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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

Lee Krasner’s Night Watch is part of a body of work often referred to as her ‘Night Journeys’, as Krasner, then suffering from insomnia, painted almost exclusively at night. Though previously known for her dramatic use of color, Night Watch, along with other works made in the early 1960s, uses a reduced palette of black, ochre, and creamy white, with gray accents. From roughly 1959 to 1963, Krasner was exploring new artistic terrain as well as the depths of her own psyche, processing recent experiences of loss and grief. The title Night Watch alludes to one of Rembrandt’s celebrated paintings of a militia company made in 1642. It is a singular composition utilizing piercing eyes as a recurring motif, an allusion to the militia’s duty of keeping watch as well as a self-referential proclamation. In the words of the artist, “Painting is not separate from life. It is one.”
Oil on canvas
70 × 99 1/4 in. (177.8 × 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]; acquired from the above by Jane and Richard E. Lang, Seattle, 1981; Friday Foundation, Seattle, 2018; Seattle Art Museum, 2020
Photo: Spike Mafford / Zocalo Studios. Courtesy of the Friday Foundation
Now on view at the Seattle Art Museum


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 Art Museum respectfully acknowledges that we are on Indigenous land, the traditional territories of the Coast Salish people. We honor our ongoing connection to these communities past, present, and future.

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