Jackson Pollock

Art on this Day
On this day 61 years ago (11 August 1956) died American artist Jackson Pollock, a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement. He was known for his unique style of drip-painting. He enjoyed considerable fame during his lifetime and was considered as one of the major artist of his generation. Pollock was born the 28th of January 1912 in Wyoming but grew up in Arizona and California. His father was born McCoy, but took the surname of his neighbours, who adopted him after his parents died within a year of each other. He moved to New York in 1930 following his older brother Charles Pollock, where they both attended the Arts Students League under Thomas Hart Benton. In the 1930s, he travelled extensively through the United States and finally settled in New York in 1934 where he worked on the Works Progress Administration Federal Art Project. During this time, Pollock was struggling with his alcoholism.



In the summer of 1943, Jackson Pollock was commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim to paint a mural for her Manhattan townhouse. At this time, the artists was still unknown and struggling financially with his future wife artist Lee Krasner. Pollock also signed a monthly contract that lasted until 1947. He created a mural he described as “a stampede of every animal in the American West”. In 1945, he married artist Lee Krasner, who became a major influence on his career and later his legacy.



In the mid-1940s, Jackson Pollock was painting increasingly in an abstract manner. From 1947, he developed his “drip style”, marked by the use of sticks, trowels, or knives to drip and splatter paint, as well as pouring paint directly from the can. This style was reminiscent of the Surrealists’ notions of the subconscious and automatic painting. Drip painting also helped the development of Abstract Expressionism. At the peak of his fame in 1950, Pollock dropped the drip style. His following work is considerably darker in colour. These paintings referred as “Black Pouring” were unpopular at the time, as during the exhibition, none of them sold, as this departure from his early style was not what his collectors wanted from Pollock. In 1956, Pollock’s relationship with his wife began to deteriorate as he started an affair with Ruth Kligman and his struggle with alcoholism. He died in a car crash on the 11th of August 1956, while driving under the influence of alcohol. His widow Lee Krasner managed his estate and ensured his reputation until her death in 1984.