Jackson Pollock was a renowned Abstract Expressionist artist from the United States. Jackson Pollock’s artworks were known as drip paintings and were created by covering a horizontally positioned canvas with dripping paint. This severe kind of abstraction split critics: some applauded the creation’s spontaneity, while others mocked the haphazard results. Pollock, a solitary and turbulent personality, fought with alcoholism for the majority of his life. This article will delve into the life of Pollock and his artwork through time.
Table of Contents
- 1 Jackson Pollock’s Biography
- 2 Jackson Pollock’s Art Style
- 3 Recommended Reading
- 4 Frequently Asked Questions
Jackson Pollock’s Biography
|Date of Birth||28 January 1912|
|Date of Death||11 August 1956|
|Place of Birth||Cody, Wyoming|
Pollock’s rough and turbulent childhood in the American West molded him into the confident persona he would become. Later, a sequence of inspirations came together to shape the style of Jackson Pollock’s paintings: years spent producing realistic murals on a big scale in the 1930s taught him the impact of large paintings; Surrealism gave techniques to express the unconscious, and Cubism directed his grasp of picture space.
Jackson Pollock started seeing a Jungian analyst in 1939 to address his alcoholism, and his therapist urged him to sketch. These would eventually feed Jackson Pollock’s paintings.
They molded Pollock’s perception of his works not merely as emanations of his own mind, but as representations of all contemporary mankind dwelling in the shadow of nuclear war. Pollock’s grandeur stems from his creation of one of the most radical abstract techniques in contemporary art history, separating line from color, altering the classifications of sketching and painting, and inventing new ways to depict pictorial space. But how did Jackson Pollock live and how did Jackson Pollock die? First, let us begin with our Jackson Pollock biography.
Paul Jackson Pollock, the youngest of five children, was born in 1912 in Cody, Wyoming. His mother, Stella, brought her children to San Diego in November 1912; Jackson was only 10 months old at the time and would never go back home to Cody. He initially went to Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles, but he was subsequently dismissed.
A 1928 studio portrait of artist Jackson Pollock at about age 16; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
He had previously been dismissed from yet another high school in 1928. Pollock became interested in Native American traditions while on survey excursions with his father as a child. He relocated to New York City with his brother Charles in 1930, and they attended the Art Students League and trained under Thomas Hart Benton.
Jackson Pollock’s artwork was more influenced by his rhythmic oil paint and his furious individuality than by Benton’s pastoral American subject material.
David Alfaro Siqueiros, a muralist artist from Mexico, introduced Pollock to the usage of liquid paint in 1936 during an exploratory session in New York City. Eventually, in Jackson Pollock’s paintings from the early 1940s, such as Male and Female, he utilized drip painting as one of the numerous processes.
After relocating to Springs, New York, he started to paint on the workshop floor with his canvas, developing what became known as his “drip” style.
He was attempting to overcome his long-standing alcoholism at the time; from 1938 to 1941, he attended Jungian psychotherapy, which he completed in 1941 and 1942. He was encouraged to sketch by the therapist, who engaged him via his art. Jackson Pollock’s artworks reflected Jungian notions and archetypes. Some historians speculate that Pollock may have suffered from bipolar illness. In July 1943, Pollock entered into a contract with Peggy Guggenheim.
He was commissioned to construct the artwork Mural (1943) for the entrance of her new mansion. Pollock produced the piece on canvas rather than the wall, at the request of her friend and advisor Marcel Duchamp, so that it might be moved. Clement Greenberg remarked after witnessing the large mural, “it only took a single glance to realize, ‘Now that’s magnificent art,’ and I stated that Jackson Pollock was the best painter this nation had produced.”
Pollock’s skill was praised as “volcanic” in the booklet for his debut show. “It’s on fire. It generates unpredictability. It lacks discipline. It oozes out of itself in a mineral prodigality that has yet to solidify” continued Greenberg.
Pollock’s Drip Painting Period
Pollock’s most renowned works were created between 1947 and 1950, during the “drip painting phase.” After encountering artist Janet Sobel, the pioneer of the infamous drip painting style, Pollock was heavily influenced by her technique and began experimenting with it himself. He later admitted to art critic Clement Greenberg that Sobel’s work had “made an impression” on him.
