Jackson Pollock

Convergence, 1952


     Jackson Pollock was born on January 28, 1912 in Cody, Wyoming.  Growing up in Arizona and Chico, California, Jackson was the youngest of five sons.  While living in California, Jackson enrolled in Los Angeles' Manual Arts High School where he then later got expelled. In 1930, Pollock moved to New York with his brother Charles Pollock where they both studied under Thomas Hart Benton at the Arts Student League of New York. From 1938 to 1942, Jackson Pollock worked for WPA Federal Art Project.  

     In 1936, Pollock was introduced to liquid paint at an experimental workshop in New York City.  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.  He would also use a mixture of controllable and uncontrollable factors. Flinging, dripping, pouring, and spattering, he would move energetically around the canvas, almost as if in a dance, and would not stop until he saw what he wanted to see.

     In October 1945 Pollock married American painter Lee Krasner, and in November they moved to what is now known as the Pollock-Krasner House and Studio in Springs on Long Island, New York.  There is where he perfected the technique of working with paint with which he became permanently identified.  Pollock's most famous paintings were made during the "drip period" between 1947 and 1950.  In 1955, Pollock painted Scent and Search which would be his last two paintings and he did not paint at all in 1956.

     On August 11, 1956 at 10:15 pm and after struggling his whole life with alcoholism, Jackson Pollock died in a car crash in his Oldsmobile convertible while driving under the influence of alcohol.  One of the passengers, Edith Metzger, was also killed in the accident while the other passenger, Pollock's mistress Ruth Kligman, survived.  Along with his problem with alcoholism, it's recently been concluded that Pollock may have also had bipolar disorder throughout his life as well.  Jackson Pollock and his wife Lee Kranser are buried in Green River Cemetery in Springs on Long Island, New York with a large boulder marking his grave and a smaller one marking hers.

Artist Medium

-  Liquid paints

-  Canvas

-  His own body

-  Synthetic resin-based paints called alkyd enamels

-  Hardened brushes

-  Soft brushes

-  Sticks

-  Basting syringes

-  Easel (rarely)


"Studies by Taylor, Micolich and Jonas have examined Pollock's technique and have determined that some works display the properties of mathematical fractals. They assert that the works become more fractal-like chronologically through Pollock's career. The authors even speculate that Pollock may have had an intuition of the nature of chaotic motion, and attempted to form a representation of mathematical chaos, more than ten years before "Chaos Theory" itself was proposed. Other experts suggest that Pollock may have merely imitated popular theories of the time in order to give his paintings a depth not previously seen" (Jackson-Pollock.org).

     In 1956, Time magazine dubbed Pollock "Jack the Dripper" as a result of his unique painting style.  Pollock also rocketed to popular status following an August 8, 1949 four-page spread in Life magazine that asked, "Is he the greatest living painter in the United States?"  In December 1956, the year after his death, Pollock was given a memorial retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.  He was then given another memorial in 1967.  His work has continued to be highly honored, with frequent exhibitions at both the MoMA in New York and the Tate in London in 1998 and 1999. He remains one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.


Splash & Splatter

-  Invite students to experiment with Action Painting like the famous artist Jackson Pollock.  Place white papers in the bottom of a large open box. Put the box on the floor. Mix a variety of paint colors such as browns, blacks, blues, and yellows in varying proportions, or choose your own colors. Add white for a lighter tint. Add a small amount of water so the paint flows smoothly.  Demonstrate using sweeping motions, spattering and dripping paint onto the paper for students.  Finally you can hangup the paintings in the classroom and be sure to provide time at the end of the activity for students to discuss how their movements created unusual, creative aspects to their paintings.

Project #31

Examples of Pollock's Work

The Flame, 1938
Ocean Greyness,1953
Simmering Substance, 1945
White Light, 1954


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