To think that America's greatest painter was born in a town with the population of 9,836 is a spectacle. Cody, Wyoming isn't exactly the place that you would imagine arguably the most influential artist in the mid 1900’s to be born but that's where it happened. His influence in the art world will be looked at as crucial for upcoming artists. Jackson Pollock not only changed the art world but he also changed culture in America for sometime to come, he truly shook up America.
Jack the Dripper also known as Paul Jackson Pollock was born on January 28, 1912 in Cody, Wyoming. His parents, Stella and LeRoy Pollock had five kids with Jackson being the youngest. When Jackson was 10 his mother took her sons too San Diego. While Pollock was born in Cody he spent most of his early life in California and Arizona. He never really did well in school though, from an early age in California he enrolled in art school but was later expelled. In 1930, when Jackson was just 18, he and his brother Charles moved to New York to study at the Art Students League. His teacher was Thomas Hart Benton, another rural artist who spent most of his career focusing on murals. During his life Pollock struggled with the chronic problem of alcoholism. He underwent therapy and psychologists asked him to draw during the sessions. They questioned his mental state and concluded that he may in fact had bipolar disorder. His studio was in East Hampton of Long Island New York. This is where he did most of all his work, his canvases were so big that sometimes they would take up the entire floor. His career really took off in 1936 when he was commissioned to paint Mural for Peggy Guggenheim's entry to her home. After this he gained a reputation as an incredible creative and his painting received immense fame. Arguably the biggest moment in Pollock's career was when Life Magazine published a story about Pollock titled with the simple question, “Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?” Ironically instead of him taking advantage of the spotlight and publishing more pieces of art Pollock abruptly ended his ‘drip style’ of painting to focus on new art that he had not experimented with in the past. Around this time Pollock's alcoholism got to an all time worse, it was taking over his life. Tragically Paul Jackson Pollock died in a car crash due to drunk driving on August 11, 1956 in Springs, New York. This is easily one of America's greatest tragedies. We will never know what Pollock could have been capable of if he was still alive. His story was one of triumph and heartbreak. He will forever be remembered as a revolutionary in his own right.
In his early years of painting Jackson pollock was not painting in his famous ‘drip’ style, that was not until 1947. His earlier works included more shapes and more distinct objects, an observer would be able to decipher what he was putting on the canvas. One of the most interesting factors that makes Pollock a revolutionary is his use of the floor. He painted all of his paintings on the floor of his studio in Springs, New York. Most of Pollock's most revolutionary and notable work took place in the time period of three years, 1947-1950. This period is known as the ‘Drip Period’. He used regular paint brushes sticks and even kitchen tools such as meat basters. Jackson was reshaping the way America saw art. Instead of somebody standing facing an upright easel he stood above the art and that made it possible for him too utilize his whole body and the whole canvas. In 1956 in an interview he stated, “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.” This shows the need for Pollock to be in and apart of his painting. His use of the canvas no matter how big truly inspired artists to do the same.
Pollock created his own style of art in America. Around this time in American history most painters represented the content that they were painting with direct or recognizable images. What Pollock did was different, he chose to represent he images in ways never seen before. They way that he was painting was they way he saw what was in front of him. He was ‘Expressing’ what he saw in different subjects. The definition of abstract is “Existing in thought of as an idea but not having a physical or concrete existence.” That's why Pollock is labeled as an Abstract expressionist, he is expressing his thoughts through expression and also he has an idea of a subject but didn’t paint it with a concrete outline.
Since Pollock's death there has been a number of loved and appreciated expressionists, before him there were not many. Pollocks main influences were Spanish and Mexican mural painters who worked on massive canvases stretching over ten feet. He most likely started working on paintings of this nature while he was working at the art students league, there he befriended Diego Rivera and David Alfaro Siqueiros. Both Rivera and Siqueiros were known for there massive oversized canvases. You can see the connection in some of the sizes of Pollock's paintings, his biggest Number 31 measured 8 x 17 feet which is truly massive for canvas piece. In his early days in art while he was still painting identifiable subjects Pollock was deep into American Regionalism. This is attributed to him studying under Thomas Hart Benton. Benton is easily recognized as the founder/influencer of American Regionalism. American Regionalism is most recognized as paintings of the Deep South of America. Highlighting rural America. It’s truly beautiful the way that these paintings are created. Long flowy lines and complex color palates. This influenced Pollock too be very imaginative in his use of colors in any art he did. The most definitive example of his use of colors is in his piece Convergence which he painted towards the end of his career in 1952. His use of Red, Yellow and hints of Blue over the dark and bland Tan/Black background show his immense knowledge of color combinations.
While Pollock was inspired by other artists, he inspired talented young artists as well. One of the most famous of these creators was Jean-Michel Basquiat. Just like how Pollock would paint his own reality in a violent way, Basquiat would take images such as a Boxer or a group of people and violently distort the features of the person in the painting. Another similarity between the two artists is the use of colors. Just like how Pollock was known for using bright colors but also used Blacks, Browns a Greys too give a dark twist to the painting. Basquiat used a wide range of different colors in various ways. Another artist influenced by Pollock was Keith Haring. Pollock influenced Haring differently then he influenced Basquiat. Instead of influencing his use of colors or use of subject matter, Pollock influenced Haring with the size of the artwork. Haring was famous for his massive murals that he would do on the sides of building or for private art dealers. One of his most famous works of art was when he painted an entire room, including the floor, walls and even the ceiling.
Throughout his career Pollock changed. Not only His paintings but him as a person. He was a dark man, chronically depressed and I think in it was showed through his art. If you look at his early paintings they show a reality that is imaginable by most people. He paints real things in a real way. Towards the end with his drip paintings there are no real examples of a reality that most anyone would be able to imagine. I think that as his life went more and more downhill the drip paintings were examples of his own reality. Unorganized and all over place have been used to describe his paintings but you could also argue that they can be used to describe his life as well. His reality must have been messed up if his paintings are in fact a direct replication of it. It’s well known that during his drip period Pollock was a Alcoholic, so most of the time while he was painting he was drunk. Could Alcohol and his unorganized painting style be linked? Most people believe so. With his unorganized style of art there isn’t really anyway to measure the content in his works. I think what makes Pollock one of the greatest artists of all time is how he painted not what he painted. Nobody before him had ever had ever just let the paint fall on the canvas itself with the success that Pollock had.
When you look at a piece of Pollock's artwork it feels like he was just letting the paint do what the paint wanted to do. Most artists are like the middle man, they have to be the one showing the paint where it needs to go onto the canvas so the onlookers can decipher what what paintings subject is. What Pollock did is different, it feels like he cut himself out of the way and just let the paint and canvas communicate with each other. Pollock not only created a new style of painting but he carved a new path for America to follow for decades to come. This beautiful synchronized art is why Jackson Pollock will be forever remembered as America’s greatest artist. Paul Jackson pollock is the greatest artist to ever have lived. His use of all types of art made him a true visionary. Who he influenced and how he influenced an entire generation of painters and artists alike carved him into history. The loss of his life at such a young age is one of America's tragedies that will forever be remembered. He is one of America's only true romantic artists. Many people try too distance pollock from the forefront of American creativity but no matter what they try to do his presence will be remembered for time to come.
Cite this Essay
To export a reference to this article please select a referencing style below