Abstract Expressionist Lee Krasner is best known for her beautiful and deeply powerful collages and gestural works. You’ve probably heard of her famous husband, Jackson Pollock, but did you know his wife was another powerful and influential force in the AbEx movement?
Born in Brooklyn, NY, Krasner began studying art at a young age studying at The Cooper Union at the National Academy for Design. She went on to work for the WPA Federal Art Project before going on to study under Hans Hoffman, another famous abstract expressionist. At a time when the work of women was severely under-valued, Krasner’s presence in the art scene was unique but her career was nonetheless often overshadowed by her husband’s.
Since her death in 1987, Krasner remains one of the most important artists to have emerged from the New York School and a pioneering force in the Abstract Expressionist movement. As such, she is one of only a handful of women artists to have ever had a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA).
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A baroque painter and follower of Caravaggio, Gentileschi is widely held to be the most important and accomplished woman artist before the modern period and one of the great artists of the Italian Baroque.
While the few woman painters of the time were largely restricted to domestic scenes and still lifes, Artemisia began, from a young age, to paint large-scale paintings of historical and religious subjects. Her most appreciated works nowadays display Caravaggesque use of chiaroscuro and high drama.
Some of her most famous paintings reflect her interest in depicting mythic-heroic women. These works have been described as proto-feministic in their depictions of their female subjects and in their subversion of the representations of these women typically found in male contemporaries’ works.
Originally tutored by her father, Orazio Gentileschi, Artemisia was raped as a young woman by a friend of her father’s, who had taken over her tutelage. During a high-profile trial in which Artemisia testified against her rapist, she was subjected to humiliation and torture in order to ‘prove’ her claims. Critics have often tied these events in her own life into Gentileschi’s work as an artist, seeing her images of female vengeance, violence and strength as a cathartic and therapeutic representation of Artemisia’s anger and trauma.