Lee Krasner

The Seasons

Krasner The Seasons Whitney Museum Frei - © Pollock-Krasner Foundation/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016. Digital Image © Whitney Museum, N.Y.
  • Lee Krasner
  • The Seasons
  • 1957
  • oil and house paint on canvas
  • 235.6 × 517.8 cm
  • Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Purchased with funds from Frances and Sydney Lewis by exchange, the Mrs. Percy Uris Purchase Fund and the Painting and Sculpture Committee 87.7 - © Pollock-Krasner Foundation/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2016. Digital Image © Whitney Museum, N.Y.

Built on the gestural, figurative works that Lee Krasner began the previous year, The Seasons (1957) marks an important shift in scale and immediacy. This painting is part of her “Earth Green” series, seventeen works she had just begun in 1956 when she learned of the death of her husband, Jackson Pollock (1926–2011). 

After Krasner moved her studio from a bedroom in her home to the large barn where her husband had worked, the scale of her works increased markedly. Her Abstract Expressionist forms gained an immersive scale and a painterly immediacy. When the “Earth Green” series was exhibited in 1958, art critic B. H. Friedman wrote, “The paintings are a stunning affirmation of life.” 

In The Seasons, ripe rounded forms, curving gestural lines, dripping rivulets of paint, and a lush pink-green palette are simultaneously exuberant and composed; the sepia-brown lines define painterly fields of color, condensing the space of the painting and creating a jostling synthesis of powerful elements. Critics have seen plant-like bud forms, flowers, fruit, eggs, and figurative suggestions of breasts and female genitalia in this work, suggesting fecund cycles of birth and growth, but perhaps also the proximity of ripeness to decay. Combining automatic drawing with painterly technique, The Seasons engulfs the viewer in a world that holds tragedy and vivacity together in painterly suspension. “Painting is not separate from life,” Krasner said. “It is one. It is like asking—do I want to live? My answer is yes—and I paint.”

Amy Rahn

Biography of Lee Krasner

  • Born 1908 in Brooklyn, NY, USA
  • Died 1984 in New York, NY, USA
Lee Krasner, a noted Abstract Expressionist painter, is among the few female artists to have received a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York (1984). She first studied at the Women's Art School of The Cooper Union, and then the National Academy of Design (1928–32). Beginning in 1934, during the Great Depression, she worked for the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project and later entered Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts in 1937. While her early paintings reflected European modernism, Krasner soon became involved with the American Abstract Expressionists. In 1942 she participated in the exhibition American and French Painting at McMillen Inc. in New York. She met fellow artist Jackson Pollock (1912–1956) there, and they married in 1945. The two proved to be highly influential for one another’s art. Her “Little Images” series (1946–50), in a controlled dripping technique, resulted in thirty-one small-scale abstractions reminiscent of calligraphy and hieroglyphics. For her collages in the 1950s, Krasner “recycled” earlier works, but after Pollock’s death in 1956 she began to create large-scale abstractions using broad brushstrokes that required intensive physical gestures. She had her first solo show in 1955 and had a retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, in 1965.