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Lee Krasner

White Squares

c. 1948


Lee Krasner (1908-1984)


White Squares


c. 1948


Enamel and oil on canvas


Overall: 24 1/16 × 30 1/8 in. (61.1 × 76.5 cm)

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Gift of Mr. and Mrs. B. H. Friedman

Accession number


Object Label

From 1946 to 1949, Lee Krasner made a series of small-scale works she called the Little Image paintings, in which she sought “a merging of the organic with the abstract.” She described some of these paintings, including White Squares, as “hieroglyphic.” Krasner was fascinated by ancient languages. Raised as an Orthodox Jew, she learned to copy (though not to read) Hebrew letters, which fostered a lifelong interest in the abstract character of writing dissociated from meaning, and ultimately led to the marks of her “hieroglyphic” works. White Squares is covered in a dense, white lattice of open squares, with an evenness that recalls a page of text. Yet the traces of yellow, blue, and green visible beneath the black ground give the painting a sense of depth. The concentric rectilinear forms may evoke another of Krasner’s fascinations, foraminifera—spirally arranged marine organisms. Indeed, Krasner had a collection of crystals, shells, and foraminifera, which perhaps explains why the painting was originally titled by a friend (and inscribed on the stretcher) “Passion for Collecting.”

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