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Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner papers, circa 1905-1984

Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner papers, circa 1905-1984

Pollock, Jackson, 1912-1956


Representative image for Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner papers, circa 1905-1984

The papers of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner in the Archives of American Art were digitized in 2006 and 2008. The bulk of the Jackson Pollock papers and photographs from the Lee Krasner papers were scanned from originals and total 15,096 images. The bulk of the Lee Krasner papers were digitized from 7 reels of microfilm.

Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Collection Information

Size: 15.6 linear feet

Summary: The papers of abstract expressionist painters Jackson Pollock and wife Lee Krasner measure 15.6 linear feet and date from circa 1914 to 1984, with the bulk of the material dating from 1942 to 1984. The collection documents their personal and professional lives, as well as the legacy of Jackson Pollock's work after his death. Found are biographical material, correspondence, writings by Krasner and others, research material, business and financial records, printed material, scrapbooks, artwork by others, photographs, interview transcripts, audio and video recordings, and motion picture film.

The collection is divided into two series, the first of which focuses on Pollock and includes his scattered papers dating from circa 1914 to his death in 1956, as well as Krasner's papers dating from his death to 1984 about managing Pollock's legacy. This series includes biographical materials, including transcripts and audio recordings of an interview with William Wright in 1949; Pollock's and Krasner's correspondence with Thomas Hart Benton, Betty Parsons Gallery, Bill Davis, B. H. Friedman, Reginald Isaacs, Sidney Janis, Violet De Lazlo, Martha Jackson Gallery, Alfonso Ossorio, Tony Smith, and Clyfford Still, and with one another; Krasner's correspondence concerning Pollock's estate and artwork after his death; numerous writings about Pollock, including an original draft of Bryan Robertson's biography and an essay by Clement Greenberg.

James Valliere extensive research files on Pollock for a never-published biography were given to Krasner and filed in Series 1. These include scattered correspondence with Lee Krasner, and Pollock's family and friends, including Charles Pollock, Thomas Hart Benton, and Robert Motherwell. There are also transcripts of interviews Valliere conducted with Pollock's friends and colleagues, including James Brooks, Dorothy Dehner, Clement Greenberg, Reuben Kadish, Lee Krasner, Charles Maddox, Mrs. Sanford McCoy, Daniel T. Miller, Robert Miller, and Tony Smith. The original audio reels and duplicates exist for many and are filed here. Additional interviews were conducted with Willem de Kooning, Alfonso Ossorio, and Burton Rouche, but not transcribed - these are filed in Series 1.10, Audio Recordings and Motion Picture Film.

Also found in Series 1 are scattered business records documenting Krasner's handling of Pollock's estate and legacy; printed materials relating to Pollock, including published biographies, exhibition catalogs, and clippings; two scrapbooks; and a sketchbook by an unidentified artist. Numerous photographs of Pollock include childhood and family photographs, photographs of Pollock in his studio by Hans Namuth, Rudy Burckhardt, and Wilfrid Zogbaum, photographs of Pollock with Lee Krasner, and exhibition photographs. Audio recordings and motion film in Series 1 include a 1964 16mm film about Pollock (VHS copies are available) and reel-to-reel recordings of untranscribed interviews of Pollock's friends and colleagues by James Valliere, including interviews with Willem de Kooning and Alfonso Ossorio. Additional transcribed interviews are filed in subseries 1.4.

Lee Krasner's papers documenting her own career are arranged in Series 2 and date from 1927-1984. Biographical materials include resumes and awards, school documents, family documentation, and exhibition lists. Her correspondence with artist friends and art colleagues is extensive and includes many letters from artists such as Philip Johnson, Ray Eames, Cleve Gray, and Hans Namuth. She also maintained correspondence with many art historians and critics, curators, gallery owners, collectors, arts-related and social organizations, admirers, and family members.

There are thirteen transcripts of interviews with Krasner by Bruce Glaser, Barbara Cavaliere, Andrew Forge, Emily Wasserman, Barbara Rose, and others. The original audio recordings for these transcripts are filed in series 2.10, along with other audio recordings for which there are no transcripts, including interviews by John Gruen, Delores Holmes, Mercedes Matter, the Martha Dean Radio Show, NBC Today Show, and WQXR radio. There are also audio recordings of Krasner's lectures in series 2.10.

Krasner's papers also include writings and reminiscences by Krasner; writings about Krasner; printed materials such as exhibition catalogs and clippings; and one scrapbook containing clippings and photographs. Numerous photographs are of Krasner, including portrait photographs taken by Hans Namuth; of Krasner with Jackson Pollock and family and friends, and of her exhibitions and artwork.

Users should note that Pollock's and Krasner's papers contain similar types of material that often overlap in subject matter, especially among the correspondence and photographs.

