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    A Summary of Jackson Pollock’s Contribution in the American Art History

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    Jackson Pollock was an American abstract artist born in Cody, Wyoming in 1912. He was the youngest of his five brothers. Even though he was born on a farm, he never milked a cow and he was terrified of horses because he grew up in California. He dropped out of high school at the age of seventeen and proceeded to move to New York City with his older brother, Charles, and studied with Thomas Hart Benton at the Art Students League.

    Thomas Benton was already a great artist at the time in which Pollock studied with him. Benton acted like the father figure in Pollock’s life to replace the original that wasn’t there. Benton was known for his large murals that appear on ceilings or walls. “Jack was a rebellious sort at all times,” recalls his classmate and friend, artist Harold Lehman. He grew his hair long and helped pen a manifesto denouncing athletics, even though “he had a muscular build and the school wanted to put him on the football team,” says former teacher Doug Lemon. Pollock always was upset with himself in his studies because he had troubles drawing things like they were supposed to look. From 1938 to 1942, Jackson joined a Mexican workshop of people with a painter named David Siqueiros. This workshop painted the murals for the WPA Federal Art Projects.

    This new group of people started experimenting with new types of paint and new ways of applying it to large canvas. People say that this time period was when Jackson was stimulated with ideas from looking at the Mexican or WPA murals. Looking at paintings from Picasso and the surrealists also inspired Jackson at this time. The type of paint they used was mixing oil colors with paint used for painting cars.

    Jackson noticed that the shapes and colors they created were just as beautiful as anything else was. Jackson realized that you didn’t have to be able to draw perfect to make beautiful paintings. Jackson started developing a whole new way of painting that he had never tried before and his paintings were starting to look totally different from before. Jackson also started action paintings, which are paintings that are abstract, but get the word action from the way they are made.

    In 1947 Pollock produced his first totally abstract “drip” painting. Jackson usually laid out large canvas and stood over them dribbling paint in wide arcs or straight lines or any way he thought to be fit. “If you want to look at a face”, said Pollock in 1949, “look at one.” “On the floor I am more at ease, I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk around in it, work from the four sides and be literally in the painting.”-Jackson Pollock, 1947. This made time magazine give him the nickname, “Jack the Dripper” in 1956.

    Pollock’s paintings usually go against the majority of paintings by not having a focal point so that the dribbled paintings can be looked at as a whole. When Pollock developed his “action” paintings, he was influenced by Surrealist ideas of “psychic automatism”, which is direct expression of the unconscious. Due to alcoholism, Jackson had an unhappy personal life.

    In 1945, Jackson bought a farmhouse and finally married his girlfriend Lee Krasner. Lee was an abstract artist as well and she used one of the bedrooms as a studio while Jackson resided his work in the barn. It wasn’t till Jackson died till Lee’s work began getting some recognition. During the 1950’s Pollock continued to paint figurative or semi-figurative black and white works. Jackson Pollock died in a 1956 car crash caused by drunk driving at a premature age of 44. He died alongside Beat novelist Jack Kerouac and actor James Dean and was labeled one of the 50’s rebels.

    That gruesome death gave the Abstract Expressionist movement unprecedented public recognition and conclusively transformed Pollock the man into Pollock the myth. Though Pollock never sold one of his 340 lifetime paintings for more that $10,000 in his lifetime his works have since fetched up to $18 million and he has become a celebrity.

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    A Summary of Jackson Pollock’s Contribution in the American Art History. (2022, Dec 15). Retrieved from

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