Lee Krasner

American abstract expressionist painter (1908–1984)

Lee Krasner (October 27, 1908 – June 19, 1984) was an influential abstract expressionist American painter in the second half of the 20th Century; she was married with Jackson Pollock till his death in 1956.

photo of Lee Krasner's exhibition 'Works on Paper', at the Brooklyn Museum from December, 1984 - February, 1985
Lee Krasner's grave in front with Jackson Pollock's grave in the rear in the Green River Cemetery; - quote of Krasner, 1982: '..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.'


  • All my work keeps going like a pendulum; it seems to swing back to something I was involved with earlier, or it moves between horizontality and verticality, circularity, or a composite of them. For me, I suppose that change is the only constant.
    • Lee Krasner, ‎Marcia Tucker, ‎Whitney Museum of American Art (1973) Lee Krasner: large paintings. Nr. 33. p. 8.
  • 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.
    • Quote of Krasner in: Eleanor C. Munro (1982) Originals: American women artists. p. 114.
  • One could go on forever as to whether the paint should be thick or thin, whether to paint the woman or the square, hard-edge or soft, but after a while such questions become a bore. They are merely problems in aesthetics, having only to do with the outer man. But the painting I have in mind, painting in which inner and outer are inseparable, transcends technique, transcends subjects and moves into the realm of the inevitable.
    • In: Barbara Rose, ‎Lee Krasner, ‎Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (1983) Lee Krasner: a retrospective. p. 134.
  • I think my painting is so autobiographical if anyone can take the trouble to read it.
    • In: Anne Middleton Wagner (1996) Three Artists (three Women):: Modernism and the Art of Hesse, Krasner, and O'Keeffe. p. 154.

Oral history interview with Lee Krasner, 1964 Nov. 2 - 1968 Apr. 11

'Oral history interview with Lee Krasner, 1964 Nov. 2 - 1968 Apr. 11, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution; conducted by Dorothy Seckler: 1964, 1967, 1968
  • I think I stayed in the Mural division [ WPA, early 1940's] until it became A War Service Project and then I was relegated to do a specific job. There was a coordinated move, they had a new president that was being inaugurated for CCNY and they were doing a large – trying to show how higher education was involved in promoting the war effort, with the classes they were teaching, so that I did this work for more than a year before WPA terminated.
    • n.p.
  • That's right, and then I worked with him [ Hans Hofmann ] a little more than that. When I had time I could come in and use his studio, in a sense, that is to say, if it was a still-life class, I could be doing any kind of abstraction at that point, using that as a take-off point.. ..here again, when you spoke earlier about Cubism, I say I really didn't get the first impact, the full impact of it [Cubism], until I worked with Hofmann.
    • n.p.
  • I was quite active politically just previous to this, and I'm leading into this time when I was on WPA and there was a group called the Artist's Union which was organized, so that I was extremely active in that. Again that meant more meetings and fighting for artists' rights on the WPA.. .I would say it gave me an opportunity to continue through a period of where one had a livelihood to deal with and/or painting. This allowed for painting and I'd say in that sense it was extremely influencing.. ..WPA itself ended after the War Service Project and by way of terminating, it allowed you to take one of several war courses that were being offered. After which you were supposed to be able to go into that field and earn a living. I took drafting.
    • n.p.
  • My recollection of meeting him [ Jackson Pollock ] outside of this one incident, was at a show that John Graham did at the MacMillin Gallery [1942]. He invited someone called Jackson Pollock and myself, and, I believe, de Kooning. There were three unknown Americans put into that show and it turned out we were the three and it was through that source, my trying to track down the other unknown American who was painting abstractly at that point, as though I knew them all in New York City.. ..and I promptly went up to Pollock's studio and that's when I say I met Pollock for the first time.. ..And then, you see, after I saw Pollock, met him, saw the work, I said, "I understand the third painter is de Kooning," and he said he didn't know de Kooning and I said, "Well, I do and I'll take you over and introduce you." So I brought Pollock up to de Kooning's studio. De Kooning was in a loft at that time because he was something, and that is how Pollock met De Kooning.
    • n.p.

