Jackson Pollock was a true innovator in modern art for his style of painting. To celebrate his 110th birthday, Musement looks at 10 of the most iconic Jackson Pollock paintings.
American painter Paul Jackson Pollock was a key figure in the Abstract Expressionism art movement. Born on January 28, 1912, in Cody, Wyoming, Pollock would have celebrated his 110th birthday this year. The artist only lived until he was 44 years old but made such a significant impact in the art world that he is sometimes dubbed the greatest American painter to live.
Pollock was known for action painting, or the “drip” technique paintings, which required the use of his entire body to splash, spill and pour paint all over his canvas. Instead of traditional paintings with symbols and objects, “Jack the Dripper” focused more on letting his feelings and emotions speak through his works.
Keep reading to take a journey through some of the American artist’s most famous paintings.
1.The She Wolf, 1943
Prior to his renowned “drip” technique, Pollock’s works focused on Native American culture and classical mythology themes. This theme was often used by the Abstract artist and fellow artists during the global crisis.. Many believe that the animal found in the painting refers to the Roman myth of Romulus and Remus, but that is up to the viewer’s discretion. The She Wolf was Pollock’s first work ever acquired by a museum, when it appeared at the MoMA in 1944.
2. Mural, 1943
Pollock’s first commissioned work was for the legendary art collector Peggy Guggenheim. What was intended to be used in Guggenheim’s townhouse wound up becoming the turning point for American art, transitioning from representation paintings to action paintings. After months of being “blocked” and staring at a blank canvas, Jackson Pollock completed one of his most famous paintings in just one night. Mural explodes with colors and swirly lines that represent a “stampede of every animal in the American West.”
3. Full Fathom Five, 1947
This masterpiece was one of Pollock’s first works displaying his drip technique. Its name comes from a direct Shakespeare quote from The Tempest where Ariel mentions a death by shipwreck. His use of dark blacks, deep greens, and ocean blues takes the viewer’s mind off the shiny silvers, portraying the fatal shipwreck. Full Fathom Five has numerous referents and gives both a two and three-dimensional appeal to viewers. If you look closely, you can see nails, matches, coins, and other random objects from Pollock’s studio he placed on the painting to give it a three-dimensional look.
4. Number 17A, 1948
Number 17A is an oil paint on fiberboard canvas that perfectly demonstrates the new drip technique that Pollock introduced to the art world. His use of different colors allows viewers to follow each movement and the precise control Pollock had. After being featured in the August 1949 edition of Life, Pollock’s stardom grew tremendously. In 2015 the painting sold for $200 million, becoming the most expensive painting ever sold at the time.
5. Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), 1950
Three years after creating his first “drip” painting, Pollock created what is known as his most famous work in October of 1950. To aid in completing this piece of work, Pollock used any sort of unorthodox tool from trowels to knives, sticks, and syringes. While it might seem like his works were just paint thrown onto a canvas, Pollock was a true genius and placed each stroke or splash more strategically than the last. Autumn Rhythm took several months to finish and is a must see when visiting The Met.
6. Number 1 (Lavender Mist), 1950
After suffering from alcoholism, Pollock decided to leave the hustle and bustle of New York City and headed out to a quieter place on eastern Long Island. Pollock set up shop in a small barn next to his house and would lay out canvas on the floor to complete his work. Layering the hues of greens, black, white, and hints of brown gives the painting an earthy and three-dimensional feel. “Jack the Dripper’s” handprints and shoeprints can be seen on the canvas, showing his literal involvement in his works.
7. One: Number 31, 1950
With dimension of 8’ 10” x 17’5”, this masterpiece is one of the largest paintings that Pollock completed. Like many of his works, Jackson Pollock used numbers to title this work instead of words because numbers are unbiased and neutral. One: Number 31 was painted with the canvas lying on the ground and demonstrates his “drip” technique, as the layers of paint can be noted if you fully examine it. Almost the whole painting is animated through its loopy threadlike streaks of somber colored paint.
8. Blue Poles (Number 11), 1952
Originally titled Number 11, Blue Poles is an abstract expressionist painting completed in 1952. This piece differed from his other “drip” technique paintings with the addition of vertical blue lines (poles), becoming the focal point of the painting. Pieces of glass and sand were also included in this work, a way Pollock ensured each of his masterpieces differentiated from one another. In 1973, the National Gallery of Australia bought the painting for $1.3 million and it remains one of the most famous works held by the gallery.
9. Convergence, 1952
One of Jackson Pollock’s most famous paintings was produced as a way of expressing freedom of speech and expression. What started as a black and white painting ended up with primary colors splattered and thrown on top. Portraying his emotions during an uncertain time, Convergence is said to reflect the Cold War crisis. In 1964, a jigsaw puzzle was produced from this painting and was considered the “world’s most difficult puzzle”. Hundreds of thousands of Americans went on to purchase the puzzle. A newer 1,000 piece rendition can be found in stores today!
10. Greyed Rainbow, 1953
Greyed Rainbow, one of Pollock’s last “drip” technique paintings before his death, is housed at the Art Institute of Chicago. Predominantly painted in black, white, gray, and silver, Pollock added some faint colored hues at the bottom third of the canvas to give it a rainbow effect, hence the painting’s name. Applied with such a thin stroke, Pollock gave the impression that these colors were supposed to be covered by the grays, whites, and blacks.