Document Type

Research Paper

Publication Date



After the Second World War, the art world shifted from Europe to New York and a new form of painting that defined itself as distinctly American demanded attention from the public. This style, abstract expressionism, created an inability to survey clear subject matter allowed critics to imply gendered metaphorical resonances within works, as meanings were fluid and inconclusive to the viewer. Coupled with instability in the social sphere, artistic abstraction served as motivation for critics to seek out gendered aspects within an artwork, identifying and constructing difference to preserve order and control in a society that had dramatically changed from the Second World War. This new critical approach to art led to the conservative social constructs and gender stereotypes prevalent in post-war America, impacting the reception of Lee Krasner (1908-1984) and her abstract expressionist paintings. The assignment of femininity to certain colors, such as pink, prevailed in domestic advertising and consumer culture. This expanded to art criticism in the 1950s and 1960s and led critics to use gendered language in their reviews of Krasner’s work that utilized similar color palettes that mirrored contemporaneous domestic advertising. By associating her work with “feminine” colors and “decorative” or “cosmetic” qualities, critics effectively trivialized her work. Instead of utilizing biographical methodologies, I will point out the contributors to Krasner’s narrative through formal visual analysis and historical context to explain the reasoning behind her current historical narrative as a wife and woman artist rather than an abstract expressionist painter. I hope to dismantle this notion and present Krasner as many of her male peers have been in the past, through objective formal analysis and contextualize the gendered notions as a product of her historical position and the cultural zeitgeist surrounding her career.


Art and Art History