- Lee Krasner
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Lee Krasner

"I have to change to remain the same."

One of the more interesting painters of the so-called "New York School" was Lee Krasner. Born in 1908, a number of features make this exceptional artist of the Abstract Expressionist era stand out, not the least of which is the fact she was a woman. By mid-century, of course, women like Georgia O'Keeffe, Helen Rosenthaler, and later Agnes Martin, had managed to crack the male-dominated world that was the New York art scene, but none with the gusto or freewheeling style exhibited by this painter.

Her work, such as Easter Lilies, painted in 1956, displays the exuberant 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 colours subdued, with strong, linear blacks that threaten to burst the bounds of her dynamic, yet surprisingly stable compositions.

If you're not familiar with the work of Lee Krasner, the reason may be that she laboured in the critical shadow of her much more prominent husband who was also a painter. In many respects, her work was similar to that of her husband, though not as large-scaled nor lacking in constraints. In spite of her own strength and originality as an artist, she pointed out: "I was not the average woman married to the average painter. I was married to Jackson Pollock. The context is bigger, and even if I was not personally dominated by Pollock, the whole art world was."

contributed by Lane, Jim

22 December 1997

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