Michelle Khou Art Appreciation Honors Professor
Art Appreciation Honors
April 23th, 2018
The Life of Jackson Pollock
On January 28, 1912, Jackson Pollock was born in the beautiful city of Cody, Wyoming. Born into Scottish-Irish descent, Pollock was raised in a poor upbringing surrounded by his four older brothers (O’Connor). However, at the young age of eleven months old, Pollock’s family left Wyoming to pursue better living opportunities in California and Arizona. This becomes a repeated pattern where Pollock’s family flocks between the two states nine times before finally settling down in Los Angeles. In addition, Pollock’s father left his family at a young age and thus abandoned his mother to support five boisterous children (O’Connor). Brought into this chaotic childhood, I interpret Pollock’s violent personality forging based on the lack of fundamental family guidance and support that majority of normal children embraced growing up. Since Pollock’s father left his mother, I understand why Pollock would form an aggressive persona if surrounded by financial and emotional worries. Therefore, I interpret his wild personality to influence the style of surreal and free art Pollock will produce as an adult in the future since he had no strict parental guidance. As a result, Pollock received the freedom and liberty to express his positive and negative traits to the world. When Pollock was sixteen years old, he attends Manual Arts High School where he meets Frederick John de St. Vrain Schwankovsky, an artist that taught Pollock the basics of painting and sketching art (O’Connor). During these art sessions, Schwankovsky informs young Pollock of European art and the inspirations of theosophical concepts; fascinating Pollock to pursue surrealism in later years despite his agnostic upbringing (O’Connor). Unbeknownst to Schwankovsky, he would pave the way for Pollock to become a significant artist that inspires millions of individuals with a fresh and surreal style of painting. Furthermore, it is the people Pollock encounters in New York that will inspire his own flair of art and change society’s expectations through his work.
When Pollock finished high school, his brothers encourage him to settle in New York pursue opportunities in art. Similar to Pollock, his older brothers desired a career in art, allowing Pollock to be accepted into an encouraging atmosphere where he can experiment and research into art studies at the Art Students League (“Jackson Pollock: American Painter”). At this university, Pollock encounters a variety of people who will educate and help him understand different art styles. To illustrate, Thomas Hart Benton, an influential painter who enthuses realism inside rural lifestyles of his murals, intrigues Pollock’s interest towards this fascinating art style and helps Benton with his artworks. At this university, he also meets two significant Spanish students named Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros, painters who incorporate unique and exaggerated art styles into their murals to represent Spanish culture, traditions, and people. As a result, the university allowed Pollock to survey numerous painters at work and gain ideas towards his own style of art based on observation, research, and meeting new people. (“Jackson Pollock: American Painter”). Without meeting these unique individuals, I believe Pollock would continue to struggle to find his own style of art. Every artist gains inspiration from someone or something, therefore I believe Pollock was very fortunate to encounter such influential painters with different personalities and cultures. Hence, I view these opportunities to be rare and valuable for Pollock to express his own wild style of surreal and imaginative art to the world. If he had not met these people, I believe Pollock would not have turned into the incredible artist that has amazed dozens of individuals in our society today.
While creative individuals surrounded Pollock, he struggled to discover his own style of art that conveys who he is and what he desires to display to the audience. Despite influenced by eccentric or traditional styles of artworks from other artists, I interpret Pollock desiring not want to copy others; instead focusing on himself to figure out his purpose and goals in art. Francis Valentine O’Connor, author of the article Jackson Pollock, describes Pollock creating a mural in Peggy Guggenheim’s gallery. This is illustrated when O’Conner states, “Pollock painted his first wall-size work, called Mural… This painting represents Pollock’s breakthrough into a totally personal style in which Benton’s compositional methods and energetic linear invention are fused with the Surrealist free association of motifs and unconscious imagery. Pollock’s evolution from this point throughout the 1940s shows a struggle to find a process by which he could translate his entire personality into painting.” (O’Connor). Similar to Pollock’s numerous works of art like Mural in the 1930s, I believe he struggled to discover his identity. I view Pollock’s paintings and murals to represent his struggle to escape from society’s expectations of traditional art; symbolizing his sheer desperation to achieve the idealized dream of becoming an artist through his own hard work and commitment. Although he appreciates the different techniques of art from his friends, I think it makes him aware that duplicating similar styles is not original. I strongly believe this will lead Pollock to break free from mainstream media and create a fresh style of free art that illustrates his identity. This is verified when the article called “Jackson Pollock: American Painter”, provides that, “…Mural (1943), which would prove important in Pollock’s transition from a style shaped by murals, Native American art and European modernism towards his mature drip technique.” (“Jackson Pollock: American Painter”). While Pollock will experiment with many artworks to create intriguing designs and styles, I believe Mural became the work of art that inspires him to discover his famous drip paintings. This discovery will lead Pollock to completely change his art style and incorporate expressive drip designs that is wild and creative.
Using previous concepts of surrealism and abstractionism, Pollock creates a new genre of art that focuses on freedom of expression and creativity by flicking a paintbrush in the air against a canvas. While Pollock was known for painting in an aggressive approach, he would generate breathtaking art that convey waves of paint that are gentle and delicate. To clarify, O’Connor states that Pollock “believed that art derived from the unconscious, saw himself as the essential subject of his painting, and judged his work and that of others on its inherent authenticity of personal expression.” (O’Conner). O’Conner emphasizes that Pollock envisions himself into his paintings to provide ideas towards how he would like to convey himself to the media, thus performing spectacular feats of art that freely express Pollock’s desire to represent his identity through the canvas. While most artists aim to focus on other individual or subject, Pollock turns into an outlier and aims to display himself through his paintings. Therefore, I believe Pollock can finally express his art happily to the public since it conveys who he is to the world. Therefore, Pollock’s beliefs changes societies expectations to allow artists to convey more expressive and abstract artworks to the public; a change of pace compared to traditional styles of art. To emphasize, William Cook of the article “Jackson Pollock’s forgotten bleak masterpieces: The 30-year wait for ‘black pourings’ exhibition”, explains that, “what we see here is an artist searching for a middle ground between abstraction and figuration.” (Cook). Cook acknowledges Pollock’s incredible talent and determination to stray from society’s expectations of art based on figuration, aiming to serve the public a fresh and exciting taste of abstract art never before seen.
“Jackson Pollock’s Forgotten Bleak Masterpieces: The 30-Year Wait for ‘Black Pourings’ Exhibition.” BBC, BBC, www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/5BNv7H97g3SpczrK56dHngF/jackson-pollocks-forgotten-bleak-masterpieces-the-30-year-wait-for-black-pourings-exhibition.
“Jackson Pollock: American Painter.” The Art Story, www.theartstory.org/artist-pollock-jackson.htm.
O’Connor, Francis Valentine. “Jackson Pollock.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 28 Dec. 2017, www.britannica.com/biography/Jackson-Pollock.