Jackson Pollock Blog

Pollock’s enduring life and celebrated


Feb 15 2012 10:54PM | by Staff Editor

If there’s really just one Pollock exhibition you see this year, it has to be this collection of Pollock artwork, photos and other memorabilia. Sure, it is not an exhibition of Pollock paintings per se, but the rich biographical diversity and insight from “Memories Arrested in Space: a centennial tribute to Jackson Pollock from the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art” is simply a must see. We can’t emphasise “must see” enough, well, actually we could, but we don’t want to treat you like a 5-year-old child. The material from the Smithsonian contains hundreds of scanned photos, letters, postcards, rare printed material, writings and other forms of memorabilia, many of which are available at the organisation’s website here. The exhibition opened on the 100th year of Pollock’s birthday on January 28 at the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery in the Smithsonian’s Donald W. Reynolds Center for American Art and Portraiture, and will remain on show until May 15. One of the reasons why the show is just so great is the organiser behind it: the Pollock-Krasner House and Study Center and its director, Helen A. Harrison. As Harrison said: “Jackson Pollock rewrote the modern art rule book—in fact, he burned it. Fortunately,... Read more

A monkey paints like Pollock? Also, a Lagrange update


Dec 27 2011 09:18AM | by Staff Editor

We’re not sure if Abstract Expressionist master Jackson Pollock will be so thrilled with this post, or either Andy Warhol for that matter, but a monkey is now selling artworks to help expand the zoo that he’s a part of. The monkey is named Pockets Warhol because of his wild white hair, but apparently that’s where the resemblance stops. The artwork he creates is more abstract in style, leading his handlers to quip that he may be a reincarnation of the late Pollock. The monkey Pockets is a white-capped capuchin monkey, and predominantly paints with his tail, hands, feet and sometimes, his handlers cheekily note, a brush. Zoo volunteer Charmaine Quinn introduced Pockets to painting a year ago when she gave him some non-toxic children’s paint to keep him occupied. “Pockets has always been very playful so he really took to painting, however, he does have an artistic temperament and can lack concentration, sometimes preferring to eat the paint,” she said. Pocket’s star is also on the rise – a resident of the Story Book Farm in Canada, he’s sold paintings to European visitors, with his furthest fan from Israel. With works priced about $250, all proceeds go to a... Read more

Color Field, Still, Rothko and Pollock paintings


Dec 25 2011 09:11PM | by Staff Editor

Art is filled with instances of the ugly-pretty twin motif and dynamic. On the stage, there’s the recent example of Wicked featuring Elphaba Thropp (“ugly”) and Galinda Arduenna Upland (“pretty”). For a classical storytelling bend, there’s Cinderella and her stepsisters. The motif is also present in some art movements and forms, although when we speak about ugly-pretty, it is more applied to popularity, rather than the art on canvas, given the very subjective nature of art. In the Abstract Expressionist world the popular – and thereby pretty artists – have always been the likes of Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning, sometimes known as the Action Expressionists due to their approach to the canvas and the finished products. But what about the less popular artists and sub-movements? We’ll now have a look at Colour Field, sometimes seen as the ugly twin in the story of Abstract Expressionism. Colour Field painting was a style of abstract painting that emerged in the 1940s and 1950s in New York City. It is distinguished from Pollock paintings and other “action” or drip style abstract expressionist works through its use of flat and solid colour painted across the canvas, usually creating areas of continuous surface... Read more

The Abstract Expressionist style history guide


Nov 30 2011 06:09PM | by Staff Editor

Our previous blog post noted Pollock, along with many other American artists, were responsible for what many critics and scholars agree was America’s first original art movement. Born in the WWII years in New York, its style was wholly original, and it was propagated by a group of identifiable artists who had a framework, loose as it might be, as to what they believed they were creating. Many artists within the Abstract Expressionist tag disagreed with the label, it should be noted: Mark Rothko, for example, vehemently disagreed with suggestions his Colour Field style paintings were abstract, although labelled so by the rest of the community. This disagreement points to a greater issue at the heart of any discussion of style and history: to what extent is a movement truly original? A large part would be the degree of innovation contained within the paintings, and to identify that, it is important to know where the style came from. Abstract expressionism, along with Pollock paintings, drew on the long and rich history of pre WWI and WWII modern art movements. The most important movement was Surrealism, which first broached the idea of unprompted, automatic or subconscious creation in writing and painting.... Read more

