Jackson Pollock is often remembered as a pioneer of Abstract Expressionism alongside fellow artist, Mark Rothko. Before his association with this movement, he was already making waves in the New York art world. At the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City, Jackson Pollock’s work was shown in his third solo show from May 2 to June 3, 1944. This exhibition was part of Peggy Guggenheim’s “Art of this Century” exhibit called “Spring Salon for Abstract and Surrealist Artists (Under Forty).” This event prompted Clement Greenberg to describe Pollock as the “most original contemporary easel painter under forty.”
Paul Jackson Pollock was born on January 28, 1912, in Cody, Wyoming. He studied art under a theosophist artist while in high school in Los Angeles. At the age of 28, he joined the Art Students League in New York City after following his brother there. His early training included 2.5 years under the guidance of painter, Thomas Hart Benton. Pollock’s genius in painting was controversial over his short lifetime. In the 1940s, he created many drawings and mixed media pieces. A sizeable collection of drawings and paintings by Pollock are permanently housed in the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, Italy.
One example in the P. Guggenheim Collection in Venice is the oil on canvas – “The Moon Woman” (1942). Pollock uses a combination of brilliantly contrasting colors, lines, and shapes, including abstract and geometric forms. “The Moon Woman” reflects the influence of Cubism (ala Jean Miro and Pablo Picasso) and Surrealism. His works by the 1940s also reflected his investigation of the inner realms of the human psyche and the themes of the mythical, spiritual, and occult. In “Tondo” (1948), composed of oil and enamel on metal, Pollock follows the tradition of Caravaggio and the Florentine Renaissance painters with a beautiful circular painting. In “No. 5” (1948), Pollock’s masterpiece of Abstract Expressionism combines a balanced composition of paint splatters in many colors. This work became the most valuable piece of art in the world when it sold for $140,000,000 in 2006.
Pollock met an early end due to alcoholism. On August, 11, 1956, he was driving a car while intoxicated with alcohol and crashed his personal vehicle near his home. This accident resulted in his death and the death of a passenger. A third passenger survived. His wife, Lee Krasner, was also an artist who managed his interests after his death. Together, this husband and wife team represented the attempt in the mid-20th century to help artists break free from traditional art styles and customs.