200 words #6 / Lee Krasner

key 97_Lee Krasner, The Eye is the First Circle, 1960.jpg

Lee Krasner The Eye is the First Circle, 1960, Oil on canvas, 235.6 x 487.4 cm, Private collection, courtesy Robert Miller Gallery, New York

© ARS, NY and DACS, London 2016

Lee Krasner would try to forestall criticism when, looking back on an early painting trip to Provincetown with Jackson Pollock, in which the two artists hardly put brush to canvas, she insisted that “…to the people who think paintings are made only at the moment paint goes on canvas!” the trip “…was productive”.

For Krasner painting was always the central activity of her life. Even when out walking the flats of Provincetown she was reflecting on her work. It was her period of study under the painter Hans Hofmann in the late 30s which would force Krasner’s work into maturity and help her find her own voice. She had easily assimilated the lessons of Cubism as they had been interpreted and developed by Hofmann. But Hofmann would always have one foot in Europe and so would never consider, and perhaps never want to take the dramatic leap into complete, all-over abstraction.

Krasner felt no such allegiance to the practice of pushing shapes around the canvas. From her mid-career work on there were no ‘gaping holes’ the likes of which Clement Greenberg deplored. There were no objects for the eye to rest on and the painting itself had become the subject.

Lee Krasner’s work will be on display from September 24th 2016 as part of the exhibition Abstract Expressionism at The Royal Academy.

Abstract Expressionism at The Royal Academy

Author: Robbie O'Halloran

Artist and writer working in Madrid

2 thoughts on “200 words #6 / Lee Krasner”

  1. “Not waving but drowning.” Tell me if you noticed the waving or gesturing and desperate expression of little face and blurred arms at the right bottom of her painting. The wall text points this painting to her relationship with the recently deceased Pollock, and so I perused it for messages. This one knocked me out!


    1. Now that you mention it I’m seeing figures all over that painting! I think in many ways both Pollock and Krasner would have felt a strong pull towards figurative motifs. She was arguably a more accomplished draughtswoman than Pollock and, as is often the case with a well trained hand, it is more difficult to forget the skills that have become automatic. It is a great painting and surprisingly different in the flesh compared to reproduction. Looking at it in the RA you can really appreciate the confidence of the marks. No equivocation but also nothing throw-away.


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