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Seattle Art Museum (SAM)

Night Watch

Photo: Spike Mafford / Zocalo Studios. Courtesy of the Friday Foundation

Night Watch


Lee Krasner

American, 1908 - 1984

Krasner became known in the 1940s and 1950s as an exceptional colorist. A dramatic departure from the lyrical color paintings that preceded it, Night Watch is part of her so-called Night Journeys (1959–62). Here, piercing eyes look back at the viewer. At the time, Krasner revisited the 1841 essay “Circles” by Ralph Waldo Emerson, which references the eye as the first circle and describes nature as cyclical renewal. Following the death of her husband, Jackson Pollock, in 1956 and her mother in 1959, Krasner devoted years to fierce introspection and reinvention: “Let me say that when I painted a good part of these things, I was going down deep into something which wasn’t easy or pleasant.” The title encapsulates her nightly painting sessions but also references the celebrated 1642 painting by Dutch artist Rembrandt van Rijn, which depicts a nocturnal gathering of Amsterdam’s civic guard.
Oil on canvas
70 x 99 1/4 in. (177.8 x 252.1 cm)
Gift of the Friday Foundation in honor of Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis
Provenance: The artist; [Howard Wise Gallery, New York]; [Pace Gallery, New York]; [Robert Miller Gallery, New York]; purchased by Jane and Richard E. Lang, Seattle, Washington, 1981; Friday Foundation, Seattle, Washington, 2018; to Seattle Art Museum, Seattle, Washington, 2020
Photo: Spike Mafford / Zocalo Studios. Courtesy of the Friday Foundation
Not currently on view


Exhibition HistoryNew York, New York, Howard Wise Gallery, Exhibition of Recent Paintings by Lee Krasner, Nov. 15 - Dec. 10, 1960.

South Hadley, Massachusetts, Dwight Art Memorial, Mount Holyoke College, Women Artists in America Today, Apr. 10 - 30, 1962. Cat. no. 29, reproduced.

New York, New York, Pace Gallery, Lee Krasner Paintings, 1959–1962, Feb. 3 - Mar. 10, 1979. No cat. no., reproduced.

Roslyn Harbor, New York, Nassau County Museum of Fine Art, The Abstract Expressionists and Their Precursors, Jan. 17 - Mar. 22, 1981. No cat. no., pp. 52, 54, reproduced fig. 54.

Houston, Texas, Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Lee Krasner: A Retrospective, Nov. 28, 1983 - Jan. 8, 1984 (San Francisco, California, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Feb. 9 - Apr. 1, 1984; Norfolk, Virginia, Chrysler Museum, Apr. 26 - June 18, 1984; Phoenix Art Museum, Aug. 23 - Oct. 7, 1984; New York, New York, Museum of Modern Art, Dec. 20, 1984 - Feb. 12, 1985) [Night Watch shown in Houston, Norfolk, Phoenix, and New York only].

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, The Richard and Jane Lang Collection, Feb. 2 - Apr. 1, 1984. Cat. no. 29, pp. 42-43, reproduced.

Tacoma, Washington, Tacoma Art Museum, What Is Real? American Art 1960 to 1975, Mar. 19 - June 19, 1994. No cat. no. (as Nightwatch).

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Seattle Collects Paintings: Works in Private Collections, May 22 - Sept. 7, 1997. No cat. no. (as Nightwatch).

Lee Krasner, organized by Independent Curators International, New York (Los Angeles, California, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Oct. 10 1999 - Jan. 2, 2000; Des Moines, Iowa, Des Moines Art Center, Feb. 26 - May 21, 2000; Akron, Ohio, Akron Art Museum, June 10 - Aug. 27, 2000; Brooklyn, New York, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Oct. 6, 2000 - Jan. 7, 2001). No cat. no., pp. 159, 164, 218, reproduced pl. 74.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Elles: SAM: Singular Works by Seminal Women Artists, Oct. 6, 2012 - Feb. 17, 2013.

Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Frisson: The Richard E. Lang and Jane Lang Davis Collection, Oct. 15, 2021 - Nov. 27, 2022. Text by Eleanor Nairne. No cat. no., pp. 22, 41-42, 48, 118-125, 189, reproduced pp. 119 (pl. 11), 183, and cover.

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