Jackson Pollock Dripped His Way to Modern Art Stardom

"No. 5" (1948)
"No. 5" (1948)
Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock
"Blue Poles No. 2" (1952)
"Blue Poles No. 2" (1952)
"No. 1 1950" (Lavender Mist)
"No. 1 1950" (Lavender Mist)
Close-up of "Lavender Mist"
Close-up of "Lavender Mist"
Ed Harris plays Jackson Pollock
Ed Harris plays Jackson Pollock
At the art gallery
At the art gallery
"The Woman Cuts the Circle" (1943)
"The Woman Cuts the Circle" (1943)
"Blue (Moby Dick)" c. 1943
"Blue (Moby Dick)" c. 1943
"Shimmering Substance" (1946)
"Shimmering Substance" (1946)
"Cathedral" (1947)
"Cathedral" (1947)
"No. 1A" (1948)
"No. 1A" (1948)
"The She-Wolf" (1943)
"The She-Wolf" (1943)
"The Key" (1946)
"The Key" (1946)
"The Tea Cup" (1946)
"The Tea Cup" (1946)
"No. 8" (1949)
"No. 8" (1949)
"Autumn Rhythm No.30" (1950)
"Autumn Rhythm No.30" (1950)
"Convergence No. 10" (1952)
"Convergence No. 10" (1952)
"Easter and the Totem" (1953)
"Easter and the Totem" (1953)
"No. 1" (1949)
"No. 1" (1949)
"Mural" (1943) Can you see Jackson Pollock's name in it?
"Mural" (1943) Can you see Jackson Pollock's name in it?
Thomas Hart Benton
Thomas Hart Benton
Willem de Kooning
Willem de Kooning
Willem de Kooning's "Women V" (1952-1953)
Willem de Kooning's "Women V" (1952-1953)
Peggy Guggenheim
Peggy Guggenheim
Lee Krasner
Lee Krasner
Lee Krasner's "Gouache No. 5" (1942)
Lee Krasner's "Gouache No. 5" (1942)
Krasner's "Nude Study from a Still Life" (1938)
Krasner's "Nude Study from a Still Life" (1938)
Pollock in the studio
Pollock in the studio

They called him Action Jackson and Jack the Dripper

 

Jackson Pollock became a legendary figure in the world of twentieth century art. His paintings, some of which took only hours to produce, have sold for over $100 million apiece, as much as works by Old Masters, Impressionists such as van Gogh or Monet or abstract artists such as Picasso or Matisse.

Of course, it wasn’t what Pollock painted so much as how he applied pigment to canvases – dripping liquid paint from cans, splattering or slapping it from brushes or sticks, or squeezing it from tubes or syringes; and whatever fell on the painting became part of it, be it cigarette butts, paint tube tops, pebbles, nails, buttons, tacks, coins or matches, because, as far as Pollock was concerned, there were no accidents. Pollock’s paintings were as spontaneous as a lightning bolt.

Then there were Pollock’s notorious troubles. When he wasn’t painting, he seemed to be drunk, and while drunk he seemed to be causing trouble, getting thrown out of bars or offending people. Then, later in life, when he lost his muse and couldn’t paint, he started sleeping around with much younger women and then ran his car off the road and into a tree, seemingly in an act of suicide. Pollock made this spectacular exit, dying young at 44.

Now let’s look at this talented, mercurial man’s career, viewing it from different angles, times and places:

The first Pollock impersonator on record is none other than Hans Namuth, the photographer and film maker whose still and moving images of Pollock at work in 1950 established and perpetuated Pollock’s “action painter” persona.

* * *

In a letter written in 1929, Pollock expressed admiration for the work of Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera, particularly his painting, Dia de Flores.

* * *

Unless otherwise mentioned, all the quotes in this article come from Helen A. Harrison’s book, Such Desperate Joy: Imagining Jackson Pollock, an anthology of excerpts and articles about Jackson Pollock published in 2000.

* * *

In an examination by The Examining Medical Officer of the Selective Service System, Jackson Pollock was found to have “a certain schizoid disposition” underlying the instability of his personality. Pollock was also known to be suffering from acute alcoholism. Consequently, Pollock wasn’t drafted into military service for World War Two.

