New Television Workshop Collection

New Television Workshop Collection Oral HistoriesTwentieth Century Artists

Lee Krasner Interview

Alternative Title:
Barbara Novak Interviews Lee Krasner
Prospective Archives of Twentieth Century Artists: Lee Krasner

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Rights information is unidentified.

3 videocassettes of 3 (VHS) (180 min.) : sd., col. ; 1/2 in.
3 videocassettes of 3 (Betacam SP) (180 min.) : sd., col. ; 1/2 in.
3 videocassettes of 3 (180 min.) : sd., col. ; 3/4 in. master
3 folders

This project was the second of what was to have been a collection of interviews with artists of all fields, the goal of which was the formation of a national videotape archival center at WGBH. Edited segments of these interviews were to be used for broadcast. Neither of these goals came to fruition. The only other interview to be conducted as part of the Twentieth Century Artists" series was with installation artist Judy Chicago. (Dancer Honi Coles was interviewed as part of the "Dance Archiving Project" in 1981, and Melanie Kahane (interior designer), Paul Rand (graphic artist), Charles Blessing (city planner), and O'Neil Ford (architect) were interviewed as part of the "Design Archives" project in 1981.)

The interview was conducted over two days in October 1979 in Boston. The interviewer is Barbara Novak, a professor and authority on American painting. The bulk of the interview consists of Krasner discussing her pre-Pollock and Pollock years. (Krasner was the wife of painter Jackson Pollock.)

Lee Krasner was born in New York City in 1911 to a conservative Orthodox Jewish family. After becoming interested in art while in high-school she studied painting at Cooper Union and the National Academy of the Arts in New York. After graduation she worked as a muralist as part of the WPA (Work Progress Administration), along with many artists who would later become well-known "New York School" artists. She first met Jackson Pollock in 1943. They were married in 1946. Pollock and Krasner formed part of the New York School of artists in the 1940's and 50's. Like Pollock, Krasner was regarded as an Abstract Expressionist, perhaps the most famous group of twentieth century American painters. Though she was well known when she met Pollock, his paintings and persona largely overshadowed Krasner during their tumultuous years together. After Pollock's death in 1956, Krasner went through a period of inactivity until reemerging with her "Little Image" series in the 1960's. She also became famous for her collages in which she used fragments of her former paintings. She died at the age of 83 in 1984.

This is raw, unedited footage. Occasional microphone problems led to the reshooting of some segments of the interview.

The original footage was filmed on three 3/4" cassettes. Preservation masters were made in 1999 on three Beta cassettes, as were three screening copies on VHS cassettes.

Also included is a typed transcript of the interview and black-and-white photographic prints and negatives documenting the production shoot.

Three-hour interview on three video cassettes.

Tape 1 (60:00): Childhood; influence of Hebrew on her art; influence of calligraphy on her art; attitudes toward feminism; reasons for getting into art; early education; education at Cooper Union and National Academy of the Arts (New York); ideas on talent vs. will in art; the unconscious in art; the opening of Museum of Modern Art (New York); life after art school; job as a waitress; work with Harold Rosenberg and Max Speevak on murals for the WPA (Workers Program Administration); influence of loft spaces on large-scale paintings; early shows of Abstract Expressionists (Gallatin, Morris, Furlinghouse, Balcolm, Green, Ballatowski); views on the group; Hans Hoffman's teachings on Cubism and her perceptions of his art; Greenberg's and Rosenberg's relationships with artists of the 1930's and 40's; her debunking of the myth of there being a "group" of New York painters; the meaning of the term "Abstract Expressionism"; her disputation of regionalism in Pollock's paintings.

Tape 2 (60:00): Disputation of the provincial label placed on Pollock; Krasner's and Pollock's ideas on French art; disputation of the myths placed on Abstract Expressionists by critics; her "Little Image" paintings; influences of Kadinsky, Picasso, Matisse and Miro on her and Pollock; first meeting with Pollock; influence of John Graham and his idea of "autonomic writing"; early encounters with Peggy Guggenheim; influence of Emerson's writings; her wedding with Pollock; Pollock's interest in spiritual matters and rituals; their move and life at the Springs in East Hampton, Long Island; the "macho" aspects of the New York artists in the 1940's and 50's; the influence of Melville's and Joyce's writings on her and Pollock.

Tape 3 (70:00): Overemphasis of Jungian analysis on Pollock's works; life with Pollock (good times and bad); influence of Jung's writings on her and Pollock; refutation of group label placed on the New York School; polarity of struggle and transcendence in her paintings and those of the Abstract Expressionists; gesture and "the physical" in her works; nature and "the organic" in her and Pollock's works; impact of transcendentalism on her paintings; changes in her work after Pollock's death; "mystery" in painting (the way some paintings "miraculously" come through to her); the importance of the "Little Image" paintings to her career; origins of her collages; use of calligraphy in her works; intuitive, unconscious nature of her creations; her work cycle; perceptions toward her audience.

Novak, Barbara

Barzyk, Fred
Atwood, David

Tappan, Olivia
Dowling, Susan

Art, Modern -- 20th century
Abstract expressionism
New York school of art
Painting, Abstract--United States

Pollock, Jackson

Unedited footage

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