The Modern Artists Cafe

Jackson Pollock

by AT

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Action painting by AT in the style of Jackson Pollock


Paul Jackson Pollock was born in Cody, Wyoming, into an already large family. He was the youngest of five children, all boys, and his father (whose original surname was McCoy) and mother were both of Irish extraction. His father was orphaned at the age of three, and took the last name of his foster parents. Even though they were both raised Presbyterian, they chose to not raise their children with religion. Pollock’s family moved a lot during his childhood, mostly due to financial problems. His eldest brother Charles left home in 1924 to study art. He sent home magazines about art, which some art historians consider to be Pollock’s first encounter with art. Jackson went to stay with his brother in New York, in 1930, and decided to study art. He dropped his first name when he enrolled at the Art Students League in Thomas Hart Benson’s class.


Benton would grow to be one of the many great influences to Pollock. Others would include:

  • Pablo Picasso - whom he had admired for some time
  • Clement Orozco - a Mexican Muralist that he met while working with Benton
  • Diego Rivera - another Mexican Muralist and Surrealist
  • David Alfa Squires - also a Mexican Muralist and Surrealist
Many of the artists that influenced Pollock were ‘Surrealists’. Surrealism is defined as ‘movement in visual art and literature’ with an ‘emphasis on the positive’. -Dappled Glories

Techniques/Methods Used

Jackson Pollock had a somewhat unheard-of way of painting, but the truth is, that the Chinese had been doing it for some time. Instead of using an easel, he placed the canvas on the floor, and painted from there. His style however, differed from the Chinese, in that he did not use brushes with the bristles on the canvas, but a stick, to sort of ‘fling’ the paint onto the canvas. When asked about his unusual technique, he said;

On the floor I am more at ease, I feel nearer, more a part of the painting, since this way I can walk around in it, work from the four sides, and be literally ‘in’ the painting.

Notable Paintings

Some of Jackson Pollock's most notable paintings include the following:

  • Going West - (1934) This was an earlier painting. It is a good example of Pollock starting to put abstract styling into his work. It is clearly influenced by Thomas Benson, who painted a painting called The Ballad of the Jealous Lover of Lone Green Valley

  • Bird - (1941) This Painting is a good example of the influence that Mexican Murialists had over Pollock's work. It is a sand painting.

  • Orange Head - (1942) Picasso's Influence is quite noticable here. This painting expresses Pollock's intense outrage over the Nazi bombing of a small Basque Village.

  • Stenographic Figure - (1942) Here, you can easily see the influences of Picasso and Joan Miro (the Spanish Surrealist whom Pollock admired)

  • Gothic - (1944) This painting was greatly influenced by David Alfa Sisqueiros, and shows deep emotion.


Jackson Pollock had a tremendous effect on modern art. A friend and patron once said about him;

Here I saw a man who had both broken all the traditions of the past and unified them, who had gone beyond cubism, beyond Picasso and surrealism, beyond everything that had happened in art...his work expressed both action and contemplation. -Jackson Pollock A Biography


Pollock stated that;

The modern painter cannot express his age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of the Renaissance or of any other past culture. Each age finds it's own technique. -Materiality is the Message

Dripping and splattering paint on a canvas laying on the floor was Jackson Pollock's way to express his age. He expressed his feelings, his emotions, and what went on around him in his paintings, and did it all with a high level of individuality. His art can be recognized instantly, and, as one critic said as an attempted insult, "Forgery is impossible."


Pollock suffered from severe alcoholism. He had been receiving treatment off and on since 1937, when he went to see Carl Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst and prolific author who explored the significance of universal archetypes of the collective unconscious. Jung’s theories were embraced by the abstract expressionists. Pollock stopped painting during the last few years of his life, due to drinking, and because he didn’t think he was touching anyone. In 1956, just twenty six years after moving to New York, he died there. In those twenty six years, he touched the hearts of many people with his paintings. His paintings, he once said, like any paintings, are like music; after you’re around them for long enough, you get the experience needed to know if they’re good or bad to you. -The Master of Drip


This website was created by AT on March 14, 2001, for History and Thought of Western Man, Rich East High School.
Last update, 03/14/01

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