* * *

In a letter written in 1947, Pollock wrote, “When I am painting I am not much aware of what is taking place – it is only after that I see what I have done.”

* * *

In a radio interview given in 1950, Pollock said, “The modern artist is living in a mechanical age and we have a mechanical means of representing objects in nature such as the camera and photograph. The modern artist, it seems to me, is working and expressing an inner world – in other words – expressing the energy, the motion, and other inner forces.”

* * *

Later in the same interview, Pollock said, “Naturally, the result is the thing – and – it doesn’t make much difference how the paint is put on as long as something has been said. Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement.”

* * *

During the fall of 1951, Pollock, in an effort to treat his drinking problem, began a so-called “Proteen” diet of soy-milk, vegetables, nuts and fruits, with many restrictions regarding the preparation and cooking of such. The treatment was unsuccessful.

* * *

On the night of August 19, 1956, Jackson Pollock died in an automobile crash just 300 yards from his home. (Edith Metzger also died in the crash, while another young woman, Ruth Kligman, survived.) Not long before Pollock’s accident someone else had died on this dangerous stretch of road. Reports varied on whether Pollock was drunk. Soon, the Highway Department worked to make this section of the road safer.

* * *

Shortly after Pollock’s death, Thomas B. Hess wrote, “It is fair to say, I believe, that the paintings of Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, Hans Hofmann, Adolph Gottlieb, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman, Richard Pousette-Dart, Ad Reinhardt, Jack Tworkov, Esteban Vicente, and others who have made modern American painting the most vital movement at mid-century, were, in one way or another, given fresh impetus by the pictures of Jackson Pollock exhibited in 1943 to 1948.”

* * *

In 1957, B.H. Friedman wrote, “Pollock’s ‘abstractions’ are ‘abstractions’ of the creative act itself, of his own being. In this sense they are far less abstract than most representational pictures. Remember Blake’s ‘If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”

* * *

At the end of Freidman’s eulogy, he wrote, “The important thing is that when Jackson Pollock’s body was buried one sad, sunny afternoon in Springs, Long Island, none of his paintings were buried with him.”

* * *

In the early 1930s, Jackson Pollock was a star pupil of American regionalist Thomas Hart Benton. Painting in a realistic way, many thought Pollock had as much artistic flair as Benton.

* * *

According to Selden Rodman, Pollock once told him, “I don’t care for ‘abstract expressionism’, and it’s certainly not ‘nonobjective’; and not ‘nonrepresentational’ either. I’m very representational some of the time, and a little all of the time. But when you’re painting out of your unconscious, figures are bound to emerge. We’re all of us influenced by Freud, I guess. I’ve been a Jungian for a long time.”

* * *

Eight weeks before Pollock’s death, Seldon Rodman interviewed him. This was how Rodman described Pollock’s atelier: “The main studio was an extraordinary sight. Huge paintings, some of them twenty or more feet long, demonstrated clearly enough what he had meant. They weren’t French, or even American. They were simply Pollock. Paint laced, slashed, or dripped on canvas after canvas, but always arrestingly, authoritatively, as only he can do it: undeniably the expression of a tormented but vital personality. Even the patterns of paint on the floor itself, where lines and drops of pigment had spilled over from the edges of the recumbent canvases, were recognizably ‘Pollock.’ “

* * *

When talking to Rodman, Pollock said: “I never give away anything unless I love it.” Also, when Rodman offered to give Pollock one of his daughter’s paintings, Pollock said, “I hate paintings.”

* * *

Life Art editor, Dorothy Seiberling, wrote, “At art school, Pollock created conflicting impressions. Thomas Benton considered him a very fine colorist but not an exceptional student. With anatomy and perspective, he was out of his field. He was incapable of drawing logical sequences. He couldn’t be taught anything. His fellow students, on the other hand, were stunned by his drawings. ‘They were so individual,’ one of them recalls. They had tremendous energy. Everyone talked about them.’ “

* * *

Seiberling also wrote, “By 1950 Pollock began to be a celebrated, if controversial, figure in the art world. He sold a dozen paintings to museums and collectors across the country and a coterie of admirers sprang up around him. As his acclaim and income grew, Pollock fell more and more into a state of depression and unease. An off-and-on drunker since he was 18, he plunged into prolonged bouts of drunkenness.”

