Which painter was best known for his drip paintings?

And the answer: Jackson Pollock.    
Photo credit: jackson-pollock.org.

Jackson Pollock’s drip paintings are ubiquitous, and have been studied by scientists due to his understanding of fluid dynamics. With the speed of his handiwork and the approximate heights he poured, he prevented liquid filaments from coiling into themselves. Juxtaposed with this careful technique, he also had a penchant for putting cigarette butts into his paintings.

In 1947, Jackson Pollock started dripping, flicking, scattering, and pouring paint onto canvases spread across the floor. While some critics saw it as lunacy, many more thought it genius. Ultimately, while his artistic style caused controversy in his lifetime, Pollock helped open the doors to a brand new era of art: abstract expressionism. Just as Pollock found his artistic voice in the paint he flung across his canvas, other artists such as Pollock’s wife, Lee Krasner, found their own forms of expression in artistic movement and abstraction.

In many ways, Pollock and other expressionist artists responded to the tensions of the time period. Fueled by war and the Great Depression, traditional modes of artistic expression were not enough to respond to a generation in crisis. For Pollock, this rang true. Pollock was born in 1912 in Cody, Wyoming, and after a turbulent childhood moving around the southwest United States with his family, Pollock found himself in New York City to pursue art. At just 18 years old, Pollock took the encouragement from his older brother Charles, and enrolled at the Art Student League. There, Pollock trained under his mentor Thomas Benton. Benton would ultimately expose Pollock to essential art movements such as European Modernism, essential artists such as Pablo Picasso and David Alfaro Siqueros, and most essentially, encourage Pollock to innovate on the canvas.

Pollock’s early works were semi-abstract, showing influences from Picasso, Joan Miró, and the famous Mexican muralist, Diego Rivera. In 1943, Pollock had his first one-man show at Peggy Guggenheim’s “The Art of This Century” gallery. Soon after, Pollock met his wife and fellow artist, Lee Krasner, who would go on to become one of the most important influences on Pollock’s art, career, and legacy.

After the war, Krasner and Pollock moved to rural Long Island on a stipend from Guggenheim. While Krasner dedicated her time to helping promote and manage his artwork, Pollock began to recover from his drinking problem and create prolifically. Happy to be in the country again and surrounded by nature, Pollock was energized by his new surroundings and converted the barn to a private studio, where he continued to develop his "drip" technique. Most of Pollock’s most famous works come from the drip era of his career.

Pollock’s Number 5. 1948. Photo credit: fair use.

Learn more about Pollock’s life and legacy here.


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