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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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Hidden Depths: Blue Moby Dick

Originally created in 1943 with gouache and ink on composition board, this early Jackson Pollack piece which he titled Blue Moby Dick, was typical of the abstract expressionism style emerging in the 1940s following World War II.

Interestingly Pollack had already named another painting Moby Dick but had been advised to change it to Pasiphae. No one knows why he then used it again in parenthesis here.

Unlike his many of his later paintings which Pollack created using his "drip" technique, Blue Moby Dick shows some clear imagery or symbols.

Pollack had been undergoing Jungian analysis to help with his alcoholism and it is felt that that the study of his dreams and symbolism provided some of the inspiration for his paintings.

Although Pollack was reluctant to discuss the direct meanings of his paintings he commented that the modern artist "expressed feelings". Later paintings were not even given titles, just numbers.

In Blue Moby Dick, the typical "all over style" of painting with no obvious focal point and a disregard to the size and scale of the canvas is present.

The colour blue dominates the whole image and the shapes in black, yellow, orange and white seem to have been formed carefully. The shapes and symbols appear to have been strategically placed within the image.

The overall effect of the picture gives the viewer a feeling of a sea swell with the symbols moving in the current to the top of the picture and then falling with a concentration of the imagery in the bottom corner.

It is not known whether Jackson Pollack read Moby Dick but his piece Blue Moby Dick is a voyage into hidden depths of this talented artist.