My father was a knock-off artist (aka he borrowed from others) and he was damn good at it.
As a young Canadian clothing manufacturer, a designer, he travelled Sundays ‘on business’ to New York City and stood in front of department store windows with a little pad and sharp pencil sketching styles displayed on the mannequins.
He then recreated women’s clothing lines copied out of those windows, adding a little bow here and a zipper there and mass produced them at affordable prices so every woman across Canada could own clothing that was fashionable. It was a win-win situation for everyone. This also afforded him the luxury of being semi-retired at 37 years old, moving his family to Miami Beach, Florida, and painting to his heart’s content all winter long.
It was 1951. My parents bought an unpretentious one-story, 3-bedroom house with a pink and turquoise kitchen, jalousie windows and a detached one-car garage that was my father’s studio.
I loved watching him when I came home from school. How he painted fascinated me.
He worked on large sheets of Masonite board that covered ¾ of the garage floor. Then quickly moving end-to-end, top-to-bottom, he flicked, splattered, and dripped house paint straight out of large cans by controlling the flow of the paint with a large screw driver.
I ran into Louis Melzack, the owner of Classic Bookshops, shortly after my father died in 1989. He expressed his sadness about his friend’s death, he really missed him he said, and then he asked what happened to the Jackson Pollock painting that hung in my father’s living room.
‘It was a wonderful Pollock,’ he said.
‘That painting wasn’t an authentic Pollock,’ I told him. ‘My father did it.’
‘I know art,’ said Melzack. ‘That was a genuine Pollock.’
I promised him that it wasn’t. He argued that it was.
‘Mr. Melzack, I watched my father paint Pollocks when I was growing up in Miami Beach in the 50’s. He got the Pollock effect by dripping paint onto large Masonite boards from a screwdriver. I swear to you, I watched him do it.’
Mr. Melzack looked very disappointed. ‘It cannot be true.’
‘It is true, Mr. Melzack. Your buddy Sam Solomon was quite a prankster.’
It is impossible to have dialogue about Lee Krasner, my Calla Lily woman this post, without relating it to Jackson Pollock. He is more famous than she is but without her support and promotion of his work, he might not have had the place in art timeline he does. They were both Abstract Expressionist painters.
She was born Leonore Krassner October 27, 1908, a Jew who had no use for religion, a New Yorker in a fast intellectual scene dominated by immigrants, an art school type in a circle all too willing to teach. She was a tough, ambitious painter who waited on tables at night while managing to acquire a solid academic training in art. She learned Cubism from studying with Hans Hofmann who said her work was so good you wouldn’t know it was painted by a woman. She had the sharpest mind for theory and the sharpest tongue among budding painters. Her heroes were Picasso, Matisse and Mondrian.
She became friends with Pollock in 1942 and it was she who introduced him to the Greenwich Village avant-garde. They married in 1945, compromising her own career by her role as supportive wife looking after her alcoholic husband’s damaged soul. She pulled him from the gutter and got his art seen by all the important people.
It is an established fact that while her husband enjoyed international recognition of the art community, Krasner never quite made it to the same spot in the limelight of their time.
She struggled with the public’s reception to her identity as both a woman and the wife of Jackson Pollock. She often signed her works with the genderless initials ‘LK’ instead of her more recognizable full name.
Her big break came after Pollock’s untimely death in a car crash in the 50’s. She moved her studio from the small upstairs bedroom of their farmhouse in East Hampton, New York, into the spacious barn where her husband had made his most famous drip paintings.
Lee Krasner’s artwork and biography continue to inspire generations of painters. She has been revered especially among women artists.
It was after Krasner’s death, thanks to her generosity, that the Pollock-Krasner Foundation was established with the goal of assisting the development of fine artists. Since 1985, it has awarded over 46 million dollars in grants to working artists around the world.
Lee Krasner passed away in June, 1984, at 75 years old.