Becoming Lee

In the summer of 1928, Krasner had nailed a mirror to a tree in the garden of her parents' home in Greenlawn, Long Island, and had set about capturing herself against a woodland backdrop. Wearing an artist's apron and clutching a rag and brushes in her hand, she is the perfect image of a young painter at work, whose forceful gaze suggests the strength of her ambition. Now 19, she had graduated from the Women's Art School at Cooper Union, and—following a brief spell at the Art Students League—was due to begin studying at the prestigious Notional Academy of Design, where she hoped her self-portrait in oil would gain her promotion to the life-drawing class.

The Academy had refused to believe her capable of such an accomplished plein-air portrait, but she protested and was promoted. However, she continued to struggle with the traditional approach of the Academy, which she condemned as a “sterile atmosphere of ... congealed mediocrity.”