* * *

Dr. Edwin H. Heller, a general practitioner, got Pollock to do what nobody else had been able to do: Pollock quit drinking form 1948 to 1950. Apparently the doctor and Pollock just talked.

* * *

Lee Krasner was also an important painter, as well as Pollock’s wife for 11 years. She wrote: “I will tell you a story about de Kooning. Jackson and he were standing at the Cedar Bar, drinking. They started to argue and de Kooning said something very nasty to him. There was a crowd around them and some of the fellows tried to egg Jackson on to hit de Kooning. Jackson turned to them and said, “What me? Hit an artist?” He was not violent. Angry, yes. Bitter, yes. Impatient, yes. Not violent.”

* * *

According to Krasner, Pollock said, “There’s no problem painting at all; the problem is what to do when you’re not painting.”

* * *

Peggy Guggenheim, Pollock’s art dealer, wrote, “When I first exhibited Pollock he was very much under the influence of the Surrealists and of Picasso. But he very soon overcame this influence, to become, strangely enough, the greatest painter since Picasso.”

* * *

Also, Guggenheim wrote, “One day Mrs. Harry Winston, the famous Detroit collector, came to the gallery to buy a Masson. I persuaded her to buy a Pollock instead.”

* * *

When asked about the years she spent with Pollock, Lee Krasner said, “I gave a whole lot to the relationship, but I received a lot too,” she said. “It’s very nice to have someone you can really share things with. We had together a general, big understanding of the meaning of art and what our interests were. And when things were peaceful, there was a quietness and a calm that I haven’t experienced since.”

* * *

Joseph L. Henderson, Pollock’s psychiatrist opined, “Every creative person has a period of incubation, you might say, before they do any big creative work. It’s very similar to a kind of agitated depression. They’re usually in a very depressed state, very unsure of themselves, very disturbed indeed, until the creative process gets started, and then it carries them beautifully.”

* * *

Pollock said this about women: “Women are in my work, some way. There’ll be women in my death too – bound to be.” (Two women rode in the car with Pollock when he crashed it.)

* * *

Jeffrey Potter wrote: “Lee (Krasner) looked upon Jackson as a full-time job and she made it possible for him to survive as a person. I am convinced that without her, Jackson would not have lived to be forty-four years old; although he was a pretty ancient forty-four when he got there.” Potter also thought that powerful women such as Krasner and Peggy Guggenheim figured prominently in Pollock’s life.

* * *

According to Sam Hunter, Pollock acknowledged Albert Pinkham Ryder as the only American master who interested him at all.

* * *

Sam Hunter also wrote that Pollock produced non-objective art from 1946 to 1951, drip paintings from 1949 to 1950, and then returned to the tube pigmented brush in 1953.

* * *

Art critic Harold Rosenberg wrote, “Drip-painting contact contains no principle of resistance. It offers the temptation to roller-coaster thrills. A painting like Pollock’s Number Seven, 1950, analyzed layer by layer, amounts to a record of glides and turns whose major quality is headiness. Lacking Pollock’s magical mission, such paintings fulfill themselves exclusively in the aesthetic and represent his jazz music for the avant-garde art world.”

* * *

Artist Robert Motherwell wrote this about Pollock: “What Pollock stands for, perhaps most of all, is that in the end there are no art rules, or that the rules are no good, that only when a man really asserts his identity, even if to the point of convulsion, does his medium rise to the character of style. That Pollock meant most of all to me; that is, the creative power of anger and negation. The destructive side of these we know too well, Abstract Expressionists perhaps most of all, with many of us prematurely in the grave.”

* * *

Andy Warhol to Ivan Karp: “You mean I don’t have to drip?”

* * *

Andrew Kagan wrote: “Among the forces which guided his (Pollock’s ) steps along the path toward improvisatory painting, none I think was more specifically decisive for his art than the improvisations of jazz music, which he loved and followed closely.”

