Although characterised as an Abstract Expressionist due to the abstract and gestural nature of her work, Lee Krasner frequently experimented throughout her career, preventing her work from being defined by a singular, distinctive style. She regularly changed her approach to technique, subject matter, and materials, working across painting, collage, charcoal, and mosaics.Read More
Krasner's critical nature often led her to cut apart and repurpose earlier drawings and paintings as collaged paintings, resulting in a relatively small surviving body of work. Her varying style sets her apart from other Abstract Expressionists, whose styles were often recognisable and unchanging. However, Krasner's gestural technique, approach to structure, and thematic preoccupation with the self, nature, and modern life would remain a constant in her work.
Profoundly affected by Pollock's work, the early years of their relationship saw Krasner's style evolve in an attempt to move away from the Cubist techniques she had learnt under the tutelage of Hans Hofmann and embrace a looser, expressionist style. This would prove to be a frustrating period for Krasner, during which she would paint and repaint the same canvas repeatedly, scraping off and reapplying paint until it resembled a grey slab.
Soon after their marriage in 1945, Krasner and Pollock moved from New York to Springs, East Hampton, where Krasner began 'Little Images' (1946–1950). Totalling around 40 works, including Shattered Colour (1947), Shellflower (1947), Untitled (1949), and Composition (1949), these loosely gridded, mosaic-like pieces are characterised by a thick and repetitive application of paint, sometimes dropped directly onto the canvas. Although influenced by Pollock's gestural style, 'Little Images' is recognised as Krasner's first successful attempt at producing original artwork rather than work based on an art historical model.
Following a period of collages, Krasner's 'Earth Green' (1956–1959) and 'Umber' (1959–1961) series defined her practice for the following two decades. Begun in the months preceding Pollock's death in 1956, 'Earth Green' is seen as a product of the emotional turmoil she experienced at the time, while in negotiation with a reassertion of her artistic independence.
Krasner's 'Umber' paintings were borne out of a period of insomnia she suffered in the wake of Pollock's death, which was followed by the death of her mother. The result was a series of abstract works primarily executed in umber, cream, and white, painted in the night under artificial light. Today, these works are understood by scholars as Krasner's 'most psychoanalytically evocative work'.
The rawness and intensity seen in 'Umber' continued into her work produced in the 1970s. They culminated in Eleven Ways to Use the Words to See, her solo exhibition at Pace Gallery in 1977, which featured large-scale, geometric works constructed from repurposed charcoal figure studies Krasner had worked on in the late 1930s.