Artists’ Hideaway: A Museum that Preserves a Legacy and a Lifestyle
One of the most charming and fascinating places to visit while on the East End is the Pollock-Krasner House & Study Center in East Hampton. This former 19th-century farm house and barn, longtime home and studio to artists Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, is full of their art, tools, furnishings, and spirit. Not many house museums embody the lives of their previous owners as effectively as this one does. With its added bonus of beautiful surroundings, including a picturesque creek, the House & Study Center is a truly worthwhile destination, especially for art buffs.
Before his death in a car accident (less than a mile from this house) at age 44, Pollock was a leading figure in the abstract expressionist movement who became renowned for his unique style of drip painting. His wife Lee Krasner, also an abstract expressionist painter, was one of the few female artists to have had a retrospective show at the Museum of Modern Art. She was a major influence on his work and vice versa.
The couple moved from New York City to the modest, unheated house overlooking Accabonac Creek just two weeks after their November 1945 wedding. With a loan from art dealer Peggy Guggenheim, Krasner and Pollock purchased the small, remote homestead the next year, after which they immediately began renovating. At first Krasner worked in a studio area in the back parlor, while Pollock painted in an upstairs bedroom. He soon transformed the barn into a studio, where — using its natural light and inspired by the couple’s idyllic environment — he created his most renowned works. Upon Pollock’s death, Krasner took over the space, where she would continue to paint until health issues forced her to stop in 1982. (She died two years later.) Her will specified that the house should be used as “a public museum and library,” where visitors could study modern American – and local Long Island – art and artists. Acquired by the Stony Brook Foundation, the home was opened to the public in 1988.
Visitors can tour the house using either audio or guided tour and learn about the various improvements made by the couple including installation of plumbing and heating, removal of walls to create a loftlike space on the ground floor, and the addition of outdoor shingles, all of which remain. Especially intriguing are personal items left by Pollock, including his phonograph, jazz record collection and an assortment of books. His 1930s painting Composition with Red Arc and Horses, along with prints by both artists, is also on display.
Even more exciting than the house is Pollock’s creative lair, the barn-turned-studio. In the ’80s, conservators stripped away its flooring to find original floorboards stained with remnants of iconic paintings created there including Autumn Rhythm, Convergence and Lavender Mist. The priceless floor is on view, along with brushes, cans of paint and other artifacts of the couple’s life and work.
After touring the house and barn, take a stroll around the beautiful grounds and envision what life here might have been like back in the ‘40s and ‘50s. Feel free to sit down on a rock and enjoy a picnic lunch (visitors are welcome to bring food and drinks); pour yourself some wine and raise a hearty toast to the two artists who made this spot their own. (830 Springs Fireplace Rd., East Hampton, 631-324-4929)