By Gail Levin
(William Morrow & Company, Hardcover, 9780061845253, 546pp.)
Publication Date: April 2011
List Price: $30.00*
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Lee Krasner is best known as the artist-wife of Jackson Pollock, the renowned abstract expressionist painter. Yet in this riveting new biography, the first full-length account of her colorful life, distinguished art historian Gail Levin challenges previous portrayals of Krasner, and shows that she was an independent and resourceful woman of uncompromising talent and prodigious energy. Krasner emerges as a significant artist who deserves her place in the twentieth century's cultural lexicon and artistic pantheon.
The daughter of Jewish immigrants newly arrived from Russia, Krasner grew up impoverished in Brooklyn. With no support or role model, she began to make her own way during the late 1920s and early 1930s as a talented, outspoken artist and political progressive. Krasner's contemporaries, who took notice of her remarkable sex appeal, drive, and ambition, were either captivated or threatened, but they all found her memorable. During the Great Depression, she supported herself painting murals for the WPA, was called a Trotskyite for speaking out at the Artists Union, and got arrested for demonstrating on behalf of workers' rights.
In 1936 Krasner first encountered an intoxicated Jackson Pollock at an Artists Union dance. They met again by chance when both were about to be featured in the same group show in 1942, and soon they were a couple, marrying three years later. To nurture Pollock and his talent, Krasner gave up her life in the city, where she had socialized easily with fellow artists such as Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning, and Piet Mondrian. Once they moved to Long Island's rural East End, Krasner and Pollock became the center of a new avant-garde community. In this captivating book, Gail Levin probes Krasner's relationship with Pollock, examining how this strong woman struggled to meet the challenges of their poverty, as well as her husband's alcoholism and extramarital affairs, all the while encouraging his art. Levin uncovers never-before-told stories of how Krasner managed so skillfully to market Pollock's work and how this eventually raised prices for all the abstract expressionists.
Drawing on new sources and numerous personal interviewsincluding with Krasner, whom Levin knew and interviewed during the last years of the artist's lifeLevin has written a dynamic, compelling, and moving portrait of a brilliant woman that recovers Krasner's voice and allows us to see that her life intersected with and informed her art.