Art Talk, Conversations with 15 woman artists 1975

Art Talk, Conversations with 15 woman artists, Cindy Nemser, 1975, Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 1995
  • He [ Hans Hofmann one of her art teachers] would come up to me [1937-38], look at my work, and do a critique half in English and half in German, but certainly nothing I could understand. When he left the room I would call George McNeil, who was then the monitor, over and I would ask: 'What did this man say to me?' Hoffman was teaching Cubism and that was pretty exciting. Matisse and Picasso were my highlights. It was as though I was swinging between them. First I started to work with color and then there was a heavy swing toward the linear.
    • p. 73.
  • (Piet Mondrian's) comment was: 'You have a very strong inner rhythm. You must never lose it'. Then we moved on. Piet Mondrian had said something quiet beautiful to me. Hofmann was also excited and enthusiastic about what I was doing at this time [c. 1938] but his comment was: 'This is so good that you would not know it was done by a woman'. His was a double-edged compliment. But Mondrian’s evaluation rides through beautifully.
    • p. 73.
  • Without getting complicated let me recapitulate my art training in the following way: the Academy first, the break with the Academy when I hit the Hofmann School which is Cubist. The next real break follows when I see Pollock’s work [1940-41] and once more another transition occurs.. .It was a force [Pollock’s work], a living force, the same sort of thing I responded to in Matisse, in Picasso, in Mondrian. Once more, I was hit that hard with what I saw... I began feeling the need to break with what I was doing and to approach something else.
    • p. 74.
  • I went into my own black-out period [1942-45] which lasted two or three years where the canvases would simply build up until they’d get like stone and it was always just a gray mess. The image wouldn’t emerge, but I worked pretty regularly. I was fighting to find I knew not what, but I could no longer stay with what I had.
    • p. 74.
  • In 1946 what I call my 'Little Image' began breaking through this [former] gray matter of mine. I felt fantastic relief that something was beginning to happen after all this time when there was nothing, nothing, nothing.. .The canvas is down on a floor or table and I am working out of a tiny can. In other words, I have to hold the paint so I can move it. But I wouldn’t have been using Duco [industrial paint, like Willem de Kooning did]. My paint would always have been oil and I could get the consistency of a thick pouring quality in it by squeezing it into a can and cutting it with turp [turpetine] – the way I use paint today.. .The only thing I can say with absolute assurance is that my 'Little Image' work starts about 1946 and ends in 1949.
    • p. 77.
  • Well I think it [a 'Little Image' painting] does suggest hieroglyphics of some sort. It is a preoccupation of mine from way back and every once in a while it comes into my work again. For instance in my 1968 show at the Marlborough I have a painting called 'Kufic', an ancient form of Arabic writing. Every once in a while I fall back to what I call my mysterious writings. I haven no idea what this is about but it runs through periods of my work.
    • p. 78.
  • I merge what I call the organic with what I call the abstract, which is what you are calling the geometric. As I see both scales, I need to merge these two in the ever-present. What they symbolize I have never stopped to decide. You might want to read it as matter and spirit and the need to merge as against the need to separate. Or it can be read as male and female.
    • p. 78.
  • Right up until today Pollock [her husband and famous painter; died Aug. 1956] well takes a lot of mine time.. ..and while you ask 'How much did it take out of me as a creative artist', I ask simultaneously, 'What did it give?' It is a two-way affair at all times. I would give anything to have someone giving me what I was able to give Pollock.
    • p. 79.
  • They [the younger woman artists in American Abstract Expressionism: Helen Frankenthaler and Joan Mitchell,] are the next generation and it is another scene, another story. You forget that in my generation Paris was still the leading school of painting and this situation was being changed by a tiny handful of artists to a scene called New York, America, which never before had a leading role in the art world. That didn’t happen just by reading a newspaper. Now the next generation comes in and they may think it is rough for them but it is a pie.. .We broke the ground.
    • p. 80.
  • I do not mean extended, to mean esthetic definition of space. For me, it is a matter of whether the canvas allows me to breathe or not – if the canvas soars into space or if it is earthbound. When it is earthbound it irritates me enormously. I would like to soar in a canvas.
    • p. 91.
  • I think every once in a while I feel the need to break my medium.. .if I have been doing a very large painting I like to drop into something in small scale. It is a challenge to go into this size. It is just to hold my own interest, and then each media has its own conditions.
    • p. 93.

Quotes about Lee Krasner

  • You have a very strong inner rhythm. You must never lose it.
    • Piet Mondrian, c. 1938; as quoted by Lee Krasner herself; in Art Talk, Conversations with 15 woman artists, Cindy Nemser, 1975, Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 1995, p. 73.
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