At Home with Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner

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I’M LIVING A SCANT MILE from a National Historic Landmark and cult-of-personality epicenter, the Pollock-Krasner House. It’s an 1879 farmhouse here in Springs where two leading lights of Abstract Expressionist painting, Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, lived from 1945 until his death in 1956 (she continued to use the house until the 1980s).

He produced his best-known works in the cedar-shingled studio by laying a canvas on the floor and moving around it, athletically flinging, pouring, and dripping paint with brushes, sticks, and turkey basters (“I paint to express my feelings,” he famously said — “not to illustrate them”). The studio floor is the artistic highlight of the tour, spattered with remnants of Pollock’s work (the real things are in museums worldwide). Krasner took over the studio after Pollock died and painted prolifically there for many decades.

This house is where they lived when Pollock was in his creative heyday, featured in LIFE magazine as the greatest American artist of the 20th century. It’s where they entertained large groups of artist friends, and apparently drank way too much. I was curious to see the inside of the place. Would it be avant garde, wildly colored?

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Not at all, I found out on an hour-long guided tour last Saturday ($10, reservations required). The docent filled us in on the artists’ backgrounds and brilliant artistic careers, not shying away from  the group’s questions about the tragic side of the story: their co-dependent relationship, his decline into alcoholism and depression, his extra-marital affair, and death in a car crash a mile from the house (both are buried nearby in Green River Cemetery, under enormous boulders).

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The house, which had no heat or plumbing and was in ramshackle condition when they bought it for $5,000 right after WWII, retains some of the furnishings from those early days. It is rustic and unpretentious, with a rusty anchor on the wall, picked up while beachcombing, and a carved Spanish breakfront used as a kitchen counter.

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Definitely the home of artists, it is decorating-on-a-shoestring, with pleasing results. I can relate.

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Krasner’s “Left Bird Right,” above; a 1953 painting by Pollock, below

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Pollock-Krasner House & Study Center, 830 Springs Fireplace Road, East Hampton, NY 11937  631/ 324-4929, http://www.pkhouse.org

About cara

I blog for fun here at casaCARA, and write about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites. My recently published posts and articles can be found here: https://casacara.wordpress.com/recent-articles/
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6 Responses to At Home with Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner

  1. Astor C. says:

    Ironic FYI. In ’06 David Geffin sold a Pollack drip painting from 1948 for $140 million, then (and presumably still) the record price for a painting. Kinda puts the decorating in perspective…

  2. I went to the website and it said their was a video tour of the studio for the handicapped. Can they upload this video to YouTube or videosite for those of us across the country so we can enjoy the richness of this former home of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner from afar?

  3. Debre says:

    I have been meaning/wanting to see this house for many years. Another example of how your pioneering and blogging inspire the rest of us to rise off our lazy butts!

  4. cara says:

    hi James,
    Helen Harrison, the director of the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, says this about the video tour:
    “We don’t have permission to reproduce the artwork or broadcast the music on the net. Permissions are very expensive. People can, however, buy the DVD in our museum store.”

  5. BrooklynGreene says:

    So you finally made it to the house. Good. Did the birds make another nest this year over the rear porch door?

    Sorry that I haven’t been checking your blog lately. Am just checking it for the first time in ages!

    Sorry to hear about the rental situation with the house. Look, it’s only 2 weeks. If you can, lower the rent a bit and I’m sure you’ll get a couple of bites. All it takes is one. If you can get a couple with kids in for 3 or 4 years that would be nice.

    I’ll try to check in more.

    Oh, did that gardener friend of yours ever have anything to add to that dry well vs native pit shrine controversy in the backyard in the Heights?

  6. cara says:

    Thanks for the encouragement re Cobble Hill. Don’t know about the birds at the PK House, and no, my gardener friend seemed to want to drop the whole matter.

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