LEE KRASNER (1908-1984)
LEE KRASNER (1908-1984)
LEE KRASNER (1908-1984)
1 More
LEE KRASNER (1908-1984)
4 More
Enduring Threads: The Collection of Jacques and Emy Cohenca
LEE KRASNER (1908-1984)


LEE KRASNER (1908-1984)
signed and dated 'Lee Krasner 59' (lower left)
oil on canvas
69 7/8 x 75 1/2 in. (177.5 x 191.8 cm.)
Painted in 1959.
Howard Wise Gallery, New York
Marlborough Gallery, New York
Robert Miller Gallery, New York
Acquired from the above by the late owner, circa 1982
G. Smith, "Lee Krasner--A Re-Evaluation at Last", Miami Herald, 17 March 1974, p. 10-G.
Lee Krasner: Paintings 1959-1962, exh. cat., New York, Pace Gallery, 1979 (studio view illustrated on the cover).
E. G. Landau, Lee Krasner: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1995, pp. 179-180, no. 339 (illustrated).
New York, Howard Wise Gallery, Exhibition of Recent Paintings by Lee Krasner, November-December 1960, n.p.
New York, Howard Wise Gallery, New Work by Lee Krasner, March 1962.
London, Whitechapel Art Gallery; York, City Gallery; Hull, Ferens Art Gallery; Nottingham, Victoria Street Gallery; Manchester, City Art Gallery and Cardiff, Arts Council Gallery, Lee Krasner, Paintings, Drawings, and Collages, September 1965-October 1966, p. 23, no. 37.
Miami-Dade Community College; Glenside, Beaver College and Charleston, Gibbes Art Gallery, Lee Krasner: Selections from 1946-1972, March-July 1974, n.p., no. 6.
Houston, The Museum of Fine Arts, Lee Krasner: A Retrospective, October 1983-January 1984, pp. 108 and 114, fig. 105 (studio view illustrated).
New York, Robert Miller Gallery, Lee Krasner: Umber Paintings 1959-1962, January 1993, fig. 5 (illustrated).

Brought to you by

Vanessa Fusco
Vanessa Fusco Head of Department, Impressionist & Modern Art, New York

Lot Essay

In a movement dominated by men, Lee Krasner carved out an indelible space for herself within Abstract Expression. Siblings, a large-scale and immersive painting, is a standout work from Krasner’s comparatively limited oeuvre. A perfectionist, the artist was known to destroy or revise entire series, making her surviving works all the more special. Composed largely of organic, black, and sepia tones, Siblings expands into countless shapes, like the flora that spring up in a desert. It a rare example from the artist’s Umber Series, which Krasner painted between 1959 and 1962. There are only 24 paintings in the series, with a significant number in the collections of major public institutions.

The three years spent working on the Umber Series, while difficult for the artist, were nevertheless fruitful in their honesty, ambition, rigor. Created in the wake of her husband Jackson Pollock’s sudden death, Krasner began to work at a much larger scale after moving into Pollock’s studio in East Hampton. She began to experience chronic insomnia, and would paint only at night under artificial light, which required a change in her color palette. Yet from this fraught time emerged some of her most important works, including Siblings. First exhibited in 1960, the present work was shown extensively in the United Kingdom in 1965-1966, and it was included in her 1983-1984 retrospective at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. These works were clearly pivotal one, created during a moment of simultaneous tragedy and freedom. As writer Meredith Mendelsohn argues, “In [the Umber Series], Krasner seems voluntarily raw and exposed, as though she’s magically turned her surfaces inside out and liberated herself from within” (M. Mendelsohn, “The Emotionally Charged Paintings Lee Krasner Created after Pollock’s Death,” Artsy, November 13, 2017, https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-emotionally-charged-paintings-lee-krasner-created-pollocks-death).

Since the subjects of Siblings cannot be discerned, we might say that the subject is paint itself. From Krasner’s skilled, allover marks emerges numerous otherworldly shapes that meet and combine in unexpected ways. Siblings is exemplary of the collage-painting imagery mastered by Krasner, in which she created heretofore unimagined scenes built from interlocking figures and forms. Siblings has more ferocity to it than her earlier work, and this abstract scene is characterized by more energetic strokes reminiscent of Lucio Fontana’s slashed canvases. And yet, the integrity of the painting’s surface is important to Krasner, resulting perhaps in a personal metaphor of order and disorder. As Krasner observed of the Umber Series, “My painting is so biographical if anyone can take the trouble to read it” (E. Landau, Lee Krasner: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1995, p. 182).

Krasner knew she wanted to be an artist from a young age. She struggled through the Great Depression, supporting herself by working as a waitress and as an artist’s assistant for the Works Progress Administration. Initially working in a Cubist style, Krasner would meet the icons of Abstract Expressionism and introduce more gestural processes into her painting. She found her signature iconography in the early 1950s. She exhibited regularly, and in 1955 she received a positive review from the legendary critic Clement Greenberg. Krasner remained productive and dedicated to her work up until her death in 1984. Just six months later, a critically celebrated retrospective was organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York and toured the United States. Since then, her reputation has only continued to grow. In 1999-2001, another major retrospective began at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and travelled to the Des Moines Art Center, Iowa, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Most recently, in 2019-2021, Krasner was the subject of a major touring retrospective in Europe at the Barbican Centre, London, the Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt, the Kunstmuseum Bern, Zentrum Paul Klee, Bern, and the Guggenheim Bilbao. Krasner’s work is held by numerous prestigious collections throughout the world, and an exhibition of her work is currently on view at California State University, Long Beach.

With majestic canvases like Siblings, Krasner made a name for herself within modernism and Abstract Expressionism, and, in so doing, influenced a generation of artists. Even within a difficult time in her life, there is optimism within Siblings—a sense of possible relationships that resist isolation and sorrow. Moreover, there is hope in knowing that from pared down materials, one can build something beautiful. As evinced by Siblings, painting has always been a medium of emotional plenitude that requires us to feel and look more deeply. Krasner’s unwavering dedication to the medium is on display here, and it could not be timelier.

More from 20th Century Evening Sale

View All
View All