Oil on canvas
95 1/4 x 157 1/8 inches (241.9 x 399.1 cm)
Gift of Seymour H. Knox, Jr., 1956
After the horrors of World War II, the mood in the United States turned artists away from traditional styles and themes and toward a search for new ways to express themselves. As Jackson Pollock said in 1951, "It seems to me that the modern painter cannot express his age, the airplane, the atom bomb, the radio, in the old forms of the Renaissance or any other past culture. Each age finds its own technique."
In the late 1940s, Pollock developed the technique for which he is best known—drip painting. He placed the canvas on the floor, stating, "this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting." His process became an illustration of critic Harold Rosenberg's idea of the canvas as an arena in which the artist would perform, which is one of the reasons why Pollock's method is also known as "action painting."
The result was a combination of spontaneity and control. At first, Pollock said, he worked on a painting without thinking. Then, "after a sort of 'get acquainted' period that I see what I have been about . . . I have no fears about making changes, destroying the image, etc. because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes out well."
Related Lesson Plan
Feelings in Color (For Grades 2–8)
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