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?
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).
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.
Definitely the home of artists, it is decorating-on-a-shoestring, with pleasing results. I can relate.
Krasner’s “Left Bird Right,” above; a 1953 painting by Pollock, below
Pollock-Krasner House & Study Center, 830 Springs Fireplace Road, East Hampton, NY 11937 631/ 324-4929, http://www.pkhouse.org