Jackson Pollock – 6 Interesting Facts

Jackson Pollock was an American artist known for his “drip” or “pour” paintings. His groundbreaking style of Action Painting defined a large part of Abstract Expressionism. The disputes surrounding his art and personal life immortalized him as a legend in the art world. Behind the paint-spattered canvases, here are the following facts:

1. Pollock’s brothers raised him and influenced him to be an artist.

  • Their father was abusive alcoholic and left the family when Jackson was eight years-old. His eldest brother Charles became head of the family.
  • He followed Charles and his other brother Sanford to become an artist. Jackson studied under Charles’s teacher, Thomas Hart Benton, the head of the Regionalist movement. During the Depression, Jackson and Sanford worked as muralists for the Public Works of Art Project.

2. Pollock spent most of his life in financial difficulty.

  • Jackson spent his early career living with Charles in New York City. He never received more than $10,000 for a painting during his lifetime.
  • He resorted to stealing food and gasoline during the Depression. He lacked the money to return home for his father’s funeral.

3. Aside from mural painting, Pollock took various jobs to support himself.

  • He spent one summer as a lumberjack, worked as a janitor at a children’s school, and cleaned statues for the Emergency Relief Bureau.
  • Pollock finally became a custodian at the Museum of Non-Objective Painting (now the Guggenheim Museum). There Peggy Guggenheim who gave him his breakthrough into the New York art scene.

4. Fame was detrimental to his work and mental health.

  • Pollock became an overnight celebrity after LIFE magazine featured him in an article. It asked if he was the greatest living painter in the United States. His (in)famous painting style earned him both admiration and disdain. TIME magazine nicknamed him “Jack the Dripper”.
  • His reputation as America’s most well-paid avant-garde painter was short-lived. The pressure forced him to withdraw socially and artistically. He shied away from his colorful drip style and turned to “black pourings”. Collectors lost interest in the new works.

5. Pollock was psychoanalyzed with his own paintings.

  • He long struggled with alcoholism and was institutionalized after a nervous breakdown. Two Jungian psychoanalysts encouraged him to paint and discussed his art during therapy.
  • His psychiatric treatments sparked his interest in Carl Jung’s theories of latent symbolism. He saw his abstract paintings as a union of performance and the unconscious mind.

6. Pollock died from drunk driving.

  • He was notorious for being violent while intoxicated. The pressure of popularity and perpetual self-doubt only aggravated his alcohol dependency.
  • Pollock was driving with his mistress Ruth Kligman and her friend Edith Metzger. He struck a tree, killing himself and Edith upon impact.

Jackson Pollock’s Action Painting transformed the medium into performance art. His radical works indeed earned him the title as one of the greatest painters in the United States.