Who was Pollock, the Leader of The Abstract Expressionism?

who was Pollock

Abstract Expressionism was never an ideal label for the movement, which developed in New York in the 1940s and 1950s. It was somehow meant to encompass not only the work of painters who filled their canvases with fields of color and abstract forms, but also those who attacked their canvases with vigorous gestural expressionism. Still, Abstract Expressionism has become the most accepted term for a group of artists who held much in common. All were committed to art as expressions of the self, born out of profound emotion and universal themes, and most were shaped by the legacy of Surrealism, a movement that they translated into a new style fitted to the post-war mood of anxiety and trauma. In their success, these New York painters robbed Paris of its mantle as leader of modern art and set the stage for America’s dominance of the international art world.

Jackson Pollock – Blue Poles, 1952

Political context

Political instability in Europe in the 1930s brought several leading Surrealists to New York. Many of the Abstract Expressionists were profoundly influenced by Surrealism’s focus on mining the unconscious. It encouraged their interest in myth and archetypal symbols and it shaped their understanding of painting itself as a struggle between self-expression and the chaos of the subconscious. Most of the artists associated with Abstract Expressionism matured in the 1930s. They were influenced by the era’s leftist politics and came to value an art grounded in personal experience. Few would maintain their earlier radical political views, but many continued to adopt the posture of outspoken avant-gardists.

Having matured as artists at a time when America suffered economically and felt culturally isolated and provincial, the Abstract Expressionists were later welcomed as the first authentically American avant-garde. Their art was championed for being emphatically American in spirit monumental in scale, romantic in mood, and expressive of a rugged individual freedom. Although the movement has been largely depicted throughout historical documentation as one belonging to the paint-splattered, heroic male artist, there were several important female Abstract Expressionists that arose out of New York and San Francisco during the 1940s and ’50s who now receive credit as elemental members of the canon. Who was Pollock?

Who was Pollock?

Born Paul Jackson Pollock on January 28, 1912 – August 11, 1956 in Cody, Wyoming, Pollock would start a career in art. He would become an influential American painter, the leading force behind the abstract expressionist movement in the art world. During his lifetime, Pollock enjoyed considerable fame and notoriety. Jackson Pollock’s greatness lies in developing one of the most radical abstract styles in the history of modern art. He detached line from color, redefining the categories of drawing and painting, and finding new means to describe pictorial space.

Pollock’s paintings represent a great moment in abstract expressionism. He’s the face of the abstract expressionism movement and the best portrait of the ardent passion that art can be cause of in a volatile spirit. His father, LeRoy Pollock was a farmer and later a land surveyor for the government. Jackson Pollock grew up in Arizona and Chico, California. During his early life, Pollock experienced Native American culture while on surveying trips with his father. Although he never admitted an intentional imitation or following of Native American art, Jackson Pollock did concede that any similarities were probably a result of his early memories and enthusiasm.

Jackson Pollock Career

who was Jackson Pollock?
Jackson Pollock

Early years

In 1929, Jackson Pollock studied at the Students’ League in New York under regionalist painter, Thomas Hart Benton. During the early 1930s, he worked in the Regionalist style. He was also influenced by Mexican muralist painter such as Digo Rivera. He drew inspiration in certain aspects of Surrealism a 20th century literary and artistic movement that attempts to express the workings of the subconscious by fantastic imagery and incongruous juxtaposition of subject matter.

In 1948 he began a series of drip-paintings. Jackson Pollock’s paintings are recognized by the technique of dripping, the extreme technique of abstract expressionism. In order to perform the drip-painting Pollock launched the paint directly into the canvas through holes in the can. Chaotic character. Chaotic, but never random. At times the new art forms could suggest the life-force in nature itself. They could evoke as well man’s entrapment in the body, in the anxious mind, and in the newly frightening modern world.

To produce in Jackson Pollock’s action painting, most of his canvases were either set on the floor, or laid out against a wall, rather than being fixed to an easel. From there, Jackson Pollock used a style where he would allow the paint to drip from the paint can. Instead of using the traditional paintbrush, he would add depth to his images using knives, trowels, or sticks. This form of painting had similar ties to the Surreal movement. It had a direct relation to the artist’s emotions and expression, and showcased their feeling behind the pieces they designed. It was not long before Jackson Pollock became the face of abstract expressionism.

Last years

Only in 1950, he produced more than 50 works but unfortunately, the personal life of Pollock was complicated. The artist had problems with depression and drinking. Despite being able to go through long periods of abstinence, he ended up returning to the path of alcoholism. So, he suffered a car accident when he drunk. This ended his life and brilliant career, at the age of 44.


Pollock made it possible for American painting to compete with European modernism by applying modernism’s logic to new problems. He created a new scale, a new definition of surface and touch and imposed a new syntax of relationships. Not only among space, pigment, edge, and drawing but also by displacing hierarchies with an unprecedented and intricate self-generating structure.

Jackson Pollock – Ocean Greyness, 1953

Although actively engaged throughout his life in a serious dialogue with the history of world art which ranged from Paleolithic and Indian art to Renaissance art masters Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci; from Mexican muralists to the Surrealists Salvador Dali, Joan Miro, and Max Ernst, Pollock’s aspirations always remained courageously and even chauvinistically of this continent. The work of the artist remains one of the most powerful in the history of art. Pollock elevated the abstract painting by making his technique an amplification of his own senses, movements and gestures.

Visit the Jackson Pollock

Written by Karen Pasos.

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