* * *

Kagan also wrote, “Pollock was especially well suited to this fanciful vision of ‘noble savage’ because of his slightly brutish appearance, his violent temperament, and his upbringing in the ‘wild west’ of Wyoming.”

* * *

Paul Jenkins stated: “He (Pollock) was the one that Robert Motherwell remembers as having said, when put to the wall, ‘Yes, it does belong to the unconscious.’ But you’ve got to turn the unconscious into a painting and not make it an illustration of someone’s fantasy. And he was able to do that.”

* * *

When Picasso’s mural, Guernica, was shown in New York City in 1939, Pollock, Krasner and other Works Progress Administration (WPA) artists studied it for hours at a time.

* * *

In the spring of 1956, Pollock made three attempts to watch the American premier of Samuel Beckett’s existential masterpiece, Waiting for Godot. With the entrance of the character Lucky, bound at the neck like a donkey, and crawling on his hands and knees, Pollock burst into tears and fled the theatre. Apparently Beckett had touched Pollock’s rawest nerve. Pollock likened this scene to a difficult birth – being dragged out of and cut from the womb.

* * *

To artist Hans Hoffman, Pollock declared, “I am nature.”

* * *

Pollock said there were three great artists: Picasso, Matisse and himself.

* * *

About artist and friend Willem de Kooning, Pollock said he was “a damned good painter, but he never finishes a painting.”

* * *

When asked what Pollock thought was the greatest work of art in North America, he said Jose Orozco’s, Prometheus, a fresco displayed at Pomona College in California.

* * *

Daniel T. Miller, the owner of the general store in Springs, Long Island, New York, saw a lot of Pollock during the 11 years Pollock lived there (after having moved from NYC). About Pollock’s legendary drinking, Miller said, “When he’d been drinking he was immediately foul-mouthed and irresponsible and he got himself kicked out of almost every gin-mill around because he was offensive.”

* * *

Miller added, “When he (Pollock) first came here he was almost, you could say, a happy man, and he was not happy when he died. He was not happy at all, he was frustrated.”

* * *

Willem de Kooning told about a time when he and Pollock and other friends were having dinner at a restaurant. It was a small place with many small windows. Pollock looked at this guy and said, “You need a little more air,” and then he punched a window out with his fist.

* * *

Art critic, Clement Greenberg, who championed Pollock’s work throughout the 1940s, said that Pollock lost his inspiration in 1952, during his black and white period.

* * *

After finishing Hans Namuth’s film one chilly day in October 1950, Pollock immediately began drinking whiskey again (he had quit entirely from 1948 to 1950.) At a dinner party that night at Pollock and Krasner’s home, Pollock, without warning, overturned a table filled with food.

* * *

When Namuth asked Pollock, “Why do you destroy yourself?” Pollock answered, “I can’t help it.”

* * *

Paul Brach wrote, “Jackson shot up the frontier town of modern art.”

* * *

Jackson Pollock: “If just five people understand what you are doing, that’s enough.”

* * *

In a September 2009 article of Smithsonian magazine, Henry Adams claimed that Pollock had written his name in the painting, Mural, (1943).

* * *

Ruth Kligman, the lone survivor of the car crash that killed Pollock, said that when Pollock died his soul entered her body. “And when I was convalescing in the hospital,” she said, “he came and visited me.” Kligman also claimed that if Pollock hadn’t died, they would have gotten married. (At the time Pollock died, he and wife Lee Krasner had separated.)

* * *

Ruth Kligman later became involved with painters Willem de Kooning and Jasper Johns. Kligman also befriended Andy Warhol, but he, after reading Klingman's book, Love Affair: A Memoir of Jackson Pollock, didn't like her very much. Eventually Kligman became a kind of art world Yoko Ono, loved by some and hated by others. Incidentally, Kligman also did some painting.

* * *

Pollock once told Willem de Kooning: “You know more, but I feel more.”

* * *

In the play, Number One: A Pollock Painting, first produced in 1997, the Jackson Pollock character states: “They’re making bombs that obliterate entire cities. The world right now, the future is so fucked up nobody knows what’s going to happen. Things are not in balance – we are not in balance. That’s where my art comes from.”

