Lee Krasner, American, 1908 - 1984

Made in United States, North and Central America


Oil on canvas

38 1/16 x 27 13/16 inches (96.7 x 70.6 cm) Framed: 39 5/8 x 29 5/8 x 1 3/8 inches (100.6 x 75.2 x 3.5 cm)

© Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Curatorial Department:
Modern Art

Object Location:

* Gallery 174, Modern and Contemporary Art, first floor (Tuttleman Gallery)

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of the Aaron E. Norman Fund, Inc., 1959

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Composition comes from Lee Krasner’s breakthrough series of “Little Image” paintings of the late 1940s. Meticulously crafted and intimately scaled, it reflects her deft control of innovative, unorthodox painting methods. Krasner—the wife of Jackson Pollock, one of the most celebrated artists in the postwar period—worked the canvas flat on a table, applying pigments with sticks and palette knives or straight from the tube. The picture’s overlapping skeins of dripped white paint form small, geometric compartments and convoluted designs atop a densely textured surface. Although seemingly impenetrable and unreadable, Composition celebrates painting as a primal means of communication through an analogy to picture-based writing systems.

Additional information:
  • PublicationTwentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art

    As an ambitious artist in New York City during the heyday of Abstract Expressionism, Krasner was committed to a serious career, which sometimes competed with her role as a supportive wife to America's most famous postwar painter, Jackson Pollock. Shortly after their marriage in 1945 the couple moved to Easthampton, New York, distancing themselves from the maelstrom of the New York art world. In the country both artists began painting with renewed vigor. Pollock worked in a separate barn that served as his studio, and Krasner, in their home. Composition is one of the paintings in the breakthrough series she created in the late 1940s called "Little Image" paintings.

    Meticulously crafted and intimately scaled, Composition reflects Krasner's deft control of new, unorthodox painting methods. Working with her canvas flat on a table, painting with sticks or a palette knife and dripping paint from a can or using it straight from the tube, Krasner arrived at a surprisingly controlled-looking picture that incorporates both drawing and writing. Its densely textured surface is covered with delicate webs of overlapping skeins of dripped white paint forming small compartments of squares, triangles, and circles, some filled in with elaborate designs. These miniature signs are layered on top of a thickly builtup slab of yellow, green, red, and brown pigments to make a gritty tabletlike construction suggesting the visual symbols of archaic societies. Impenetrable and unreadable, this work celebrates painting as a primal means of communication through an analogy to picture-based writing codes that presage the development of alphabets. Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture in the Philadelphia Museum of Art (2000), p. 97.

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