Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Carey, John T. (Professor of English)||Strawn, C. G.

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Art


Pollock; Jackson; 1912-1956


In 1947 Jackson Pollock revolutionised aesthetic concepts by Inventing a radical method of applying paint to canvas. From such unorthodox tools as spatulas, sticks and trowels, Pollock dripped and dribbled paint upon canvases of epic proportions. This unusual method of painting did not come into being until Pollock had passed through eighteen years of searching for a personal form of expression. Pollock was not looking for a style to which he could attach himself; in fact, he assimilated very few of the formal aspects of the painting styles which attracted him. During his student years and for some time thereafter, his mode of expression underwent a rapid metamorphous. He quickly passed through periods of fascination for Renaissance art, Baroque art, the works by his teacher, Thomas Hart Benton, the romantic configurations of Albert Ryder, and the paintings by the Mexican expressionist, Jose Orozco. The linear formalities found in the drawing style of Picasso and American Indian art, however, were continuously reflected in Pollock’s later works. New York City during the thirties became the stage for an artistic revolution. During the early years of World War II a number of European artists fled from their lands and found refuge in New York. These refugees included such important Surrealists painters as Joan Miro, Arshile Gorky, Max Ernst, and Ives Tanguy. An international artistic milieu had been created. Pollock and several other American painters worked together with a number of European artists on the Federal Arts Project, thus the two factions became bound together in a common cause. The American and foreign-born artists were further united by their protests concerning the longevity of the popularity of particular European styles. The American dealers were only interested in small, saleable geometric abstractions; American painters were being ignored. Canvases of great size were produced to serve as a kind of retaliation against the "tasteful" paintings by Picasso, Mondrian, and Leger. Spontaneity, in which there had been a revival of interest, became an integral element in the styles of Miro and Corky—the two artists who ware most Influential upon the American avant-garde. As a result of his contact with the milieu in Mew York, Pollock began to show an interest in spontaneity. His methods became increasingly unconventional, so he began to add foreign materials to his pigment. In 1947 Pollock began painting upon enlarged canvases which had been tacked to the floor of his studio. In the manner he was able to walk around his painting and work from the four sides; this was quite similar to the picture-making methods of the Navaho Indians. The rapidity with which ho applied his paint also relates Pollock's methods of painting to the methods practiced by the Navahoes. From 1947 through 1953 Pollock placed an extreme amount of importance upon the "act" of painting; the creative act became a ritual which involved both the emotional and physical energies of the artist. Pollock refused to work from drawings or colored sketches because he felt that each painting "had a life of its own." He continued to break away from artistic tradition when he began using glossy, industrial enamels in various combinations with oil paint. During the early fifties he restricted himself to using black paint exclusively. Between the years 1953 and 1956 his painting style changed a great deal. He abandoned the dribble approach and began to paint in a less spontaneous manner. This was to be his last style: Pollock died in an automobile accident on a summer night in 1956.


Includes bibliographical references.


33 pages




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