Jackson Pollock, one of the most influential abstract expressionists, famous for his large ‘drip’ canvases, was born in Wyoming in 1912. Pollock grew up to be rebellious and irascible but at the same time highly introverted; even as a boy, he indulged in risky, self-destructive behavior such as excessive drinking. In 1928, he lived in Los Angeles, where he attended the Manual Arts High School and learned about European modernism. Pollock moved to New York in 1930 to study at the Art Students League with the American scene painter Thomas Hart Benton, whose principles of rhythmical composition influenced Pollock’s mature style. In 1937 the painter and theorist John Graham introduced Pollock to the works of Picasso and the ideas of psychologist Carl Jung. Under the influence of Picasso’s cubist-surrealist paintings and Jung’s concept of the collective unconscious, Pollock began to develop a new pictorial approach.
During the 1930s Pollock became involved in the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project (WPA/FAP) as a mural assistant to the Mexican painter David Alfaro Siqueiros. Chronic emotional problems led Pollock to seek psychoanalytic treatment in 1939, the first of many ventures into psychoanalysis. Prior to this, he had met the abstract expressionist painter Lee Krasner, whom he later married.
Pollock, at his first one-person exhibition in 1943 at Peggy Guggenheim’s Art of This Century Gallery, New York, impressed critics with the raw painterly quality of his canvases. Soon after, the Museum of Modern Art was the first museum to acquire one of his works. When he left Manhattan for a farmhouse on Long Island in 1945, he also came to a stylistic turning point, as he began executing his highly acclaimed drip paintings (1947–1950). Pollock’s technique of pouring and dribbling paint with brushes and sticks onto large canvases created dynamic pictorial rhythms and energetic curvilinear designs. These paintings were widely publicized and purchased by collectors and museums nationwide. In 1950 Pollock’s drinking began to affect his art; after 1954, he painted only sporadically. He died in a car crash on Long Island in 1956.