studies. She briefly worked on the Public Works Administration project in 1933 (first of the New Deal art projects) and with the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration. In 1935, alongside Harold Rosenberg, Krasner worked in the mural Division of the Works Projects Administration (WPA) Federal Arts Project.  She was employed off and on as part of the WPA project through 1942.  Still, she found time from 1937 to 1940 to study with the widely known painter Hans Hofmann. During the same period she came to know the critic Clement Greenberg who, along with Rosenberg, rose to prominence in the 1940s and 1950s.  Krasner was at the vortex of art critical thinkers; Clem Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg, John Graham and  Hans Hofmann, and right in the midst of the NY School artists and its Action Painters.

In the early 1930s she experimented with the prevalent style of social realism and the enigmatic imagery of Giorgio De Chirico and Joan Miro, but it was not until 1937, when she entered the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts, that she found an environment in which her art could flourish. She grasped the most radical tenets of Fauvism, Cubism and Hofmann's own theories and she began to create powerful abstract still-lifes (e.g. Still-life, oil on paper and diagrammatic figure studies. She briefly worked on the Public Works Administration project in 1933 (first of the New Deal art projects) and with the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration. In 1935, alongside Harold Rosenberg, Krasner worked in the mural Division of the Works Projects Administration (WPA) Federal Arts Project.  In 1937, she became a student of Hans Hofmann and then began exhibiting with the American Abstracts Artists, a group protesting the Social Realist movement led by Robert Henri. Like so many of her contemporaries, she felt that traditional representational art was too confining. Krasner was employed off and on as part of the WPA project through 1942.  Still, she found time from 1937 to 1940 to study with the widely known painter Hans Hofmann. During the same period she came to know the critic Clement Greenberg who, along with Rosenberg, rose to prominence in the 1940s and 1950s.  Krasner was at the vortex of art critical thinkers; Clem Greenberg, Harold Rosenberg, John Graham and  Hans Hofmann, and right in the midst of the NY School artists and its Action Painters.

Throughout her career, Krasner explored and filtered a variety of modern styles. She began to exhibit in 1940 with the American Abstract Artists group.  Based on her modernist leanings she was invited by John Graham to exhibit at New York's McMillan Gallery in 1941 and 1942. The second of these shows, entitled "American and French Paintings," included among its American exhibitors Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Stuart Davis, and Walt Kuhn and among the Europeans Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Bonnard, and Modigliani. In the early 1940s, Krasner started working with Jackson Pollock and she, with sophisticated understanding of European modernism, was a major influence on his revolutionary style of gestural painting. The couple married in 1945 and lived on Long Island near East Hampton in a Victorian style home. She outlived him by over thirty years and came to be recognized as a major force in avant-garde American art. From 1945 to 1950, she worked on her Hieroglyph Series, and also spent much time promoting her husband's career. She also did many gestural paintings, and some think that she was a big influence on her husband utilizing this style, for which he is so famous.

As an artist, she worked in concentrated spells and then had times of waiting for inspiration to come. Much of her early work was either lost in a fire or cut-up by her for collages.  She died in Springs, NY near East Hampton in 1984.  

A retrospective of Krasner's painting was held at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from October 10, 1999 to January 2, 2000 with more than 60 pieces. It also traveled to the Des Moines Art Center, the Akron Art Museum, and the Brooklyn Museum.

An important source for modern and contemporary American & European Art in East Hampton, New York & worldwide, Janet Lehr Fine Arts' spectacular wide-ranging inventory consists of unique paintings, drawings, large & small scale sculpture, monotypes, prints and photographs  by Ansel Adams, Milton Avery, Richard Avedon, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Romare Bearden, Fernando Botero, Cartier-Bresson, Marc Chagall, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Willem De Kooning, Richard Diebenkorn, Thomas Eakins, Childe Hassam, David Hockney, Winslow Homer, Wolf Kahn, Jeff Koons, Fernand Leger, Roy Lichtenstein, Man Ray, Thomas Moran, Henry Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, Cindy Sherman, Charles Sheeler, Bert Stern, Alfred Stieglitz, Andy Warhol, Carleton E Watkins, Tom Wesselmann and Andrew Wyeth.

To bookmark Janet Lehr Fine Arts Gallery website: http://www.janetlehrfinearts.com

View synoptic biography below.

Untitled

Untitled
1976
Dye cut-out collage over lithograph

19.5 x 25.75 inches
Signed and numbered

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