Women on the Brink
In response to an exhibition of Louise Nevelson's work in 1946, a critic said, "We learned the artist was a woman, in time to check our enthusiasm. Had it been otherwise, we might have hailed these sculptural expresssions as by surely a great figure among the moderns."

Compendium Pages 4 Due

Louise Nevelson. Sky Cathedral. 1958.











Historic Context
1929 - 1941
Great Depression

Hitler's Nazi Party seizes power - end of Weimar Republic
New Deal begins - program of government spending that included two departments (the FSA and the FAP) that employed artists

FAP artists received famous salary of $23.86 / week at a time when a Woolworth's clerk earned $11 /week

40% of those receiving aide from the FAP were women
1939 - 1945
World War II
Largest & deadliest war in history with over 62 million deaths
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor
First use of the Atomic Bomb at Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Lee Miller. Women with Fire Masks. 1941.











Rosie the Riveter character helps increase the number of US women working to 20 million (an increase of 57% from 1940)
The average man working in a war-time plant paid $54.65 / week, while women were paid $31.21 / week











Woman working on the A-31 Vengeance bomber
in Tennessee (1943)





















Hiroshima aftermath. 1945.
Victim of Hiroshima nuclear bombing. 1945.











Cologne Cathedral after allied bombing
Alfred Eisenstaedt. V.J. Day. 1945.
Marien, Mary Warner.  Photography: A Cultural History.  Second edition.  Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 2006.
The Kissing Sailor or the Selective
Blindness of Rape Culture











After WWII, the U.S. emerged as a powerful world economic, political and cultural leader....


Female WWII Pilots


and the women who had been such an integral part of the war effort were told to go home to their shiny pots and pans.











Lucy and Ethel in the candy factory












Abstract Expressionism = term used to describe a wide variety of work produced in New York between 1940 and 1960
As the name suggests, the style combines two
important strains of modern art:
Abstraction - emphasized a non-representational,
formalist approach
to the picture plane
Expressionism - sought emotional responses
from both the artist and the viewer
Formalism = the concept that a work's artistic value is entirely determined by its form - the way it is made, its purely visual aspects and its medium.  Formalism emphasizes compositional elements such as color, line, shape and texture rather than realism, context and content.
Lee Krasner.  Cornucopia.  1958.
Nancy G. Heller.  Women Artists: An Ilustrated History. Fourth edition.  New York: Abbeville Press, 2003.











The Abstract Expressionists worked intuitively

City Landscape

automatism = technique whereby the usual intellectual control of the artist over the brush is foregone.  The artist's aim is to allow the subconscious to create the artwork without rational reference.
Resulting in highly personal marks
generated by the subconscious
As if the artist were delving deeply into their psyche
and spilling their inner beings onto the canvas
Joan Mitchell. City Landscape. 1955.











Images Surfacing


Highest praise given to Krasner by Hofmann: "this painting is so good you'd never know it was done by a woman."
Image Surfacing sold at auction
in 2004 for $153,000
In 2006, a work by Pollock from the same period was purchased privately for $140 million, making it the most expensive work of art at the time
Lee Krasner. Image Surfacing. c. 1945.
Brach, Paul. "Lee Krasner: Front and Center." Art in America. February 2001: 90 - 99.
Hans Hofmann.  Bachanale.  1946.
Hess, Barbara. Abstract Expressionism. Koln: Taschen, 2005.










Autumn rhythm

Jackson Pollock. Autumn Rhythm (Number 30). 1950.
Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History. Revised Second ed. Vol. 2. New York: Prentice Hall Inc., and Harry N. Abrams, 2005.











What's so innovative about Jackson Pollock's drip paintings?

Pollock working

Jackson Pollock at work, 1950.

Painted horizontally, on the floor
Used house paint and sticks instead of traditional materials
Considers space in a completely new way
All-over composition
Painted gestures move across the picture plane
rather than suggesting an imaginary space beyond
The painter becomes the painting's subject











Life Magasin 8/8/1949

“The problem with Abstract Expressionism, then and now, is that it had been perceived as a peculiarly male phenomenon.  The standard image of the Abstract Expressionist painter – exemplified by Jackson Pollock – is a hard-drinking, chain-smoking, angst-ridden man hanging out with his cronies at the Cedar Bar or savagely flinging paint at an enormous canvas.”
- Nancy  Heller
August 8, 1949 issue of Life Magazine











Pollock and Krasner in the studio

Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner in the studio. 1949.
Emmerling, Leonhard. Pollock. Koln: Taschen, 2003.












Lee Krasner. Noon. 1947.











Lee Krasner. Volcanic. 1951.