Biography shows artist's wife was also an artist

  • Article by: ANDREA HOAG , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 16, 2011 - 6:42 PM

Has there ever been an artist's wife more loyal to the work of her husband than Lee Krasner?

This 1948 photo by Herbert Matter shows Lee Krasner and Jackson Pollack, foreground, with the photographer’s children.

Has there ever been an artist's wife more loyal to the work of her husband than Lee Krasner?

Doubtful.

But what of Krasner's own talent as a painter?

Gail Levin's stunning new biography finally proves Krasner's relationship with Jackson Pollock was only a sliver of an enormously colorful life.

Krasner was born in 1908. Her early artistic precociousness blossomed during her student years at Cooper Union. When fire ravaged her family home, destroying nearly all her early work, the artist formed an oft-repeated pattern in her turbulent life: She moved forward, working harder. Active in Communist activities and the artists' union in the 1920s and '30s, she also worked on the WPA Federal Art Project, and the book proves a veritable who's who of 20th-century artistic luminaries long before Krasner married Pollock in 1945. Readers may grow frustrated that the former model never quibbled about placing her husband's painting above her own; she also grew legendary for her ability to put up with her husband's drunken antics and infidelities.

Her tireless promotion of his work, even after his death, doubtless stole valuable time from her own painting, and fewer than 600 pieces of her work exist. (After he died, she soon realized "she could work more efficiently to promote [Pollock] because she no longer had to deal with his dysfunctional behavior.") While the artist died six months before the reputation-cementing 1984 retrospective of her work at the Museum of Modern Art, Levin's biography ensures that Lee Krasner will never again be known merely as "Mrs. Jackson Pollock.

  • related content

  • Lee Krasner: A Biography by Gail Levin

  • LEE KRASNER: A BIOGRAPHY

    By: Gail Levin.

    Publisher: William Morrow, 546 pages, $30.

    Review: Talented artist Lee Krasner devoted her life to the work of her husband, Jackson Pollock, putting up with drunken antics and infidelities.

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