10 things to know about Jackson Pollock

Jackson Pollock, 26A Black and white, 1948
26A Black and white, 1948

Going beyond the limits of the medium, this is Jackson Pollock’s (1912-1956) incontestable remit, father of abstract expressionism, original pope and forebear of “all-over”. By promoting New York as the artistic capital during the prolific 60’s, the painter didn’t stick to traditional features but a historical period in its entirety.

In order to better understand this iconic figure, Artsper reveals 10 key facts that are helpful not only to understanding his work but also his elusive character.

#1  “Jackson”, a recent alias

Jackson Pollock
Pollock in his studio

Birth Name: Paul
Pseudonym : Hugo
Surname : “The first ice breaker” by William De Kooning, Jack the dripper
Adopted in 1930 : Jackson

#2 One must first begin with sculpture and then painting

Jackson Pollock, “Untitled” (1956)
Jackson Pollock, “Untitled” (1956)

#3 Due to the collector Peggy Guggenheim, his work became part of the art world

Peggy Guggenheim and Jackson Pollock
Peggy Guggenheim and Jackson Pollock in front of Mural. © Photo George Kargar

#4 Due to Clement Greenberg’s theories, his fame flourished

The Irascibles protest their exclusion from a New York exhibition in 1950. Back row: Willem de Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, Ad Reinhardt, and Hedda Sterne; middle row: Richard Pousette-Dart, William Baziotes, Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, Robert Motherwell, and Bradley Walker Tomlin; front row: Theodoros Stamos, Jimmy Ernst, Barnett Newman, James Brooks, and Mark Rothko. Photographed by Nina Leen, © Getty Image
The Irascibles protest their exclusion from a New York exhibition in 1950. Back row: Willem de Kooning, Adolph Gottlieb, Ad Reinhardt, and Hedda Sterne; middle row: Richard Pousette-Dart, William Baziotes, Jackson Pollock, Clyfford Still, Robert Motherwell, and Bradley Walker Tomlin; front row: Theodoros Stamos, Jimmy Ernst, Barnett Newman, James Brooks, and Mark Rothko. Photographed by Nina Leen, © Getty Image

Modernist pictorial art, especially decorative, attract more attention on the physical and immediate qualities of the painting” wrote Clement Greenberg, arbitrator of a merciless battle in the art theories of the 20th century but mainly the father of modern art critic, ardent partisan of abstract expressionism and of Jackson Pollock.

#5 His expressionist works combine two influences : a formalist and surrealist trend

Image property of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.
© Jackson Pollock Blue poles 1952. oil, enamel, aluminum paint and glass on canvas 212.1 x 488.9 cm . National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, purchased 1973 Pollock-Krasner Foundation/ARS. Represented by Viscopy

#6 His creative process holds healing properties

Jackson Pollock
Jackson Pollock painting

He leaned towards using the ground as his canvas, rather than an easel, Pollock swapped his paint brush for his body. Through the dripping method, the latter fidgeted frantically to create a perfect combination of colors and texture. For a while, Pollock underwent psychiatric treatment to cure alcoholism. This treatment included sessions with the psychoanalyst Joseph L. Henderson but also Dr. Violet Staub de Laszio. Both of them used Pollock’s drawings, his all-over as a therapeutic method.

#7 He draws inspiration from the shamanic culture by spreading a mystical breath

Jackson Pollock
Guardians of the Secret, 1943

“He strives to represent the dangerous vacuity of this society and points out the possible ways to transform these, Pollock drew inspiration from strengths and images of the subconscious and the cultural richness of the world, through the past but also modernity. He called upon new sources of spiritual transformation, which was abandoned by the industrial urban society”, highlights Stephen Polcari, teacher of Art History at the Chapman University, during the Jackson Pollock and shamanism exhibition at the Paris Art Gallery in 2008.

#8 Albert Pinkham Ryder, his favorite painter

Albert Pinkham Ryder, Moonlit Cove, 1880
Albert Pinkham Ryder, Moonlit Cove, 1880

#9 Hans Namuth and his films shape up the Pollock myth

 #10 The “Infinite”, key element of his process

jackson pollock in studio
Jackson Pollock in his studio

« One day, a critic wrote that my works didn’t have a starting point or an end. He wasn’t looking to pay me a compliment but he did”, said the artist.

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