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How Jackson Pollock Worked


Jackson Pollock Paintings
Pollock and his wife Lee Krasner enter the barn door of their Springs studio.
Pollock and his wife Lee Krasner enter the barn door of their Springs studio.
Tony Vaccaro/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

"Landscape with Steer," painted between 1936 and 1937, illustrates the innovations with which Pollock experimented during that time. In the spring of 1936, Pollock frequented the "Laboratory" of David Alfaro Siqueiros, who was interested in using non-traditional painting techniques like airbrushing and pouring. Pollock used the airbrushing technique in "Landscape with Steer," adding an abstract wash to the more realistic landscape [source: Warhol Stars]. The titular subject matter is also important to note, as it reflects both the influence of the American West and the thematic choices of Pollock's fellow WPA artists. This painting resides at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.

In the late 1930s and early 1940s, Jackson Pollock worked with Jungian psychoanalysts to deal with his alcoholism and depression. The therapists used Pollock's art as part of his treatment, and one of the resulting works was "Male and Female." Pollock was drawn to the process of psychoanalysis as it related to his painting; he felt that tapping into his subconscious gave his work more authenticity and symbolism [source: New World Encyclopedia]. The subjects of this particular work are, as the title suggests, male and female figures. Both are highly abstract and portrayed in bold primary colors. During his period of Jungian analysis, Pollock closely studied the works of the Surrealist artist Joan MirĂ³ and the Cubist Pablo Picasso. Both artists distorted the human form in their work, just as Pollock did in "Male and Female." This one's in the collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

During his Drip Period, Pollock abandoned the use of titles for his paintings, and instead identified them by number and year. Pollock's reason for this was to avoid distracting the viewer with his own personal bias, allowing their own ideas about the painting to come to the fore [source: Columbia University]. One such numbered painting is "Number 5 1948." In many ways, this painting is the archetypal Pollock, with its bold colors, large size (4 feet by 8 feet, or 1.23 meters by 2.44 meters) and frenzy of paint drips. Paintings like "Number 5" have led scientists to study Pollock's technique in terms of fractals, mathematical ratios considered to be perfect and found most often in nature. Mathematicians have been able to chart the evolution of Pollock's drip technique using fractals, accurately authenticating and dating the paintings based on the mathematics hidden within [source: Connor]. Currently, "Number 5 1948" is owned by a private collector.

For lots more information on Jackson Pollock and other influential artists, see the links on the next page.