American artist, Paul Jackson Pollock, or as he was more commonly known, Jackson Pollock, was renowned for his unique method of splashing household paint onto canvas. This frenetic artistic style was praised by some and criticised by others, dividing the 20th century art world.
On what would have been his 108th birthday, we decided to take a look into the volatile world of ‘Jack the Dripper.’
1. His Action Painting technique was a ‘controlled accident.’
Jackson adopted this technique because it allowed him to view his work from all angles, being described as drip painting, all-over painting and action painting due to the physical force required. When describing his technique, Jackson claimed: ‘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.’
Jackson Pollock 'Action Painting'
2. The titles of his artworks are very important
Jackson Pollock, Number 14, 1951
Pollock’s decision to replace titles with numbers was a measured move, insisting numbers are neutral and allow the viewer to interpret the painting freely without a preconceived idea offered by the title.
This, therefore, enriches the piece as viewers are able see the painting for what it is as opposed to what they think it should be.
3. He struggled with alcoholism
From the tender days of adolescence, Pollock struggled with substance abuse due to his fragile mental health.
Often described as having a volatile and and reclusive nature, the artist was institutionalised in 1937, experiencing the early days of Jungian psychoanalysis.
Jackson Pollock Free Form, 1946
4. His works divided the art world
Jackson Pollock, Number 17A, 1948
Today he is recognised as one of the most significant painters of the 20th century, and yet many claimed his work wasn’t worthy of the title. His career and success was largely influenced by his wife and artist, Lee Krasner, who was a transitional figure in abstraction.
Time Magazine even adopted the term ‘Jack the Dripper’ derogatively, but these critiques didn’t stop the artist selling his work, Number 17A, posthumously for US$200million in 2016…
5. He died a tragic death
In the summer of 1956, Pollock began an affair with Ruth Kligman while Krasner was away in Europe.
While driving with her and one of her friends, he lost control of the car due to being under the influence of alcohol, instantly killing himself, Kligman’s friend, and leaving Kligman seriously injured.
Jackson Pollock, Blue Poles, 1952