A New Podcast Asks, Did Lee Krasner Basically Create Jackson Pollock?

The new season of Death of an Artist is hosted by Katy Hessel.

Lee Krasner at her home in East Hampton, New York, 1953. Photo: Tony Vaccaro/Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

A new season of the popular podcast, Death of an Artist, will take on the story of one of the most famous couples in art history, Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, from the latter’s perspective, asking the question, “What if the story of Jackson Pollock belonged to someone else?”

The podcast, which will drop on May 17, will be hosted by art historian Katy Hessel, who has been lauded for her popular Instagram account @thegreatwomenartists, her book The Story of Art Without Men, and her new audio guides at institutions that spotlight female and non-gender-conforming artists. 

“The story we’ve been told about Jackson Pollock is just that: a myth,” Hessel said in the podcast. “The real story is so much better. None of it would ever have happened if not for someone else: Lee Krasner.”

An advertising image showing artists Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner

Art for Death of an Artist: Krasner and Pollock. Courtesy Pushkin Industries.

The series starts at the end, with Pollock’s drunken 1956 car crash, in which he and a passenger died. His estranged wife Krasner, then in Paris, rushes back to organize his funeral. It then backtracks to trace Krasner’s own rise as an artist and labor organizer, her meeting Pollock in 1941, and their becoming the art world’s “it” couple. Despite his at-times crippling alcoholism, the pair earn a loan from major arts patron Peggy Guggenheim, marry, and buy a house on rural Long Island, where critic Clement Greenberg visits them. In Hessel’s telling, Greenberg joins forces with Krasner on “a critical promotion plan that amounts to a kind of ‘Jackson Pollock, Inc.’” 

The series then looks at Pollock’s decline not only into alcoholism but into a destructive cult of psychoanalysis run by the Sullivan Institute. After his death, Hessel recounts, Krasner would continue work on her painting Prophecy (now owned by the Christian Levett Collection), which “disturbed [her] enormously” and was left unfinished on her easel when he died. Hessel credits Krasner with “effectively [inventing] the modern art market” by quadrupling the prices museums had to pay for Pollock’s works, and, finally, gives an account of how she forged her own career. 

Pollock and Krasner’s relationship was previously given the silver-screen treatment in the 2000 film, Pollock, which adapted Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith’s biography Jackson Pollock: An American Saga. The critically beloved movie starred Ed Harris and Marcia Gay Harden in the lead roles, with the latter winning an Academy Award for her portrayal of Krasner.

The first season of Death of an Artist, hosted by curator and writer Helen Molesworth, revisited the untimely demise of Ana Mendieta, the Cuban-American artist who fell to her death under suspicious circumstances during a fight with her husband, artist Carl Andre. It garnered praise from the Guardian, which hailed Molesworth’s “sensitive presentation” and “interesting analysis of [the] establishment’s silence around influential artists.”

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