Jackson Pollock (January 28, 1912 – August 11, 1956), who marks the centenary year of his birth this year, was perhaps the most influential American painter of his generation. Pollock, who would have turned 100 in January, is being remembered at a New York City fundraiser later this month honoring a charity that aids struggling artists. The gala spearheaded by Academy Award-nominated actor and filmmaker Ed Harris, who spent nearly a decade making the 2000 film “Pollock will raise awareness of the charity.”There will also be exhibitions in Washington, D.C.,and at the Long Island home that Pollock shared with his wife, the artist Lee Krasner, in the Springs community of East Hampton. The house and barn is now a museum and study centre.
Paul ‘Jackson’ Pollock, was a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement, developing his unique style of drip painting. He put American art on the map, representing the first real break with the formal structures of European art. Pollock enjoyed much notoriety, due to his volatile personality a result of his struggle with alcoholism and in 1945, he married fellow abstract painter Lee Krasner, who became an important influence on his career and on his legacy. Pollock died at the age of 44 in a car accident. In December 1956. He was given a memorial retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York that year, and a larger more comprehensive exhibition at MOMA in 1967. More recently, in 1998 and 1999, his work was honored with large-scale retrospective exhibitions at MoMA and at Tate Modern in London.
Pollock studied under the ‘Social Realist’ painter Thomas Hart Benton at the Art Students League in New York. Benton’s rural American subject matter shaped Pollock’s work only fleetingly, but his rhythmic use of paint and his fierce independence were more lasting influences. From 1938 to 1942, Pollock worked for the WPA Federal Art Project.
Pollock was introduced to the use of liquid paint in 1936 at an experimental workshop operated in New York City by the Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros. He later used paint pouring as one of several techniques on canvases of the early 1940s, such as “Male and Female” and “Composition with Pouring After his move to Springs, he began painting with his canvases laid out on the studio floor, and he developed what was later called his “drip” technique, turning to synthetic resin-based paints called alkyd enamels, which, at that time, was a novel medium.
“My painting does not come from the easel. I prefer to tack the unstretched canvas to the hard wall or the floor. I need the resistance of a hard surface. On the floor I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting. When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. It is only after a sort of ‘get acquainted’ period that I see what I have been about. I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well”. — Jackson Pollock, My Painting, 1956
Today, Pollock artworks sell for tens of millions — one painting in 2006 reportedly sold to an unidentified collector for $140 million — but when the couple lived in East Hampton in the late ’40s and ’50s, they struggled to pay their bills. Harrison says there was one bounced check found amid Pollock’s papers for $4, and it was several years before the home was equipped with electricity and plumbing.