All this makes for unhappy, but also problematic, reading. In the foreword to her book, Levin is emphatic that Lee Krasner did not count herself a victim. Typically, when once asked, on a form, the question, “What was the greatest sacrifice you have made for your art?” she crisply replied, “I sacrificed nothing”. Yet Levin’s punctilious cataloguing of the sacrifices Krasner unquestionably did make – by no means least, the promotion of her husband’s career at the expense of her own – tells a different story. This in turn prompts the vexed question of whether we can properly judge Krasner’s art without taking on board the circumstances of its production: whether it is, whatever else, an art of oppression, and whether we need to bring a different critical gaze to it as a result.
Was Lee Krasner an artist’s widow of global stature, or an artist of global stature in her own right? After reading this welcome, if slightly lifeless, book, I decided the former.