Jackson Pollock

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Jackson Pollock was one of the most famous American painters of the 20th century. He was born on January 28, 1912, in Cody, Wyoming to LeRoy Pollock and Stella May McClure. His father was a farmer and a government land surveyor and his mother was an aspiring artist. He was the youngest child in the family and did not have a good relationship with his father, who was an alcoholic and an abusive father and husband. The family moved several times, and LeRoy eventually abandoned the family when Pollock was 8 years old. His eldest brother Charles became a father figure in his life, and Pollock followed in his footsteps. Charles was a talented artist, and gave Pollock the attention and direction he needed.

At a very young age, Pollock enrolled at the Manual Arts High School in California, where he soon became busy with learning about great artists and studying their work. Despite this, he was expelled, but later readmitted. He quit school of his own accord in order to pursue his art independently. In 1930, at the age of 18, Pollock moved to New York City to live with his brother. Here he began to study with his brother’s teacher named Thomas Hart Benton, at the Art Students League. Benton was also a friend and a mentor for him, and Pollock was treated like a family member, often babysitting Benton’s kids. This helped him to resolve the issues he had in his earlier life with his own family.

During the 1930s depression era, Pollock and his brother Sanford began working at the Public Works of Art Project (PWA), an initiative by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to kick start the economy. Several other artists at the time were involved in the same project, including José Clemente Orozco, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko. Pollock created dozens of works of art during this time as well. At the same time, he began to drink very heavily and in 1937, received psychiatric treatment for alcoholism. He developed an interest in Native American and Mexican art as well as other artists like Picasso. Jackson Pollock met his future wife and fellow artist Lee Krasner in 1941. Krasner was impressed with Pollock’s work and the two began dating. The two were married in 1945.

Pollock met an art collector named Peggy Guggenheim who hired him on contract. She collaborated with Pete Norman, who was equally impressed with Pollock’s work and commented that he was possibly the most original living American painter. Pollock and Krasner bought a house in Long Island, and Pollock began painting regularly. During this time he developed his famous “drip” technique, where he placed his canvas on the floor and let the paint drip onto the canvas using different objects. Some of his most famous paintings were made during this time. He gained widespread popularity, particularly after being featured in Life magazine in 1949. He received both praise and criticism, and his shows began to be sold out. A documentarian named Hans Namuth came to observe him in his studio, but this interrupted his work and made him nervous and depressed. He would regularly drink into the late hours of the night and get into fights.

For a while, his mother came to live with him and Krasner and her presence was a calming influence on his life. He finished his masterpiece called “The Deep” during this time. However, his marriage was in ruins and he began dating other women. By 1956, he had quit painting and his wife moved to France for a brief period. On August 11, 1956, Jackson Pollock was driving drunk at night and crashed his car into a tree. He was killed immediately along with another passenger, but his girlfriend survived. His wife returned for his funeral and managed his estate until her death. She never remarried and set up a foundation to distribute his paintings. At the time of her death in 1984, the estate was worth $20 million.

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