Ellen G. Landau, Art Historian
1991 CLEVELAND ARTS PRIZE FOR LITERATURE
Ellen Landau’s engaging and informative book, Jackson Pollock,
was warmly praised for both its impeccable scholarship and its lively
insights into the work of one of the 20th century’s seminal painters.
Published jointly in 1989 by Harry N. Abrams (New York) and Thames &
Hudson (London), the book also confirmed Landau’s stature as one
of the world's foremost authorities on the work of Pollock (1912–1956),
the leader of the Abstract Expressionist movement and arguably the most
original painter to emerge in America. She is also an authority on the
work of Lee Krasner (1908–1984), Pollock’s wife, who was one of the few
female painters in the aggressively male circle of the New York school
of Abstract Expressionism.
fact, it was in the course of writing her doctoral dissertation on
Krasner at the University of Delaware (Ph.D., 1981) that Landau became
interested in Pollock, the deeply troubled man and brilliant painter
with whom Krasner lived for 14 years. Landau’s contributions to our
understanding of the work of Pollock and Krasner have been recognized
with numerous scholarship-in-residence appointments at the
Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center, a project of the Stony Brook
Foundation, in East Hampton, New York, where her appreciation for the
unique visions and abiding legacy of this extraordinary couple
continued to deepen and expand.
A series of articles written for prestigious American and European art journals such as Les cahiers du musée nationale d’art moderne,
which published Landau’s “Jackson Pollock—L’equipée sauvage” in the
spring of 1988, won her growing respect among contemporary art
historians. And in 1989 she was invited to co-curate the
Krasner/Pollock exhibition at the Kunstmuseum in Bern, Switzerland, the
first show featuring the pair’s work to be mounted in Europe.
winning the Cleveland Arts Prize in 1991, Landau has continued to make
important contributions to Pollock and Krasner scholarship. In 1993 she
wrote the catalog text for an exhibition of Pollock’s work at
the ACA Galleries in Munich, Germany, and in 1995 she published an
essay reconsidering the influence of Mexican art on Pollock for a joint
exhibition of the work of Pollock and Mexican painter and political
activist David Siqueiros organized at the Kunsthalle in Düsseldorf. The
same year saw the publication of Lee Krasner: A Catalogue Raisonné
(Harry N. Abrams), written with the assistance of Jeffrey D. Grove
under the auspices of the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and the Robert
Miller Gallery in New York, which examined the steadily growing
reputation of Pollock’s widow as an artist in her own right.
1998 Landau was appointed to chair the joint program in art history and
museum studies sponsored by the Cleveland Museum of Art and Case
Western Reserve University, where she has been a member of the faculty
since 1982 and holds the distinguished title of University Professor.
Her special area of concentration is 20th-century American and European
art and theory, particularly Abstract Expressionism.
2001 Landau was invited to the World Congress of Jewish Studies in
Jerusalem to present a paper on the painter Philip Guston that was
part of a book in progress on abstract expressionism and Mexican art. Her anthology and methodological
study, Reading Abstract Expressionism: Context and Critique, was published by Yale University Press in 2005.
a trove of hitherto unknown small (“experimental”)
paintings attributed to Pollock were found among the possessions of the
late photographer and graphic designer Herbert Matter, Landau was
brought in to evaluate their authenticity. Pollock Matters (2007), co-authored with Claude Cernuchi, presents the scientific evidence and explores
the two men’s close relationship, which lasted until Pollock’s death in
1956. Most interestingly, it shows how Matter’s technical innovations
stimulated Pollock’s groundbreaking conception of “energy made
Another influential member of the Gorky-de Kooning-Guston-Hofmann-Pollock-Krasner circle is the subject of Mercedes Matter (2009),
a portrait of painter/model/critic/muse/educator Mercedes Carles
Matter, who, as founder of the now legendary New York Studio
School, persuaded the school to hire Guston, Alex Katz, Morton
Feldman and other trailblazing artists of the post-war years. It was
the friendship of Mercedes and Lee Krasner, who met in jail
in 1936 after the two women were arrested for protesting Works Progress
Administration cutbacks, that brought their future husbands together.