* * *

As shown in a cartoon by Peter Arno, while viewing a Pollock drip painting, one man says to another: “His splatter is masterful, but his dribbles lack conviction.”

* * *

Actor Ed Harris played Jackson Pollock in the movie Pollock, released in 2000 (Harris also directed the movie). About playing the part, Harris wrote: “I was difficult to balance what I perceive as Pollock’s innocence with what I see as his calculated ability to get what he wanted. I needed to reveal his gentleness and also his meanness, his confidence and his deep insecurity, his fear and his courage, his manners and his sometimes aggressive incivility, his love for people and his selfishness, his competitiveness and his search for purity.”

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Comments 27 comments

suziecat7 profile image

suziecat7 6 years ago from Asheville, NC

This is a wonderful Hub but I must say Pollock was never one of my favorites. You did a lot with this article - very enjoyable. Thanks.


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 6 years ago from California Author

Yes, I'm afraid Jack Pollock annoyed some folks; nevertheless, I love many of his drip paintings. You can kind of roll your own with them. Later!


HubCrafter profile image

HubCrafter 6 years ago from Arizona

Kosmo:

Wow. I just stored this in a newly created folder in My Favorites. The title?

MUST READS.

That's for Hubs that SO blow me away; I've gotta go back to them again and again.

I'm one of those people who think we are what we read...a little of what touches us deeply, becomes part of us. This personal collection of Hubs is to invigorate that process.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feelings about Jackson Pollock. I, too, am a believer in this innocent, yet insecure man.

HubCrafter


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 6 years ago from California Author

Thanks for the compliment, HubCrafter. Jack Pollock was a fascinating, though volatile person. I love his paintings too. Later!


Gerg profile image

Gerg 6 years ago from California

Very good retrospective, Kosmo - Pollock is certainly a noteworthy character study. Interesting that this perspective describes many artists, “There’s no problem painting at all; the problem is what to do when you’re not painting.”

G


Shinkicker profile image

Shinkicker 6 years ago from Scotland

I saw some of his paintings for the first time in the Peggy Guggenheim Museum in Venice this summer. It was certainly worth seeeing them up close, especially 'Alchemy'


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 6 years ago from California Author

Unfortunately I've never seen a Pollock painting up close. I'd really like to see one of his large ones, though any would do. Later!


RosWebbART profile image

RosWebbART 6 years ago from Ireland

Jackson Pollock is the way artists should be; would love to see his work in the flesh. Great hub.


nikki1 profile image

nikki1 6 years ago

awesome artwork / very informative.


SuperChix 143 profile image

SuperChix 143 6 years ago from USA

Awesome hub! Pollock is one of my favorites


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 6 years ago from Houston, Texas

My husband and I saw that movie you mentioned at the end of your hub and it was great! Incidentially, Dr. Robert Rogan who was the head of the art dept. at Lamar University in Beaumont created some Jackson Pollock-like paintings (not his usual style) and we had one of them hanging in our home for years. Did a hub on (Bob) Rogan showing his paintings if you are interested. While not (yet) as famous as Pollock, I think that you would find it interesting.

Thank you for showing so many Pollock paintings. Saw some in this hub that were new to me. Rating this useful and beautiful!


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 6 years ago from California Author

Thanks very much for your comment, Peggy W. I'll look at your story about Robert Rogan. Anyway, I think my best story about artists is the one I did for Andy Warhol. Later!


megni profile image

megni 5 years ago

Awesome is my vote. I watched a Netflick documentary about him recently and you're right, he was nearly always drunk. Your hub is one of a kind, too. I will get back to it from time to time when I want to learn more about this painter.


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 5 years ago from California Author

Thanks very much for the comment, megni. I'll take accolades whenever I can get them. Later!


phdast7 profile image

phdast7 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

Wonderful, wonderful Hub. So glad I found it, well found you. Great to read and great to look at. I know I will be returning.


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 5 years ago from California Author

Thanks for the comment, phdast7. I really like to write about deceased artists. Later!


giocatore profile image

giocatore 4 years ago

Great hub, you must have devoted much work to it! Cheers.


