Jackson Pollock
Year, Birthplace 1912, United States
Year, Place of death 1956, United States
Jackson Pollock, the son of a farming family, spent his childhood in Arizona before moving to California, where he studied fine arts in Los Angeles. It was then that he became interested in the culture of Native Americans. He moved to New York in 1930 with his brothers, Charles and Sanford, who were also painters, in order to attend the painter Thomas Hart Benton’s course at The Art Students League of New York for two years. Benton’s regionalist themes did not interest Pollock but he gained a strong interest in rhythmic and dynamic surfaces from his teacher and remained in touch with him. He was also interested in Indian handicrafts, frescoes by Mexican muralists (he met José Clemente Orozco, watched Diego Rivera working and participated in a workshop with David Alfara Siquerios in 1936), and Joan Miró and André Masson’s painting, from which he developed a physical rather than a psychic automatism. But his greatest influence was Pablo Picasso. After working as a stone cutter and teaching at the school where he studied, Pollock was employed between 1935 and 1943 by the Federal Art Project, a scheme created by the Work Progress Administration to integrate art into public buildings and to help artists who were struggling in the face of the Great Depression. In 1937, Pollock started psychiatric treatment to overcome the alcoholism that he had suffered since his youth. He received treatment for this throughout his life. He mainly painted mythological themes and representations of the human body, although after 1942/1943 it is possible to discern linear strokes or patterns of crude colours that form compositions without vantage points, from which figuration disappears completely. In 1941, his companion and future wife Lee Krasner, also a painter, began to introduce him to circles of young New York painters, particularly abstract impressionists, and he also met William Baziotes, Robert Motherwell and Roberto Matta. Peggy Guggenheim began helping him in 1943 by organizing a solo exhibition at her gallery, the Art of this Century, and by ordering a mural from him for the entrance to her New York home and signing a contract with him. He then participated in various exhibitions which brought together surrealists in exile. He became well-known and one of his paintings was acquired by the MoMA in New York in 1944. He left New York in 1945 to settle in East Hampton on Long Island with his wife. It was there, in 1947, in the garage of his home The Springs, which he transformed into a studio, where he abandoned the traditional paintbrush in favour of dripping paint onto a canvas arranged horizontally on the ground or, a technique that he particularly favoured, pouring running paint directly from the can, sometimes with the help of a stick. The paintings acquire the form of colourful interlacings, deposited over a canvas stretched out on the floor, which do not favour any particular direction of interpretation. Pollock is one of the adherents of what the art critic Harold Rosenberg would call 'action painting', a gestural approach to painting, the prolongation of surrealist automatism, which involves a physical interaction between the artist and the canvas. Pollock’s latter years were marked by a creative crisis which saw him return to a form of black-and-white figuration reminiscent of Picasso, after which there followed a period of inactivity. He died tragically in a car accident when he was forty-four years old. AC
1938 - 1941