1912: He was born in Cody, Wyoming, United States
1935-1943: He worked for the WPA and painted under the influence of Picasso and Surrealism
1956: He died in a car accident
He began to study painting in 1929 at the Art Students' League, New York,
under the Regionalist painter Thomas Hart Benton.
During the 1930s he worked in the manner of the Regionalists, being
influenced also by the Mexican muralist painters
(Orozco, Rivera, Siqueiros)
and by certain aspects of
From 1938 to 1942 he worked for the Federal Art Project.
By the mid 1940s he was painting in a completely abstract manner,
and the `drip and splash' style for which he is best known emerged with
some abruptness in 1947. Instead of using the traditional easel he affixed
his canvas to the floor or the wall and poured and dripped his paint from
a can; instead of using brushes he manipulated it with `sticks, trowels
or knives' (to use his own words), sometimes obtaining a heavy impasto
by an admixture of `sand, broken glass or other foreign matter'.
This manner of Action painting had in common with Surrealist theories
of automatism that it was supposed by artists and critics alike to result
in a direct expression or revelation of the unconscious moods of the
Pollock's name is also associated with the introduction of the All-over
style of painting which avoids any points of emphasis or identifiable
parts within the whole canvas and therefore abandons the traditional idea
of composition in terms of relations among parts. The design of his
painting had no relation to the shape or size of the canvas -- indeed in
the finished work the canvas was sometimes docked or trimmed to suit the
image. All these characteristics were important for the new American
painting which matured in the late 1940s and early 1950s.
During the 1950s Pollock continued to produce figurative or quasi-figurative
black and white works and delicately modulated paintings in rich impasto
as well as the paintings in the new all-over style. He was strongly
supported by advanced critics, but was also subject to much abuse and
sarcasm as the leader of a still little comprehended style; in 1956
Time magazine called him `Jack the Dripper'.
By the 1960s, however, he was generally recognized as the most important
figure in the most important movement of this century in American painting,
but a movement from which artists were already in reaction
His unhappy personal life (he was an alcoholic) and his premature death
in a car crash contributed to his legendary status. In 1944 Pollock married
Lee Krasner (1911-84), who was an Abstract Expressionist painter of some
distinction, although it was only after her husband's death that she
received serious critical recognition.
Pollock was the first ``all-over'' painter, pouring paint rather than using
brushes and a palette, and abandoning all conventions of a central motif.
He danced in semi-ecstasy over canvases spread across the floor, lost in
his patternings, dripping and dribbling with total control. He said:
``The painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through.''
He painted no image, just ``action'', though ``action painting'' seems
an inadequate term for the finished result of his creative process.
Lavender Mist is 3 m long (nearly 10 ft), a vast expanse on
a heroic scale. It is alive with colored scribble, spattered lines moving
this way and that, now thickening, now trailing off to a slender skein.
The eye is kept continually eager, not allowed to rest on any particular
area. Pollock has put his hands into paint and placed them at the top right--
an instinctive gesture eerily reminiscent of cave painters who did the same.
The overall tone is a pale lavender, maide airy and active. At the time
Pollock was heiled as the greatest American painter, but there are already
those who feel his work is not holding up in every respect.