Night Creatures

Artist: Lee Krasner (American, Brooklyn, New York 1908–1984 New York)

Date: 1965

Medium: Acrylic on paper

Dimensions: 30 x 42 1/2 in. (76.2 x 108 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Gift of Robert and Sarah W. Miller, in honor of Lee Krasner, 1995

Accession Number: 1995.595

Rights and Reproduction: © 2018 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


Born in Brooklyn, Lee Krasner declared her intention to be an artist as a child. She began studying at Cooper Union in 1926, and continued her work at the National Academy of Design in 1929. In 1937, she entered the studio of the painter Hans Hofmann, who encouraged her focus on color and lyrical abstraction. While Krasner's work always retained the influence of her early interest in Realism and Surrealism, abstraction became her dominant mode of expression from this point on. During the 1940s, Krasner was among the group of first-generation Abstract Expressionists working in New York, although her considerable achievements at that time were often eclipsed by those of her famous husband, Jackson Pollock. Throughout the next two decades, Krasner created intensely wrought paintings and collages characterized by gestural brushwork, rich surface texture, and allover rhythmic movement.

Executed on paper, "Night Creatures" delivers an even greater emotional impact than her larger oils on canvas of the same period. One imagines that hidden within the thicket of Krasner's swirling black-and-white paint strokes are menacing eyes, heads, and even entire figures surrounded by dense foliage. Such suggested images are common in her later abstract work and grow out of her earlier, more representational figure studies and still-life compositions. What distinguishes this particular drawing—and others like it from the mid-1960s—are the raw intensity and primal power engendered from the figurative images and the artist's forceful yet controlled handling of the medium. The picture's haunting, somber color scheme, which includes black, white, and a touch of rust, along with its title allies this work with a series made from 1959 to 1963, which were painted at night and thus called Night Journeys.

Krasner's later work, from the 1970s and 1980s, reflected a new direction toward colorful compositions with large, flat, "cut-out" shapes and very little surface texture.