Pollock and Abstract Expressionism


Nov 21 2011 11:15AM | by Staff Editor

We’ll admit partial guilt in this blog post to focusing on Abstract Expressionism (sometimes, “The New York School”) too heavily on Jackson Pollock. Indeed, we’d be the first to admit that the term encompasses far more than one artist, or indeed, one city (New York, New York) or even one country (the United States). Hence, we hope to make amends in this blog post by examining the movement at large and providing, we hope, a good context to the movement that spawned out of artists such as Lee Krasner (1908–1984), Willem de Kooning (1904–1997), Franz Kline (1910–1962), William Baziotes (1912–1963), Mark Rothko (1903–1970), Robert Motherwell (1915–1991),Barnett Newman (1905–1970), Richard Pousette-Dart (1916–1992), Clyfford Still (1904–1980) and Adolph Gottlieb (1903–1974). Given America’s close cultural links with Europe, it is particularly hard to brand an art movement 100% born of the stars and stripes. However, art historians widely agree that Abstract Expressionism was the first specifically original American art movement to gain worldwide influence after its birth in the 1940s in New York City. The movement’s name represented a distinctive amalgamation of self denial and emotional force; furthermore the movement had an anarchic, highly idiosyncratic, iconoclastic and rebellious feel to it, in many... Read more

Lee Krasner paintings: influence/influenced on/by Pollock?


Oct 30 2011 11:14AM | by Staff Editor

In a previous post we mentioned a new biography about Lee Krasner, partner, painter-in-arms and wife to Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock. It would be a balanced statement to point out that for much of her life Krasner lived in Pollock’s shadow. But that wasn’t always the case: before Krasner met Pollock she was an up and coming star herself. Born in New York to Jewish-Russian immigrants, Lena Krassner attended The Cooper Union and the National Academy of Design. She then worked for the WPA Federal Art Project from 1935 to 1943. It was during her time at the WPA that her own abstract expressionist roots started to take place. In 1937 she studied under Hans Hofmann who at the time taught Cubism. One famous quote, reflecting the gender bias in art at the time, has Hoffman saying: “This is so good you would not know it was painted by a woman” when referring to a Krasner painting. In fact, Krasner’s first exhibition of abstract expressionist work predates Pollock: in 1940 she started showing her works with the American Abstract Artists, a group of American painters. In 1945 she married Pollock, and from then on her own output decreased dramatically, while... Read more

Jackson Pollock: An American Saga


Oct 18 2011 10:12AM | by Staff Editor

It’s time to focus on an oldie but a goodie, as they say, and if you have an Amazon account you can pick up a second hand copy for as little as USD $6.99. The book we are talking about is Jackson Pollock: An American Saga, first published in 1990. Its authors are Steven Naifeh and Gregory White Smith, who are, for all intensive purposes, professional biographers. Before starting the book you should note it won the Pulitzer Prize for a biography in 1991 and for good reason: it is gripping, lively and broached new ground and never before examined influences on Pollock’s work. But it was also not without controversy – for example the writers imply Pollock had homosexual experiences and indeed possibly repressed a homosexual identity, an allegation refuted by his brother, Frank Pollock, at the time. So what are the most fascinating details of Pollock’s life in the book? There are so many, but one concerns the primary inspiration for Pollock’s drip technique: watching his father urinate on a flat rock when he was young. According to Naifeh and White: “Standing over the canvas, flinging a stream of paint from the end of a stick, Jackson found... Read more

Prince on Pollock artwork: photo processing


Oct 02 2011 12:11PM | by Staff Editor

Richard Prince, born 1949, is an American artist best known for his post-modern photographs. Post modern is really just a fancy-pants way of saying the following: he took famous images used in the media, de-contextualised them, and photographed the images in different places. Often, the images had extended meanings. The best example of this was his work Untitled (Cowboy), a re-photograph of the famous Marlboro cowboy originally taken by Sam Abell. Prince’s work was the first to attract more than USD $1 million at an auction, when it was sold in 2005 at Christie’s New York. For Prince, though, a career in art was only made possible thanks to the inspiration of one man: Jackson Pollock. Indeed, Prince credits Pollock paintings and the man himself with sparking his interest in art. According to a much published interview quote: “I was very attracted to the idea of someone who was by themselves, fairly antisocial, kind of a loner, someone who was non collaborative.” Timing was on Prince’s side: he grew up when Pollock reached the height of his career, meaning the dripper’s artwork was easily accessible. After high school Prince attended Nasson College in Maine and upon graduation he moved to... Read more