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 4 years ago from California Author

Thanks for the comment, giocatore. Yes, I did spend lots of time writing this hub. I spent even more time on the one about Andy Warhol. Later!


giocatore profile image

giocatore 4 years ago

I will look at your Warhol hub. I watched a two-part documentary on Warhol recently, finding part 1 to be quite interesting and part 2 rather depressing, with its emphasis on the factory and the various hangers-on.


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 4 years ago from California Author

Hey, giocatore, Warhol's Factory crowd had a number of people who weren't interested in art, just partying hard and looking hip. I guess they could have been called sycophants. Later!


carlarmes profile image

carlarmes 4 years ago from Bournemouth, England

Digging around Hubpages and fell on your Hub, nice one, I have only recently got into his work and have started a couple of my own abstract pictures inspired by his work. I even make a hub about it. http://hubpages.com/art/Abstract-Art-project-The-S...


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 4 years ago from California Author

Thanks for the comment, carfarmes. I certainly like Pollock's drip paintings and it looks like you do too. Later!


chef-de-jour profile image

chef-de-jour 4 years ago from Wakefield, West Yorkshire,UK

It's great to see a hub like this with quotes and insights and comments. If you've ever seen a drip painting by Pollock close up you'll know how overwhelming some of them can be. I recall the first time I saw Summertime 9A - that black contrasting with the yellow and paler colours reminded me of a wild bird's egg - some of the patterns on the eggshell can be incredibly similar! - but the intensity is powerful.

You've given many paintings of his to compare and contrast and that's useful. He certainly stirred up the art world in the years following the second world war - what a time it was for New York....Pollock, Kerouac, Ginsberg and his mob!

Votes for this hub.


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 4 years ago from California Author

Thanks for the comment, chef-de-jour. I also like this hub a lot and, understandably, I also like Pollock's artwork. Kerouac and Ginsberg were very interesting and talented people as well. Later!


chong 4 years ago

love dis site, great info


Wesselgaard 4 years ago

Jackson Pollock, maybe the most important art painter ever. Once you have seen his paintings you cannot forget.

The timing, from beginning of his life 1912 until to day 2012 he manage to become a representing icon of his time, for us to review the past.

What he saw and understood to what he reviled; we to day see the bits and glints of his time in the most beautiful way.

Not the poverty he experienced in the beginning of living in New York, or the poor people he lived together with under the great depression in the 1930th; how he himself had to - more or the less - find his food and accept “unemployment pay” from the government and living in cold apartments together with his brothers.

We do not see this. We do not se the photo of a young man, very beautiful, a mother’s darling and a father’s proud ness.

We saw a man getting lower and lower down in his own life, fighting with his inner demons. We saw a man getting older and more and more crazy, while his wife had to coop everyday with his bad behaviour and mood, only to find moments of joy and happiness.

We saw finely a man going to peaces and dreaming of a life of love and understanding but without no consolation what so ever, but his love to a young lady coming to an end in a fatal car accident.

He managed to reveal the beauty of life “even so” for us to day, that we might understand. Yes, as times go by we only remember the beautiful moments, usually.

A Genius of his time and his art. The ultimate art from Jackson Pollock, New York 1949 -- spring, winter.

When time and space find each other, led by a master - everything possible can happen. This was Jackson Pollock moment and to day we step back in admiration.

Jackson Pollock New York, spring -- winter – private collection.

This is Jackson Pollock when he is best. To the best of my knowledge the year 1949 was his year.

His talent spread over various styles and techniques until he finely developed his true art. To hold so mush hidden love and admiration over life and beautiful environmental feelings must be any artists dream.

With Jackson Pollock it came true.

Living his life with the emotional burden from childhood, the culture change from Wild West to a different environment in New York especially during the 1930th with the crises and hardships until he finely was accepted as the artist he wanted to be.

I hope you will enjoy it.

Around the Museum: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUE9i-mHdPM

Close up: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=StVY9ljydxw

Kindly

Wesselgaard


Kosmo profile image

Kosmo 4 years ago from California Author

Thanks for your long-winded comment, Wesselgaard. Later!

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