He rose to prominence when an article in Life magazine o the 8th of August, 1949, posed the question, “Is he the finest artist in America?” Thanks to the cooperation of Pollock’s close friend Alfonso Ossorio, Paul Facchetti (the gallery owner) was able to produce the first exhibit of Jackson Pollock’s artworks in his studio on the 7th of March, 1952.
Jackson Pollock became an overnight star as a result of this. His painting technique was over-analyzed, eliciting both acclaim and derision. This newfound prominence did not sit well with Pollock’s mental state. As a result, his notoriety was short-lived, as the strain led him to retreat socially and creatively. Therefore, Pollock unexpectedly deserted the drip method at the height of his success.
Number 1 (Lavender Mist) (1950) by Jackson Pollock that demonstrates his iconic drip-style, located in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., United States; Jackson Pollock, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Jackson Pollock’s artwork after 1951 was deeper in tone, including a series created in black on unprimed canvases. These works have been dubbed his “Black pourings,” and so when he showed them at the Betty Parsons Gallery, absolutely none of the works were bought. These pieces show Pollock seeking to strike an equilibrium between abstraction and portrayals of the human figure.
He eventually reverted to color and proceeded with figurative themes.
During this period, Pollock had switched to the Sidney Janis Gallery, a more corporate art gallery, and his art was in considerable demand among buyers. His drunkenness worsened in reaction to this strain, as well as emotional dissatisfaction.
Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner
In 1942, the two painters met when both were exhibiting at the McMillen Gallery. Krasner was unfamiliar with Jackson Pollock’s paintings but was interested in them, so he went to his residence unexpectedly after the gallery show to see him. The two married in October 1945, with eyewitnesses present. They purchased a house and barn and Pollock used the barn as a workspace.
It was in this location that he honed his enormous “drip” method for working with paint, which would become synonymous with the artist.
When the couple was no longer working, they spent their time home baking and cooking, working on the garden, and entertaining guests. Due to the emergence of feminism at the time, commentators began to rethink Krasner’s effect on her husband’s artwork in the latter part of the 1960s. Krasner’s excellent understanding and expertise in modern art and methods aided her in bringing Pollock up to speed with what modern art should be.
Photograph of artist Lee Krasner, Pollock’s wife, taken in 1983; Gotfryd, Bernard, photographer, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Krasner is widely regarded as having taught her husband the fundamentals of modernist painting. Pollock was therefore able to adapt his approach to a more ordered and international genre of contemporary art, and Krasner became the only assessor he could rely on. Pollock would respect his colleagues’ judgments on what worked and didn’t work in his creations during the start of the two artists’ marriage.
Krasner was also crucial in exposing him to a number of collectors, reviewers, and painters who would assist him in advancing his profession as a young painter. Art historians frequently analyze Jackson Pollock’s effect on his wife’s works.
Many people believed Krasner started to replicate and recreate her husband’s wild paint spills in her own art. According to numerous versions, Krasner planned to use her intuition as a means of progressing toward Pollock’s “I am nature” method to imitate nature in her work.
Later Years and Death
Pollock completed his final two works, Search and Sent, in 1955. In 1956, he did not produce paintings at all; instead created sculptures out of wire, gauze, and plaster at Tony Smith’s house. They are shaped by sand-casting and feature extremely textured features similar to those used by Pollock in his paintings. Pollock and Krasner’s partnership began to deteriorate in 1956 as a result of Pollock’s continued drinking and adultery with Ruth Kligman.
Pollock died in a single-car collision in his Oldsmobile convertible on the 11th of August, 1956, while driving intoxicated. Krasner was seeing friends in Europe at the time, and she returned quickly after hearing the information from a friend. Edith Metzger, one of the occupants, also died in the tragedy, which happened less than a mile from the artist’s house. Ruth Kligman, Pollock’s lover, was the only passenger who survived.
