Pollock, Jackson

from The New Book of Knowledge®

ART HISTORY ON DEMAND > Artists

The American painter Jackson Pollock was a key figure in the art movement known as abstract expressionism. His work contributed to the rise of the United States as an international center of artistic activity after World War II.

Pollock was born on January 28, 1912, on a farm near Cody, Wyoming. He first studied painting at the Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles. In 1929 he moved to New York City and became a pupil of Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975), a well-known painter of scenes from the American Midwest. Following Benton's lead, Pollock traveled across the country during the 1930's, sketching American scenes. From 1938 until 1942 he worked on the Federal Art Project, a government-funded program.

Early in the 1940's, Pollock experimented with modern European styles. Gradually he began to create works that suggested feelings and moods but had no recognizable subject matter—a kind of painting that came to be called abstract expressionism. He developed a new style that was at first shocking and then greatly influential.

Pollock believed that an artist should be part of his paintings. He unrolled huge lengths of canvas on his studio floor. Walking all around and over the canvas, he dripped or poured paint on it. Sometimes he added sand or broken glass to the paint. The result was a work that showed the energy and emotion of the painter. The swirling mazes of color also had rhythms and orderly patterns. Within a few years, Pollock began to win worldwide recognition.

Pollock married the artist Lee Krasner in 1945. He died in a car accident near East Hampton, New York, on August 11, 1956.

Reviewed by Harold Spencer
The University of Connecticut

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