Biographical/Historical Note

Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) and Lee Krasner (1908-1984) were painters from New York, N.Y. and The Springs, Long Island, N.Y.


Donated 1983 by Lee Krasner, Pollock's widow and in 1985 by Eugene V. Thaw, executor of Lee Krasner's estate. The two collections were merged as one in 2007.

Related Materials


Funding for the processing and digitization of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

A Finding Aid to the Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner Papers,
circa 1914-1984,
bulk 1942-1984
, in the Archives of American Art
Biographical Note
Jackson Pollock was born in 1912, in Cody, Wyoming, the youngest of five sons. His family moved several times during his childhood, finally settling in Los Angeles. In 1930 he joined his older brother, Charles, in New York City, and studied with Regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton at the Art Students League of New York. Pollock worked during the 1930s for the Works Progress Administration's Federal Art Project. During 1936 he worked in artist David Alfaro Siqueiros's Experimental Workshop. In 1938 he began psychiatric treatment for alcoholism, and his artwork was greatly influenced by Jungian analysis and the exploration of unconscious symbolism.
In 1943 Pollock had his first one-man exhibition at Peggy Guggenheim's New York gallery, Art of this Century, and continued to exhibit there over the next several years. A major turning point in Pollock's life and art was in 1945 when he married fellow artist Lee Krasner and moved to East Hampton, Long Island. There he developed his mature painting style, and became famous for his abstract pouring technique on large canvases. The height of his creativity spanned from 1947 to 1952, and his work was promoted by art critic Clement Greenberg. Along with other abstract expressionists including Hans Hofmann, Alfonso Ossorio, and Barnett Newman, he joined the Betty Parsons Gallery in 1947. He had his most successful one-man show in 1950 which was widely publicized and praised. This exhibition, combined with a 1949 feature article in
magazine, made Pollock an American celebrity.
In 1952 Pollock moved his work to Sidney Janis Gallery and returned to earlier motifs in a search for new breakthroughs. The last few years of his life he suffered from mental and physical health problems, and in August, 1956 he died in a car accident. His wife, Lee Krasner, oversaw his estate and worked with many museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, on Pollock retrospective exhibitions.
Lee Krasner was born Lenore Krassner in 1908 in Brooklyn, New York to Russian immigrant parents. In 1926 she was admitted to the Women's Art School of The Cooper Union, and in 1928 she attended the Art Students League. After graduating from The Cooper Union in 1929, she attended the National Academy of Design until 1932. After briefly attending City College and Greenwich House, she worked for the Public Works of Art Project and the Temporary Emergency Relief Administration, and finally became an assistant in 1935 on the WPA Federal Art Project, Mural Division. From 1937 to 1940 she studied at the Hans Hofmann School of Fine Arts and began exhibiting with the American Abstract Artists group.
In 1942 Krasner met Pollock as they were both preparing to exhibit work in the same show. Although they married and she became immersed in his career, she continued to exhibit her own work with other abstract artists and from 1946 to 1949 worked on the Little Image painting series. In 1953 she began working on collages, a medium she would come back to again later in her career. After Pollock's death her work was greatly influence by her sadness and anger, creating a visible evolution of her style.
For the rest of her career, Krasner consistently exhibited her work in both group and solo exhibitions. She had her first retrospective at Whitechapel Gallery, London, in 1965, and in 1966, she joined Marlborough Gallery, New York which represented Pollock's work as well. In the 1970s and early 1980s Krasner won many awards for her achievement in the visual arts, including the Augustus St. Gaudens Medal and the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres. She returned to the medium of collage, and in 1976 joined the Pace Gallery, New York. In 1981 she joined the Robert Miller Gallery, New York. Lee Krasner continued creating art until her death in 1984.
The collection is arranged into 2 series:
Series 1: Jackson Pollock papers and Lee Krasner papers about Jackson Pollock, circa 1914-1984 (Box 1-7, 16, OV 18; 7.0 linear feet)
Series 2: Lee Krasner papers, circa 1927-1984 (Box 7-15, 17; 8.6 linear feet)
Donated 1983 by Lee Krasner, Pollock's widow and in 1985 by Eugene V. Thaw, executor of Lee Krasner's estate. The two collections were merged as one in 2007.
Processing Information
The papers of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner received preliminary processing as separate collections upon arrival at the Archives and were microfilmed separately on reels 3046-3049 and 3771-3780. The two collections were merged and arranged into one logical archival arrangement and described by Erin Corley in 2005-2006 and digitized in 2007-2008 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Additional Forms Available

The bulk of the collection was digitized in 2008 and is available online via AAA's website. The Jackson Pollock papers and photographs from the Lee Krasner papers were scanned from originals. The bulk of the Lee Krasner papers were digitized from 7 reels of microfilm.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C., Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information.

How to Cite This Collection

Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner papers, circa 1905-1984. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

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