Pollock was honored with a memorial commemorative show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City in December 1956. In 1967, a larger, more complete exhibition of Jackson Pollock’s artwork was presented there. Pollock is often assumed to have suffered monetarily during his life. True, he was once so destitute that he had to work as a cleaner and stole food to survive. Nevertheless, his financial circumstances significantly improved over time.
Pollock was making about five times the average yearly pay towards the end of his life. Some of his works got as much as $6000, which was a lot to spend for an artwork at the time.
Savvy art collectors had recognized Pollock’s paintings’ future potential worth, placing him in a secure financial situation. Furthermore, after Pollock died in 1956 at the age of 44, his widow Lee Krasner gained greatly from the soaring value of his paintings.
Jackson Pollock’s Art Style
Pollock was influenced by the work of Pablo Picasso, Thomas Hart Benton, and Joan Miró. Pollock began utilizing synthetic resin-based paints known as alkyd enamels, which were a revolutionary medium at the time. Pollock described his utilization of commercial paints instead of artist’s pigments as a “natural growth out of a necessity.”
He used stiff paint brushes, sticks, and sometimes even syringes to apply paint.
Pollock’s pouring and flowing paint technique are regarded to be one of the roots of the phrase “action painting.” Pollock was able to create his own trademark style palimpsest paintings using this technique, with paints pouring from his selected instrument onto the canvas. By rejecting the standard of working on a vertical surface, he brought a new dimension to his paintings by allowing him to observe and apply paint from all angles.
Pollock broke away from realistic representation and questioned the Western practice of employing easel and brush while painting in this manner. He painted with the power of his entire body, as seen by the gigantic canvases.
According to one of Jackson Pollock’s quotes: “My painting is not created on an easel. I like to affix the stretched canvas to a firm wall or the floor. I require the tensile strength of a hard surface. I feel more comfortable on the floor because I can wander around it, working from all four sides, and truly be in the painting this way. I’m abandoning typical painter’s tools such as canvas easels, palettes, paint brushes, and so forth. Sticks, knives, flowing fluid paint, or a strong impasto with grit, glass shards, or other foreign objects are my preferred tools.”
The She-Wolf (1943) by Jackson Pollock, located in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, United States; Jackson Pollock, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
In the 1940s, Pollock saw Native American sandpainting performances. Pollock claimed, regarding his approach of painting on the floor, “I feel closer to the picture, more a part of it, since I can go around it, work from all four corners, and physically be in it.”
His drip method was also influenced by Surrealist automatism as well as Mexican muralists. Pollock disputed relying on “accidents,” claiming that he typically had a notion of how he wanted a specific piece to look. His method combined the controllable movement of his body, the fluid flow of color, the gravity force, and the soaking of paint into the fabric. It was a confluence of controllable and uncontrollable variables. He’d move about the painting, as if in a trance, tossing, pouring, spilling, and spattering, and wouldn’t quit until he observed what he wanted to see.
Photographer Hans Namuth, after taking pictures of Pollock at work, made the following observations: “The entire floor was covered with soaking wet canvas. There was totally quiet. Pollock had a peek at the artwork. Then, suddenly, he took up a paint can and a paintbrush and began to move about the canvas. It was as though he abruptly remembered he hadn’t completed the picture.
Slow at first, his motions got quicker and more dance-like as he tossed black, white, and rust-colored paint into the canvas. It was as if he had completely forgotten that I was there; he didn’t seem to feel the camera shutter snap. My photography shoot lasted around half an hour, or as long as he continued creating. Pollock never stopped working throughout that period. How could someone maintain this amount of action? “This is it,” he eventually said.
Pollock’s best works show that his all-over line does not create negative or positive areas: we are not led to believe that one section of the canvas requires to be interpreted as a figure, whether abstraction or figurative, while another part of the canvas is interpreted as ground. Pollock’s line and the area through which it flows have no interior or exterior. Pollock has been successful in liberating line from the work of describing or confining shapes or characters on the canvas’s surface, in addition to its duty of depicting external objects.”
Pollock dropped labels and began numbering his paintings in order to avoid the audience’s hunt for figurative aspects in his artworks. “Look attentively and attempt to accept what the picture has to offer without bringing a subject matter or predetermined understanding of what they are to be searching for,” he stated. “He used to give his images traditional titles, but now he just numbers them,” his wife stated. “Numbers are a neutral medium. They force people to look at an artwork for what it is: pure art.”