Pollock painting Blue Poles elicits wide social debate


Sep 18 2011 07:27PM | by Staff Editor

What is it with Jackson Pollock and his Abstract Expressionist ability to grab headlines for the most expensive oil paintings ever? Currently, he holds the record for the most expensive oil painting sold at auction - USD $140 million for No. 5, 1948. But back in 1973, Pollock was also grabbing headlines for his work Blue Poles, which was bought for USD $2 million. Back then, the price tag gave it the status as the most expensive American painting. Not only did it add further value to Pollock paintings, it caused a storm of controversy as the purchaser was the Australian government. Let’s get a few background facts about Blue Poles first. The work is an oil on canvas painting and is considered one of Pollock’s masterpieces. First exhibited in 1952, it measures 210 cm × 486.8 cm and is owned and displayed at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, where it is considered one of the most famous and popular pieces of artwork. Its full name is Blue Poles: Number 11, 1952, in line with Pollock’s stance that he didn’t name paintings in fear that it would influence the viewer’s perceptions (Blue Poles was added by Pollock at a... Read more

Protecting the Pollock painting legacy


Sep 04 2011 09:47PM | by Staff Editor

Jackson Pollock is one abstract expressionist who doesn’t need an introduction. What is little known about him is that his famous drip style technique, and the subsequent results, were only developed after Pollock and his wife moved to Springs, in the town of East Hampton on Long Island, New York. The famous abode featured a wood-frame house and studio on a picturesque 6300 square metres, with the nearby Accobonac Creek touching off this idealistic picture. Since his and his widow’s death, the house and studio has been turned into the Pollock Krasner House & Study Center. The site, and indeed the website, is simply an area on the “must visit” list of any Pollock fan. The rural farmhouse at 830 Springs Fireplace Road started its life in 1878 when a certain James S. Corwin, a local fisherman, built his home. Just 10 years later Mr. Corwin sold the property to Adeline H. King, who sold it to David Howard just two years later. The house stayed in the Howard family until 1926, when it was sold to John Quinn, whose son inherited it. Upon his son’s death in 1944 the homestead was put on the market, where it remained for... Read more

Dripped – Pollock paintings and the man in animation


Aug 08 2011 10:08AM | by Staff Editor

To date the only full length feature film portraying Jackson Pollock has been the 2000 Pollock, featuring Ed Harris as the alcoholic, abstract expressionist painter. The film captured the struggle between his emotional weaknesses, psychological disorders (he was diagnosed with depression, while doctors later believed he suffered from bipolar disorder) and volatile personality, all within the context of his relationship with his wife, artistic sounding board and business advisor, Lee Krasner. The film was largely praised by critics and earned various nominations acknowledging so. Fast forward 10 years to 2010 and another short film aims to pay homage to the great painter, but in a slightly different fashion. Dripped was created this year and went viral in art circles, courtesy of the internet and the great 21st century institution, YouTube. The animated short film, 8 minutes in total, was the result of French animator Léo Verrier, who wanted to pay homage to one of his favourite artists. The film is a whimsical take on Jackson’s well known love of jazz and art, and his eventual epiphany that his true talent won’t result from the assimilation of other’s works. To that effect, Pollock is basically rendered as a brigand and professional... Read more

Big Dripper. Little Dripper: Tale of a 4-year old Jackson Pollock?


Jul 24 2011 10:01PM | by Staff Editor

We’ve all walked into a gallery and said, “Pfeh, a child could do that.” However, do we mean it as a compliment or an insult? Picasso famously said, “All children are artists.” And perhaps as adults, most of us become art critics. But many people associate creativity with youth. Enter Aelita Andre, a professional artist whose artworks sell for thousands of dollars, and who currently has an exhibition in New York’s Agora gallery. And, by the way, she’s four years old. Perhaps some will groan at the obvious child abuse, accusing parents of cashing in on a gimmick while riding a trend of mortgaging childhoods for adult pursuits like jobs or sexual relationships. Some may think it’s adorable to see a little girl producing works that draw comparisons with Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso. Others will use it as ammunition to skewer those artists for producing works on par with a toddler. Her parents, both artists, say Aelita came to art organically. They will tell stories of how the little one crawled onto canvasses and began painting at nine-months, and began producing oil paintings at age two. Some people barely have any memories prior to primary school; this girl already... Read more

There can only be one Jackson Pollock


Jul 11 2011 11:51AM | by Staff Editor

You know what is probably the most annoying thing you could say to an artist? That their work looks exactly like . Every artist strives to be an individual, to contribute something to the world that is uniquely them, for better or for worse. One artist who continues to be artistically referenced is Jackson Pollock. Nearly every day he’s mentioned in the news – but perhaps that’s the territory that comes with being a founding father of Abstract Expressionism. All Pollock paintings in his famous Drip style are instantly recognisable. And sadly, any artist who has come after him invariably gets compared to Jackson Pollock. Take for instance Chinese ink painter Zheng Chongbin. He was born in Shanghai and attended the China National Academy of Fine Arts in the 1980 where he studied calligraphy and ink painting. In 1991, the San Francisco Art Institute selected Zheng to be its first international fellow. He arrived in the United States and was immediately influenced by the expressionist style, which he fused with traditional ink methods of Chinese painting. Zheng differs from Pollock in that he delicately layers his ink onto rice paper in a traditional technique thousands of years old, compared to... Read more

