Lee Krasner, prejudiced by being a woman

Lee Krasner, prejudiced by being a woman
Isabel del Rio

Lee Krasner was a fantastic Abstract Cubist artist, also master of collage but she was prejudiced by being a woman.

Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock house

Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock house

Lee Krasner was born in 1908 as Lena Krassner in Brooklyn, New York, to Russian Jewish immigrant parents from Bessarabia. She studied at The Cooper Union and the National Academy of Design, and worked on the WPA Federal Art Project from 1935 to 1943. It was during this period when she could know influential people in the art world. “Contacts” that would help his future husband, Jackson Pollock, more than her.

Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock graves

Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock graves

It seems that nobody wanted to support seriously a woman artist. Her old teacher, Hans Hofmann, who taught her the principles of cubism said about her paintings: “This is so good you would not know it was painted by a woman.” Very significant commentary of the way of thinking of those times. Lee Krasner, rigorously self-critical, in a world that demanded that she worked much more than a man, felt insecure of her art work. She would often cut apart her drawings and paintings to create collages and, at times, discarded a complete series. As a result, her surviving body of work is relatively little. Her catalogue, published in 1995 by Abrams, lists only 599 known pieces, after a long life of hard work.

Furthermore, she had to take care of the problematic Pollock and to struggle with the fact that she was his wife. She often signed her works with the genderless initials “L.K.” instead of her more recognizable full name.

It’s true that Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollock gave each other reassurance and support during a period when neither’s work was well-appreciated and the first years of common coexistence in their retired little house in East Hampton (today, “Pollock-Krasner House and Studio”) were fruiting. But he was not a good husband and didn’t appreciate frequently her support. In the end, they fought a battle for legitimacy, impulsiveness and individual expression and split up.

Without Lee, Pollock felt lost and he died in a car accident in 1956. Lee survived him a lot of years (she died in 1984) and she always took care of Pollock’s legacy.

A generous woman whom artwork is today being more and more admired.

**In 1985, it was established the “Pollock-Krasner Foundation” “to assist individual working artists of merit with financial need.”

My favorite Lee Krasner’s works:

-Art Bead Scene Challenge, 1948

-White Squares, 1948

-Bird Talk, 1955

-Jungle Green, 1955

-Black, White and Pink Collage, 1958-74

-Mysteries, 1972

Lee Krasner’s quotes

“My own image of my work is that I no sooner settle into something than a break occurs. These breaks are always painful and depressing but despite them I see that there’s a consistency that holds out, but is hard to define.”

“As I say, I as an abstract artist was active politically.”

“At that point it certainly would be called abstract. That is to say, you had a model and there’d be one or two or three people there drawing the model but otherwise you had abstractions all around the room, even though the model was in front of you.”

“I knew de Kooning and I went to his studio so I knew about de Kooning’s work. But only a little handful knew about it, you know. Maybe there were ten people that knew about it.”

“Painting… in which the inner and the outer man are inseparable, transcends technique, transcends subject and moves into the realm of the inevitable.”

“The procedure was that an artist got a mural and then he would have anywhere from two to ten assistants depending on the size of the mural and how many assistants he needed, or she needed.”

“With Jackson there was quiet solitude. Just to sit and look at the landscape. An inner quietness. After dinner, to sit on the back porch and look at the light. No need for talking. For any kind of communication.”

“You were told how much space so it was a matter of whether you could send in two paintings or three paintings, you know, pending where the show was being held. You did submit work to be accepted. Once you were accepted that was it. You did your own selection of what went in.”

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