Pollock was influenced by Austrian artist Wolfgang Paalen’s essay on totem artwork of the native peoples of British Columbia, in which the notion of space in totemist art is explored from a creator’s viewpoint; Pollock held a signed edition of Paalen’s magazine. He’d also seen Paalen’s surrealist works at a 1940 exhibition. Paalen’s surrealist fumage method, which resonated with painters seeking fresh ways to express what was dubbed the “unobserved” or the “possible,” must have had a profound impact as well.
Pollock’s extreme abstraction appeared to promise astounding new freedom for art, but semblances of identifiable imagery remained in the background of his works. Blue Poles (1952) is a large expanse linked together by diagonal lines. Among the extraordinary variety of effects, one: Number 31 (1950) preserves a distinct impression of rhythmically moving figures. Pollock may have forsaken his youth’s realism, but he was still able to make his works elegantly symbolic. One, like so many of his works from this period, creates a sense of grandeur, tying it to the sublime landscape tradition that dates back to the 18th century.
It also twinkled as though speckled with light, similar to Monet’s works, and many commentators have wondered as to whether Pollock was inspired by the French Impressionist. Pollock’s enthusiasm with figurative imagery was never truly lost – as he once stated, “Part of the time, I’m quite figurative, and some of the time, I’m not. Figures, on the other hand, are unavoidable when painting from the unconscious.” Figuration began to reappear in his work as early as the late 1940s.
By the year 1950, his drinking had grown, and he had returned to sketching, recreating some of his previous ideas, and creating a series of mostly white and black drip paintings. Some, such as “Yellow Islands” (1952), contain color and are very abstract; others, such as “Echo (Number 25)” (1951), are calligraphic in form and just marginally figurative; while yet others feature unmistakable depictions of heads. They were not well accepted when Pollock initially showed them, yet he continued to labor on them until 1953, his final prolific year of work.
Famous Pollock paintings have been the subject of heated discussions. Several Jackson Pollock artworks were formerly dismissed by critic Robert Coates as “simply unstructured blasts of random energy, and hence useless.” In a 1959 headline, Reynold’s News stated, “This is not art—it’s a terrible joke.” When Jean Hélion first saw a Pollock, he noted, “It filled out area going on and on since it didn’t have a beginning or an end to it.”
For formalistic reasons, Clement Greenberg backed Pollock’s works. It corresponded to Greenberg’s vision of art history as a gradual purity of form and eradication of historical substance.
A bollard in Winchester, England, painted by The Color Factory in the style of Summertime by Jackson Pollock; Andy Mabbett, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
He believed Pollock’s art to be the greatest of its time and the pinnacle of the Western heritage from Cubism to Cézanne. Harold Rosenberg invented the phrase in 1952 “action painting,” he said, explaining that “what was to put on the board was not an image but an experience.”
The breakthrough moment arrived when it was determined to paint “simply for the sake of painting.” The motion on the canvas represented a release from value—political, artistic, and moral. Many individuals thought he patterned his “action painter” concept after Jackson Pollock.
Pollock’s direct legacy was felt most strongly by other painters. His art included aspects of Surrealism, Cubism, and Impressionism while transcending them all. Aside from that accomplishment, even greats like de Kooning, who stayed closer to Cubism and clung to figurative material, just seems to fall short. And the greatest of later generations of artists would have to struggle with his legacy, just as Pollock had done with Picasso.
As early as 1958, when groundbreaking conceptual artist Allan Kaprow directly confronted the subject of Pollock’s impact in an essay for Art News, others wondered if Pollock had even freed up alternatives outside of the sphere of painting.
To paraphrase critic Harold Rosenberg, Pollock re-envisioned the canvas as “a stadium in which to act” rather than “a place in which to replicate, re-design, examine, or ‘communicate’ an object.”
