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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Jackson Pollock's life was turbulent but gifted and this biography outlines the important moments of his life.

Many know of Pollock for his contribution to abstract art in the 20th century, but are perhaps unaware of the details behind that provided the passion and creativity which helped take art in a new direction. The success of the artist's work culminated in several high profile exhibitions of his work after his death, as well as extraordinary prices being achieved by several of his original paintings in public auctions. This biography will address his early years growing up in America, plus his different periods of art and several key relationships in his life, such as his marriage to fellow artist Lee Krasner.

Early Years of Jackson Pollock

Jackson was born in 1912, in Cody, Wyoming. His father had taken Pollock as a surname from his adopted parents, whilst originally being known as Leroy McCoy. Jackson was brought up in a religious background, with European Presbyterian being the faith in which his family was committed. Upon living in Calforina a young Jackson Pollock was to enrol at an Arts School in Los Angeles after earlier difficulties in a more standard school. It was hoped that this would provide him with the artistic channel that he needed to occupy himself and make the most of his potential.

Jackson was still tied closely to his family after choosing to follow his brother to the Art Students League of New York. It was now that both would be in the right setting to experience many different artistic influences and also start to develop themselves as artists. Even at this relatively early stage, Jackson Pollock was already struggling to deal with his own personal problems, most notably his reliance on alcohol. He was to receive the first of many different treatments around 1938 and his own artistic production was to be used as one way of trying to deal with his use of liquor.

Career Development of Jackson Pollock

Peggy Guggenheim was to prove to be the all important contact who gave Jackson his first major career break, offering him a prestigious commission to create Mural to add in a prominent position in her new home. The Guggenheim family are linked closely to modern art in America at that time, probably more than any other, and it was now time for Jackson to push himself forwards, with support from those who approved of the abstract styles in which he was involved. Mural was completed in 1943 and it was just two years later that this up and coming artist was to marry fellow painter, Lee Krasner. At that point they moved out to Long Island and Jackson used his new studio there to start to develop his new approach which later became known as drip painting.

Legacy of Jackson Pollock

There can be absolutely no doubt as to the impressive legacy left by Jackson Pollock with in the art world following his premature death, at a time when his career was really starting to take off. It is fair to say that his most prominent times have been since, and the media have played a large part in accomplishing that. There have been a whole host of different media outputs that have drawn attention to Jackson Pollock over recent decades, covering everything from documentaries on the artist's life, written detailed accounts of his life and relationship with Lee Krasner, frequent exhbitions of his work as well as influenced designs in popular culture from all manner of artists.

Jackson's prominence within his native America, and that country's influence on international media has also helped in keeping his name very much at the forefront of the 20th century abstract art scene. He continues to be placed in the same category of the likes of Barnett Newman, Mark Rothko and others from around that era. A shrinking supply of his original paintings on the open market has also helped to fuel some extraordinary prices at public sale for several of his paintings in recent years, and any in future that can be for sale are likely to go for even more as that trend continues.

Major Works of Jackson Pollock

  1. (1942) Male and Female
  2. (1942) Stenographic Figure
  3. (1942) The Moon Woman
  4. (1943) Mural
  5. (1943) The She-Wolf
  6. (1943) Blue (Moby Dick)
  7. (1945) Troubled Queen
  8. (1946) Eyes in the Heat
  9. (1946) The Key
  10. (1946) The Tea Cup Collection
  11. (1946) Shimmering Substance, from The Sounds In The Grass
  12. (1947) Portrait of H.M.
  13. (1947) Full Fathom Five
  14. (1947) Cathedral
  15. (1947) Enchanted Forest
  16. (1947) Lucifer
  17. (1948) Number 5 (4 ft x 8 ft)
  18. (1948) Number 8
  19. (1948) Number 13A: Arabesque
  20. (1948) Composition (White, Black, Blue and Red on White)
  21. (1948) Summertime: Number 9A
  22. (1948) Number 19
  23. (1949) Number 1
  24. (1949) Number 3
  25. (1949) Number 10
  26. (1950) Number 1, 1950 (Lavender Mist)
  27. (1950) Mural on Indian red ground, 1950
  28. (1950) Autumn Rhythm (Number 30), 1950
  29. (1950) Number 29, 1950
  30. (1950) Number 32
  31. (1950) One: Number 31, 1950
  32. (1951) Number 7
  33. (1951) Black and White (Number 6)
  34. (1952) Convergence
  35. (1952) Blue Poles: No. 11, 1952
  36. (1953) Portrait and a Dream
  37. (1953) Easter and the Totem
  38. (1953) Ocean Greyness
  39. (1953) The Deep