The death of Jackson Pollock and Conrad Marca-Relli


May 24 2011 10:11AM | by Staff Editor

Imagine this: you hear the screech of tyres, a loud bang and then silence. You run out of your peaceful countryside house and see your neighbour’s car strewn off the side of the road. You race back into your house, call the police and ambulance and run out to see if you can assist in any way. But at the scene you realise the driver and a passenger aren’t moving. They are not breathing either. The driver was your neighbour and friend, Jackson Pollock. The police ask you to officially identify the body, and you do. Your name is Conrad Marca-Relli. Marca-Relli and his wife moved to Springs in 1953, where they settled into the same street that Jackson Pollock lived in. The budding collage artist believed the countryside would help him artistically; his belief was well founded. Pollock and his wife Lee Krasner had made the same move in 1945, resulting in the famous Springs period of Pollock paintings. Pollock and Krasner welcomed their neighbours with warmth and good old southern hospitality – they hosted dinners for Marca-Relli while they adjusted and offered their help whenever they could, especially when Marca-Relli and his wife started some home renovations. Writing... Read more

New Biography of Jackson Pollock's Wife Released


May 03 2011 09:29AM | by Staff Editor

The field of art history is littered with love stories. Diego Rivera had Frida Kahlo. Pablo Picasso had Dora Maar. John Lennon had Yoko Ono. Perhaps one of the most famous artistic couples is Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner. The stormy, troubled relationship between the two has been made famous in countless articles and films. In these depictions, Krasner was always in a supporting role, helping her husband to overcome his challenges while she put her own career on hold. Now, with the release of a new biography, Krasner is coming to the forefront. "Lee Krasner: A Biography," is written by Gail Levin, who worked as a friend and mentor to Krasner. The two knew one another for many years, which allows Levin to pepper the story with anecdotes about Krasner that Levin observed with her own eyes. Krasner was born in 1908 and knew from a very young age that she wanted to be a painter. Her Russian immigrant parents weren't fond of this idea, however, and provided her with no encouragement. This didn't deter Krasner, however, who went on to study art at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Art and Science and the National Academy of... Read more

Controversy Swirls Over Pollock Painting


Apr 26 2011 11:51AM | by Staff Editor

In February of this year, Jackson Pollock was once again in the news. A Pollock painting owned by the University of Iowa generated front-page headlines as students, legislators and museum officials fought over whether the painting should be sold or preserved in the museum's collection. In 1951, Peggy Guggenheim gave the University the Jackson Pollock painting entitled Mural (1943). Guggenheim provided emotional and financial support to Pollock many times during his career, and she had built up an extensive collection of Jackson Pollock paintings during this time. Mural is a large-scale action painting by Jackson Pollock, very similar to Convergence: Number 10 and Lavender Mist No. 1, currently available on our website. These are paintings full of motion and movement, painted with traditional brushes as well as nontraditional tools such as sticks and fingers. Guggenheim likely felt the painting was safe in the hands of the University, as museum rules usually dictate that artwork cannot be sold or given away to pay off debt. In February, Republican legislator Scott Raecker introduced a bill to force the university to sell the painting and set up a scholarship fund for students with the proceeds, estimated at $140 million. This touched off a... Read more

Letters Help Illuminate the Life of Jackson Pollock


Apr 10 2011 05:42PM | by Staff Editor

Paintings by Jackson Pollock can be difficult to interpret. Images such as Lavender Mist, with their swirling masses of color and line, are fairly dense. What is he trying to say with these colors? Is he trying to say anything about the human experience at all? When faced with these sorts of questions, critics often study the life of the artist. Perhaps by learning more about what the artist did, saw and wrote, more clues can be discovered to help make the meaning of the paintings more clear. The Jackson Pollock biography just became slightly more enlightening, with the production of a new book. "American Letters," to be released in the United States in April, contains a treasure trove of letters that may help scholars understand Pollock's early life. "American Letters" covers the years 1927 to 1947, and contains letters by Jackson Pollock and his family. During this time, the Great Depression hit America hard. Jobs were extremely hard to come by, especially in states in the center of the country. Due to over planting of crops, poor soil management and drought, the center of the United States became a wasteland where no crops would grow. Families began to splinter... Read more