Paul Jackson Pollock by Spike Ress

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It’s a pleasure, following my post on the Guggenheim Museum – Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum to feature another piece from Spike Ress – our Utah based watercolorist colleague who is painting some beautiful landscapes featuring some very big skies. Over to Spike for his study of the life and  work of the iconic artist, Paul Jackson Pollack, written to commemorate the anniversary of his birth.

Paul Jackson Pollock (1912 – 1956)

Today is the birthday of Paul Jackson Pollock. He was born January 28, 1912 and only lived until August 11, 1956. Pollock, was an influential American painter and a major figure in the abstract expressionist movement. He was well known for his unique style of drip painting.

Pollock was born in Cody, Wyoming in 1912, the youngest of five sons. His father, LeRoy Pollock was a farmer and later a land surveyor for the government, moving for different jobs. Jackson grew up in Arizona and Chico, California. While living in Echo Park, California he enrolled at Los Angeles’ Manual Arts High School from which he was expelled.

In 1930, following his older brother Charles Pollock, Jackson moved to New York City where they both studied under Thomas Hart Benton at the Art Students League. Benton’s rural American subject matter had little influence on Pollock’s work, but his rhythmic use of paint and his fierce independence were more lasting.

From 1938 to 1942, during the Great Depression, Pollock worked for the WPA Federal Art Project.

Trying to deal with his alcoholism, from 1938 through 1941 Pollock underwent Jungian psychotherapy with Dr. Joseph Henderson and later with Dr. Violet Staub de Laszlo in 1941-1942. Henderson engaged him through his art, encouraging Pollock to make drawings. Jungian concepts and archetypes were expressed in his paintings. Recently historians have hypothesized that Pollock might have had bipolar disorder.

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Pollock was introduced to the use of liquid paint in 1936 at an experimental workshop 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,

During his lifetime Pollock enjoyed considerable fame and notoriety, a major artist of his generation. Known to be reclusive, he had a volatile personality and struggled with alcoholism for most of his life. In 1945 he married the artist Lee Krasner, who became an important influence on his career and on his legacy.

Pollock died at the age of 44 in a single-car accident while driving under the influence of alcohol.

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In December 1956, only 4 months after his death, Pollock was given a memorial retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City. A larger, more comprehensive exhibition of his work was held again at the Museum of Modern Art in 1967. Pollock’s work was honoured in 1998 and 1999 with retrospective exhibitions at both MoMA and at The Tate in London.

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