Lot 118
  • 118

Lee Krasner

500,000 - 700,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Lee Krasner
  • Dichotomy
  • oil on canvas
  • 55 1/2 by 48 1/8 in. 141 by 122.2 cm.
  • Executed in 1963.


Collection of the artist
Robert Miller Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in October 1984


London, Whitechapel Gallery; York, City Art Gallery; Hull, Ferens Art Gallery; Nottingham, Victoria Street Gallery; Manchester, City Art Gallery; Cardiff, Arts Council Gallery, Lee Krasner: Paintings, Drawings and Collages, September - October 1966, cat. no. 54, illustrated
Tuscaloosa, University of Alabama, University Art Gallery, Paintings by Lee Krasner, February - March 1967, cat. no. 10


Ellen G. Landau, Lee Krasner: A Catalogue Raisonné, New York, 1995, cat. no. 393, p. 210, illustrated

Catalogue Note

Lee Krasner, a foremost member of the first generation of Abstract Expressionists, developed a visually arresting meta-language similar to the sign systems that were also being explored by her fellow Abstract Expressionists, Jackson Pollock, Richard Pousette-Dart, Robert Motherwell, and Adolph Gottlieb. Lee Krasner is now considered an influential and significant American artist of the mid-20th century in her own right, yet much of her most insightful work was the result of her struggle for identity and recognition in the New York art world, in stark contrast to the incomparable success of Krasner's famous husband, Jackson Pollock. Although this work was created years after Pollock’s sudden death in 1956, Krasner consistently treads her two conflicting identities of wife and independent artist.

In Dichotomy, Krasner offers a lyrical expression of powerful creative forces. The curvilinear and rounded shapes evolve intuitively, sometimes creating figure 8's or infinity signs. The dynamic play between the foreground and background fills the entire canvas creating a rhythmic dance of paint. There is no beginning and no end, rather a cosmic expanse of symbols that hint at an infinite variety of meanings and interpretation. The rich maroon red pigments of the present work mix into a deep rose and spread smoothly yet inconsistently across the canvas. The vivacious movement and use of raw canvas peeking through certain areas enhance the appearance of movement and depth. The composition is filled with dynamic interwoven brushwork, grand-sweeping arcs that redirect volumes in biomorphic, expressionist and post-cubist manners in their suggestion of shapes and pictorial depth.

Krasner's paint application seems meditative in its use of monochromatic tones, and yet the all-over layers of paint reveal the artist's primal, cathartic impulse – quite a departure from her longtime practice of methodically reworking a canvas. Perhaps the figurative meaning of the title, Dichotomy, alludes to the dual nature of her technique. Or perhaps it speaks to the dichotomous nature of the work with that of her late husband, Pollock. The explosive quality of Dichotomy vividly projects her turmoil and inner rage stemmed partly from her tempestuous relationship with Pollock, while simultaneously evoking his painterly gesture and emphasis on opticality, indexicality and totality.