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Jackson Pollock

Art Essay / Artists  / Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock Biography

It doesn’t make much difference how the paint is put on as long as something has been said. The technique is just a means of arriving at a statement.Jackson Pollock

The creativity of the American artist, Paul Jackson Pollock, even during his lifetime, made his rich and famous. However, it also brought violent indignation of a number of critics who claimed that his works had nothing to do with true art.


The future leader of abstractionism was born on January 28, 1912. His father could not decide where to live, and therefore Jackson’s family changed their place for living frequently. When Jackson was born, they lived in Cody, Wyoming. Jackson Pollock realized that he did not have a special talent; however, rebellious nature persuaded him to play against all the odds, and at the age of sixteen, He enrolled in the Los Angeles Higher School of Applied Arts. Jackson was to study a year, yet due to his misbehavior, he was expelled from the institution.

Pollock’s decision to move to New York in 1930, was crucial in his life. He worked in the Regionalist style and was also influenced by Mexican muralist painter such as Diego Rivera, as well as by certain aspects of surrealism. He started taking classes in painting. His teacher, Thomas Benton influenced the style of the early Pollock’s paintings. On the other hand, his teacher was alcoholic which affected the style of Pollock’s life, and Jackson became addicted.

During 1930, Pollock was trying to find his individual style. His new works were created in the style of the European avant-garde. Jackson Pollock had a serious addiction and was hospitalized. In 1938, being in a psychiatric hospital, Pollock created many pictures, where he depicted his nightmares and visions. It made him famous. Using the sketches created in the psychiatric hospital, Pollock managed to prove that it doesn’t matter whether you can draw or not. Despite the weird style of Pollock’s painting, the one can see in his works the prototypes of real things. While being in the hospital, the artist decided to quit with addiction. He thoroughly read the works of famous philosophers, Jung and Freud.

The theories of these psychoanalysts and his “renewed” consciousness became, in fact, the base of his creativity and made him extremely successful. Jackson’s meeting with John Graham, an employee of the Metropolitan Museum, who was interested in the mysterious painting of the artist, was a success. The museum curator helped to create a new image of the artist. Later, Pollock met Lee Krasner, an artist who became his wife, and a “guide” in the world of New York’s avant-garde.

Pollock’s new acquaintances allowed him to be a part of an exhibition organized in 1943 by Peggy Guggenheim. The artist’s painting “The Stenographic Figure” wasn’t criticized and at the end of that year, Pollock had his first solo exhibition conducted. During this period, Pollock developed his own individual style of abstract art. Experts also noted that those paintings presented surrealism and the grotesque images created by Picasso.

Despite the fact that art admires accepted the works of Pollock with huge enthusiasm, his paintings were not lucrative except for the work entitled “Number 5. 1948”. In 2005, “Number 5, 1948” was bought for $ 140 million. The New York Times reported that David Geffen sold “Number 5, 1948”, along with paintings of Jasper Jones and Willem de Kooning. Geffen sold tree pictures for $ 283.5 million.

In 1945, he and his wife Lee Krasner settled on Long Island. It was the most fruitful period of Pollock’s life. Here he developed a “drip and splash” style of creating artworks, which made him famous worldwide. One should not forget that the “drip technique” was already used by Max Ernst. Pollock also experimented with different methods of applying materials to the surface of canvas earlier, cooperating with a Mexican master, Siqueiros.

“Number 5. 1948” is unique because Pollock painted in a strange way. He poured bright paint out on the piece of fibrolite, which was laid out on the floor. This work is considered to be the most expensive in the world.

Instead of working with the easel, Pollock placed the canvas on the ground, walked around it, and sprayed paint from brushes and syringes. His style was quite unique, and Pollock was given the nickname “Jack the Dripper.” In 1947, in one of his interviews, he said: “As for me, it’s much easier to paint on the floor. I feel free and can approach my work from any side.” American art critic Harold Rosenberg called his technique an action painting. Pollock’s artworks were considered revolutionary for many reasons.

For centuries, artists have sketched their ideas before creating the large-scale paintings. Pollock relied solely on his emotions and intuition rather than rational thinking. He trusted his muse. An integral component of the “spray technique” was a special paint with a strong tenacity, which would not be smeared when applied in such an unusual way. Therefore, the one could not use traditional oil paints and watercolors, as they were not suitable for creating such paintings. Thus Pollock was experimenting with synthetic paints. The dimensions of “Number 5. 1948” are 243.8 × 121.9 cm.

In 1951, the artist decided to change the technique of painting and started combining abstractions with surrealism. During this period, he primarily used dark and black shades.  By the mid-1950s, Pollock was experimenting with wide strokes. Besides, the artist decided to number works instead of giving them full names. According to the author, a beholder was supposed to understand the essence of the picture by its number.

On August 11, 1956, Pollock died in an accident, driving his own car. Some sources believe that it was a suicide.

In 1973, Pollock’s painting “The Blue Columns” was sold for $ 2 million. Unfortunately, Pollock did not live when his paintings were considered to be the most expensive. While art experts and collectors are spending millions to buy Pollock’s paintings at the auctions, a lot of people are still puzzled why abstract paintings, created in a weird manner, worth such money.

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