Object Lesson: Breath by Lee Krasner

Lee Krasner, (American, 1908–1984), Breath, 1959, Oil on canvas, Gift of Mrs. P. Roussel Norman, 87.270

“I never violate my inner rhythm. I loathe to force anything… I listen to it and I stay with it. I have always been this way. I have regards for the inner voice.” –Lee Krasner

Krasner’s paintings explore the role of the body in art, treating painting as a form of self- exploration. In Breath, Krasner’s use of warm pink tones and strong black lines creates a flow of the energy that makes it feel almost as if the canvas itself is breathing. The delicate, rhythmic marks of Krasner’s Breath call forth the constant rise and fall of the body, as well as the more meditative act of taking a deep breath.

As Krasner once said, “I like the canvas to breathe and be alive. Be alive is the point. And, as the limitations are something called pigment and canvas, let’s see if I can do it.” A pioneering abstract painter, Krasner defied the odds of the male-dominated art world to become one of the few widely recognized female artists of her time. Married to fellow painter Jackson Pollock, Krasner’s paintings were often more subtle and introspective—gestures of contemplation rather than the more frenzied “action painting”  of her husband’s art. 

Here, Krasner shows us that, in the midst of all of life’s chaos and obstacles, we can always turn inward, to rhythm of our own breath.

Today, this painting is here to remind us all to take a deep breath. 

Tariana Smith, NOMA Curatorial Intern

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