In contrast to earlier works which had established Krasner's reputation as a colourist, Cool white, together with the other paintings shown at the Howard Wise Gallery in 1960, is painted with a sombre palette restricted to umber and white. It was a difficult time for the artist-still coping with the grief of Jackson Pollock's death and having difficulties with the Pollock Estate. In addition to this, her mother died in 1959 and an exhibition scheduled by Clement Greenberg for French and Company had been cancelled.1 Of the sombre paintings of 1959 Krasner recalled: 'I painted a great many of them because I couldn't sleep nights. I got tired of fighting insomnia and tried to paint instead. And I realized that if I was going to work at night I would have to knock out color altogether, because I couldn't deal with color except in daylight'.2
If the colour of these paintings was sombre, their execution was anything but subdued. As Barbara Rose has written: 'No grid of compartments confines the raging energies that animate the brush loaded with thick paint, now slapped or dragged across the canvas, leaving a trail of flaring drips and sputtering comet-like flashes of paint. The allover images and glazed transparencies of these works suggest wind-whipped storms or glacial events.'3
The group of umber and white paintings were begun in 1959 in East Hampton, where Cool white was painted, and concluded in 1962 in New York. Sandy Friedman and Richard Howard assisted Krasner in choosing many of the titles for this group of works.4
Michael Lloyd & Michael Desmond European and American Paintings and Sculptures 1870-1970 in the Australian National Gallery 1992 p.298.
- Cindy Nemser, 'A Conversation with Lee Krasner', Arts Magazine, vol 47, no 6, April 1973, pp43-8
- Richard Howard, 'A Conversation with Lee Krasner', in Lee Krasner Paintings 1959-1962 New York: Pace Gallery, 1979 (exhibition catalogue), n p.
- Barbara Rose, Lee Krasner A Retrospective, New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1983 (exhibition catalogue), p.122.
- Howard, op cit.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010