Jackson Pollock (rear) and Lee Krasner’s (front) gravestones in Green River Cemetery in Springs, New York, United States; Americasroof, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons
It was just a short step from this awareness to viewing Pollock’s balletic movements around the painting as a type of performance art. Pollock’s fame has only grown since then. He has been the focus of several biographies, a film biography, and major retrospectives, and he has become not just one of the most recognized icons of the detached modern painter, but also an incarnation for critics and historians of American modernism at its peak.
Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis, both Color Field artists, incorporated Pollock’s staining into a bare canvas. Frank Stella developed “all-over composition” a trademark of his 1960s work. Pollock’s emphasis on the process of production has been kept by Allan Kaprow, Richard Serra and Eva Hesse, and many modern artists; they were affected by his attitude to the technique, rather than the aesthetic of his work.
In the early 1990s, three different groups of filmmakers were working on Pollock biopics, each relying on a distinctive source. The most developed project appeared to be a collaboration between Barwood Films and TriBeCa Productions. Christopher Cleveland’s script was based on To a Violent Grave by Jeffrey Potter, an anthology of Pollock’s acquaintances’ memories. Streisand was to portray Lee Krasner, while De Niro was to portray Jackson Pollock.
A second film was to be centered on Ruth Kligman’s biography Love Affair (1974), about Pollock’s girlfriend in the six months before his demise. Harold Becker was set to direct, and Al Pacino would portray Pollock.
Computer Fractal Analysis
Richard Taylor, a physicist and artist, utilized computer analysis in 1999 to reveal parallels between Pollock’s created patterns and fractals seen in natural surroundings, echoing Pollock’s own words “I am Nature.” Pollock’s style was labeled as fractal expressionism by his study team. 24 Pollockesque artworks and doodles were discovered in a locker in Wainscott, New York, in 2003.
The Pollock-Krasner Foundation asked that fractal analysis be applied in an authenticity issue for the first time. The approach was utilized by academics at the University of Oregon to find discrepancies between the patterning in the six controversial paintings evaluated, and those in 14 known Pollocks as well.
Pigment examination of the artworks by Harvard University experts revealed the existence of an artificial pigment that was not trademarked until the 1980s in one work, and ingredients in two more that were not accessible during Pollock’s lifetime.
Pollock Matters, a comprehensive book written by Ellen G. Landau, one of the four remaining professionals from the prior verification committee from the 1990s, and Claude Cernuschi, an Abstract Expressionist specialist, was released in 2007. Landau’s book establishes the various ties between the artworks’ owners’ family and Jackson Pollock throughout his lifetime to situate the works of art in what she considers to be their right historical context.
Landau also discusses Harvard University’s forensic results and possible reasons for the forensic irregularities discovered in three of the 24 works. Nevertheless, the scientist who produced one of the contemporary pigments regarded Pollock’s use of this paint as “improbable to the point of fiction.” Over ten scientific organizations have since undertaken fractal assessment on over 50 of Pollock’s paintings.
A 2015 research that employed fractal analysis as one of its approaches had a 93 percent success rate in discriminating between authentic and imitation Pollock works. Fractal Expressionism’s current study focuses on the human reaction to perceiving fractals. Pollock’s fractals, like computer-generated fractals and Nature’s fractals, have been demonstrated by cognitive neuroscientists to reduce stress in onlookers.
The Most Expensive Jackson Pollock Painting
The most expensive Jackson Pollock painting was sold in 2013 by Christie’s. The piece, Number 19 (1948), sold for US$495 million. The artwork is easy to disregard as a meaningless spatter of paint—but even if you can’t comprehend its beauty, this artwork has a history worth its weight in gold.
Jackson Pollock’s art was groundbreaking on several levels. For ages, painters have sketched out or run large-scale paintings.
Pollock, on the other hand, was directed by passion and intuition as he wound around his fiberboard foundation, dripping and tossing paint as his inspiration dictated. He eschewed brushstrokes in place of drips and splashes, and his spontaneous masterworks lit up the art world. Paint with a flowing viscosity that allows for seamless pouring was an essential component of the drip technique. Because of this condition, regular oil paints were not permitted.
Instead, Pollock started dabbling with synthetic gloss enamel paints, which were displacing old-fashioned, oil-based home paints. Though this brilliant discovery was lauded, Pollock dismissed it as “a natural evolution out of a necessity.”
