Jackson Pollock

1912 - 1956


Born 28 January on the Watkins Ranch, Cody, Wyoming. Parents are tenant farmers.

1913 - 27

Family moves around to various farms in Arizona and California; father also works as surveyor.


Family settles in Los Angeles. Pollock enrols in Manual Arts High School, from which he is expelled for his role in published attacks against the faculty.


Moves to New York and enrols at Art Students League. Studies with Thomas Hart Benton, a prominent realist painter of the contemporary American scene, and meets Mexican artist José Clemente Orozco, who is working on a mural with Benton. Later takes Benton's mural class.


Studies figure drawing and painting with American modernist John Sloan, and watches Mexican artist Diego Rivera paint murals at the New Workers School, New York.


In summer, travels with brother on 8,000-mile journey exploring coal mining districts, deserts, and the American west coast. Continues to live in poverty. Returns to New York, where he works as a janitor.


Employed as a stonecutter, and then is hired by the WPA Federal Art Project, which provides him a subsistence wage until 1943. Produces easel paintings in which he explores an expressionistic figurative style.


Works with Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siquerios. Explores new techniques and new synthetic painting materials. Becomes interested in spontaneity and "controlled accidents."

1937 - 39

Undergoes Jungian psychoanalysis for treatment of alcoholism, keeps painting, and becomes interested in the role of myth and the subconscious in art.


Influx of European artists escaping the war. Fellow artist Robert Motherwell introduces Pollock to Surrealist principles of "psychic automatism." Work becomes increasingly abstract.


Term with WPA ends. Decorates ties and works as an art museum guard. First solo show at Peggy Guggenheim's Art of This Centu ry gallery; she offers him a contract for production until 1947, freeing him to return to painting full time.


Moves with Lee Krasner, painter and spouse, to Easthampton, New York. Works by laying raw, unstretched canvas flat on the floor, attacking the painting from all four sides, pouring trails of paint directly from the can, or dripping it from brushes, yielding a spontaneous, gestural expression over the entire canvas.

1947 - 50

Creates very large "drip" canvases, some extending up to eighteen feet wide.


Reintroduces the figure into his paintings (Cut Out Figure, 1948, on loan to NGC), often using black Duco enamel paint and rich impasted surfaces.

1948 - 50

Exhibits widely in Europe, including at the Venice Biennale. Joins with the other "Irascibles" in protesting the Metropolitan Museum's contempt for modern painting.


Is popularized in Life magazine article, "Jackson Pollock Is He the Greatest Living Painter in the United States?"


In the fall paints No. 29 (NGC) on glass, at the suggestion of photographer friend Hans Namuth, who wants to film him at work facing the camera. (An excerpt from the film can be seen outside this gallery.)


August 11, dies in a car accident. The Museum of Modern Art exhibition planned as "Artists in Mid-Career" becomes a memorial exhibition.

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Birth name

Jackson Pollock


Born in Cody, Wyoming, 28 January 1912


Died in East Hampton, New York, 11 August 1956




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