As one of the most famous Post-War American artists, Jackson Pollock stands far outside of the crowd and has long been considered as the innovator of the “Abstract Expressionism” movement. His “drip painting” style is easily identifiable by even the untrained eye, and he is described as having “ushered in a new era of non-representational art.”
Yet, it cannot be said that his work is unemotional. It is, in fact, the opposite of unemotional, and his unique approach to painting is a good match to his own statements about it. He said, “It doesn't make much difference how the paint is put on as long as something has been said.”
The Artist Emergent
Born in 1912 in Wyoming, he was an art student early in life, studying at the Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles during The Great Depression, and befriending many fellow modern artists. As part of the WPA (Works Progress Administration, a program created during The Depression), he encountered many fellow artists working on large-scale pieces such as murals. He took that experience into his work when the WPA ended, first creating Surrealist paintings.
"Head" by Jackson Pollock
This work gained him an initial following and even helped him land a show at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century gallery.
Following that period, his signature style emerged, and as one expert said, “generated enormous media attention, and turned Pollock into a celebrity beyond the scope of the art world.”
His later technique, which many describe as specific to his Long Island, NY studio period, emphasized the pouring or splashing of paint on to a flat or horizontal surface, i.e. the “drip” technique. This allowed Pollock to come at his canvases from every angle possible and create a style that many emulate today, known as action painting, in which an artist is able to use the force of the entire body to create their work.
Jaskson Pollock's Drip Technique
He was the first to move in such dynamic ways to create his paintings, and it is why the style remains so singularly unique and original to him alone. Yet, his splash style has emerged as a constant in the world of fashion. A Vogue Magazine article from 2015 pointed this out, saying that “It’s Jackson Pollock’s world, we’re just living in it,” and noting that his “drip paintings made him famous the world over—and especially famous in the world of fashion.”
The article goes on to point out that the fashion world had already adopted Pollock’s art as early as 1951, using it as a backdrop to a fashion shoot. However, since that time, “his signature splashes have infiltrated the runways in many forms. Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana speckled cocktail frocks with paint in 2008, Thom Browne did the same with his lace-up booties in 2013, and Raf Simons and Sterling Ruby accented their 2014 overcoats with drips and drops of multicolored paint. The most transcendental homage to Pollock’s art, however, came courtesy of Alexander McQueen, who positioned Shalom Harlow in the center of paint-shooting robots that streaked her ivory gown black and acid green as she rotated on a platform.”
Drip Painting by Jackson Pollock
A critical favorite, a celebrity far outside of the norm, and a fashion icon, it is astonishing to realize that Jackson Pollock also never reached the age of 50. He died in an auto accident at the age of 44, and his legacy was carefully guarded by his widow, Lee Krasner. Thought to have influenced his work, she also protected his legacy after his untimely death.
With some of the most expensive paintings to ever sell (Pollock’s No.5 sold for $140 million in 2006), he is also one of the most inspiring artists. Whether you wear fashion inspired by Pollock or display copies of his work around your home, his energy can still be felt in every drip, splash, and stroke of paint.