While art experts gushed and collectors paid millions for a Pollock painting at auction, a large section of the public is still perplexed by the artist’s work 60 years later. Every time one of his artworks sells for millions of dollars, journalists question why. The simple answer is that, while his drip paintings are not easily accessible, they were pivotal in redefining our perception of art itself despite the thought that they are not usually attractive.
Pollock’s painting method, in which he stained onto bare canvases, was favorably welcomed and emulated in the creative world. Pollock’s art has also influenced several sculptures throughout the years. Pollock’s significant impact and the artistic following may be linked to the focus he placed on the process of production rather than the appearance of his work. Perhaps you are interested in learning even more about his art and life. We can suggest checking out a Jackson Pollock biography or book about his art.
Jackson Pollock (2010) by Ellen G. Landau
How did the renowned artist Jackson Pollock become a Beat Generation cult figure? And what is it that has led his reputation to soar? This captivating and unique Abrams classic situates the painter in the context of his period, recreating New York’s social and cultural atmosphere in the 1940s. The writer retraces several of Pollock’s far-flung origins of work using considerable information of Pollock’s habits – most of it gathered via interviews – his readings, his discussion, and the exhibits he saw.
A plethora of comparison pictures of paintings by painters Pollock loved help to comprehend the work of this complicated, sad, and incalculably powerful individual. Pollock’s large, dramatic canvases are recreated in five hues to capture the brilliance of his tonal network, aluminum paint, and dazzling collage components. Six gatefolds display his massive horizontal paintings without deformation, and a timeline summarizes the important events in Pollock’s life.
- Six gatefolds show Pollock's vast horizontal works without distortion
- Chronology provides a summary of the major events of Pollock’s life
- Elaborates the development and story of Pollock's impressive career
Jackson Pollock: An American Saga (1998) by Steven Naifeh
This is the first book to examine a great artist’s life with the psychological depth that distinguishes the finest biographies of literary and political personalities. During their eight-year investigation, the writers discovered previously unpublished letters and papers, got entry to medical and psychiatric data, and met dozens of the artist’s colleagues and associates whose tales had never been shared.
They were also the first biographers in 20 years to work with Pollock’s widow, Lee Krasner. The upshot of these unparalleled efforts is a rich, sweeping, historic biography of one of the most intriguing people in American society; a bright, explosive “picture of the artist,” extensively researched, and lavishly illustrated volume.
- A definitive record of the journey of Jackson Pollock
- Filled with piercing psychological insights about the artist
- Brings you to an understanding of the power of his creative genius
Jackson Pollock, a famous 20th-century artist, changed the realm of contemporary art with his distinctive abstract painting methods. Jackson Pollock trained under Thomas Hart Benton before abandoning established methods to experiment with abstract expressionism through his splatter and action paintings, which entailed pouring paint and other substances directly onto canvases. Pollock’s traditions earned him both acclaim and scorn. In 1956, he was 44 years old when he died after driving intoxicated and collapsing into a tree in New York.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Did Jackson Pollock Die?
Pollock died in a car incident on August 11th, 1956, while driving under the influence of alcohol. Krasner was in Europe visiting friends at the time, and she returned shortly after hearing the news from a friend. Edith Metzger, one of the occupants, was also killed in the accident, which transpired less than a mile from his house. Pollock’s sweetheart, Ruth Kligman, was the sole passenger who survived.
What Was Jackson Pollock Known For?
Pollock’s flowing and pouring painting style is credited with helping to popularize the phrase, action painting. He was able to create his own distinct aesthetic using this method, with colors streaming from his selected tool onto the surface. He added a new dimension to his paintings by rejecting the convention of working on a vertical platform, allowing him to examine and apply paint from all angles. Jackson Pollock’s art has been widely criticized, with some applauding it as the finest paintings of its time and others dismissing it as a bad-natured joke. Despite such divergences of opinion, Pollock was undeniably one of the most important painters of his day, and some of his works have sold for among the highest prices ever paid for a painting. Furthermore, an examination of his work reveals that his drip paints closely mimic complicated repeating patterns observed in nature.