Jackson Pollock

"It doesn't make much difference how the paint is put on as long as something has been said. Technique is just a means of arriving at a statement."

Artwork by Sabaridas

Artist Jackson Pollock dribbling sand on painting while working in his studio - Photo by Martha Holmes

Convergence, Jackson Pollock 1952

Jackson Pollock

Strokes of Enigma

The essence of his painting was the mystery. There is no way to interpret it other than in a way you see it. Pollock’s painting is an enigma that stands through time. Often, abstractionism is associated with the unconscious and maybe in his paintings, Pollock is suggesting the mystery of the human unconscious.

When we look at Pollock's life, we see a young artist troubled and ruined by alcohol. Somehow the relationship with the city made Pollock more miserable with his life. He longed for the life that is set in the words of Thoreau. A life that was in touch with nature. Pollock’s life can be made into segments based on the type of his works. Firstly, he was influenced by the Indian Traditional Art, then Mural works of great artists. When Picasso’s works became famous in America, Pollock experimented with Cubism. He then moved on to surrealism and was inspired by Russian social surrealism.  He created his own style which later came to be known as the Drip Painting, a form of radical surrealism. Working with wet paint and huge canvases he somehow combined his experienced and expertise in different practices and gave way to a radical new movement.

Paul Jackson Pollock was born in Cody, Wyoming, in 1912. He was the youngest son of a family of Irish-Scottish descent. The family moved to San Diego when he was ten months old. He had a tough childhood. Pollock’s two older brothers also perused art. They encouraged him to move to New York. In 1930 Pollock moved to New York and took guidance under Regionalism painter Thomas Hart Benton at the Art Students League. Pollock was interested in the Mural Paintings of Old Masters. He spent a good amount of time observing muralists and there he picked up on unorthodox painting techniques.

President Roosevelt initiated a program called the Public Works of Art Project. It was a factory that mass-produced paintings. Pollock and his Brother Sande both worked at the PWA. Many associates his depression with the loneliness he felt working at PWA. The PWA was not successful, the paintings were stored in a storeroom and later on, many of the works were burned. Some of Pollock’s first watercolour works were also burned and lost forever.  

The economic conditions in the USA were also in turmoil. The Great Depression and the war had an adverse effect on its people. The country was going through a hard time and in the in his early twenties, Pollock suffered a mental breakdown. He relied heavily on Alcohol and his depression. He started receiving treatment under various Jungian Psychoanalysts.

1991 he met a young artist named Lee Krasner. Soon they fell in love and got married in 1994. This is also the time when art promoter Peggy Guggenheim showed interest in Pollock's works. The couple bought a farmhouse on long island and moved away from the city. This transformation from the bustling sad city of New York to the bosom of nature had a positive impact on his works and his life. It is here he created his drip paintings. He let the paint drip from his tools on to the canvas laid on the floor. In 1949 his show at the Betty Parsons Gallery was sold out. He found fame. And many critics argued that he was the best artist America has ever seen.

This fame also led to his downfall. Many people called him a fraud for his unusual technique. The media got interested in his personal life. And eventually, even Pollock began to doubt his integrity as an artist after he started doing self-promotion videos and photographs. He slid back into alcoholism and people were eagerly waiting for his downfall.

His personal life had several ups and downs. With his constant drinking and rage, he created a bad image for himself. His paintings slowly found fame but his life slowly faded. He got back to drinking and family problems. It was recorded that Pollock was in a depression in the late stages of his life, relying heavily on alcohol.

An artist is also a person. We need not look too deeply into the personal life and they have no obligation to the public to lead a life that the society expects them too. Pollock was different. His art was his life, it had layers and layers of meaning but people took interest in his personal life rather than his paintings. Maybe his drinking was his way of suppressing his emotions from the world, just a shade that will eventually lead him to death.

The reason why Pollock is credited to be one of the most famous artists in American history is that while most of the artists relied heavily on techniques that originated in Europe, Pollock did something very different. He set the canvas in motion with his flowing paint and marked an identity for himself in American art history

Written by: Tom J Pulickan


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